Auto-brewery syndrome explained

While most people in New Hampshire try not to drink too much alcohol before getting behind the wheel, some drivers have a more difficult time avoiding intoxication. A condition called auto-brewery syndrome causes drunkenness without any alcohol consumption. Patients with this condition have found themselves accused of drunk driving when they have not had a single drink. Understanding how the syndrome works can help drivers determine if they are at risk for being falsely accused of a DUI.

What happens?

CNN reports that patients with auto-brewery syndrome experience elevated blood alcohol levels after drinking little to no alcohol. Doctors have found that the bacteria Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer's yeast, may be responsible for the condition. While many people take the yeast as a health supplement, it can lead to problems if the critters take up residence in the gut. If a person has recently taken antibiotics and killed off the good bacteria, there can be an overgrowth of yeast in the stomach. When the patient ingests sugars and starches, including alcohol, the bacteria creates ethanol from the foods and causes the blood alcohol concentration to rise.

The level of intoxication depends on the person. One New York woman was taken to the hospital after registering a blood alcohol concentration of 0.4 percent on a breathalyzer. She was released after doctors reported that she had no symptoms despite a blood test showing 0.3 percent alcohol, a level that can be lethal to some. Researchers arranged to observe the woman for 12 hours and found that, without any alcohol, her BAC rose to over four times the legal limit. Her DUI case was dismissed, and the rare syndrome gained more publicity.

Is there a cure?

While doctors have yet to find a universal cure, they have discovered that limiting the starch intake and removing all alcohol and sugars can lead to a reduction or complete elimination of the bacteria. Anti-fungal medications can also be used to hasten healing, but some patients claim that they relapsed after treatment or experienced little to no relief. Doctors are still working on effective recommendations for recovery.

Since most people with auto-brewery syndrome do not realize they have the condition until their blood alcohol concentration has been tested, you may have received a DUI charge without actually being drunk. If you were cited for drunk driving and believe your BAC was lower than reported, talk with an experienced lawyer today. An attorney can work with a doctor to arrange testing to determine if you have auto-brewery syn drome and fight for your rights.

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