Can Your Body Really Brew Alcohol?

You’ve probably heard by now about the woman who beat a DUI charge because her body apparently brews alcohol. Ever since this story made news, it’s had everyone wondering if a body can actually brew alcohol.

It seems a little far fetched, but it is possible for a body to brew alcohol. Let’s take a closer look at the story of one New York woman who discovered this was true.

Just before Christmas in Hamburg, New York, the charges were completely dismissed in the case of a woman who suffers from “auto-brewery syndrome.” Apparently, this woman was arrested while driving with a blood alcohol level of more than four times the legal limit.

It seemed like a simple open and shut DUI case, but there was a catch. The woman hadn’t had a drink in hours. It was soon discovered that she had “auto-brewery syndrome,” and her entire case rested on this technicality.

A brewery is a place where beer is made through the fermentation of barley, water, hops, and yeast. Imagine if a similar chemical reaction was happening in your body on a daily basis. (Photo by Momente/Shutterstock)

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, hired attorney Joseph Marusak,who explained to CNN that her condition seemed a little far fetched.

“I had never heard of auto-brewery syndrome before this case, but I knew something was amiss when the hospital police took the woman to wanted to release her immediately because she wasn’t exhibiting any symptoms. That prompts me to get on the Internet and see if there is any sort of explanation for a weird reading. Up pops auto-brewery syndrome and away we go.”

He’s not the only one who’s taken to the internet to explain this strange phenomenon. It turns out that it’s an extremely rare condition known also known as gut-fermentation syndrome. Essentially, this rare medical is associated with abnormally high amounts of gastrointestinal yeast, which then reacts with certain food carbohydrates to create alcohol.

It’s believed to take place in the small bowel, and is an entirely different process than takes place in the large bowel where the body using fermentation to give the body energy.

Because it affects such a small number of the population, not much is known about it. Barbara Cordell is the Dean of Nursing at Panola College, and she has studied the syndrome for years. She explained that currently she is in contact with approximately 30 people who have the syndrome. She studies their conditions regularly to learn more about it.

“They can function at alcohol levels such as 0.30 and 0.40 when the average person would be comatose or dying,” she explains. “Part of the mystery of this syndrome is how they can have these extremely high levels and still be walking around and talking.”

Those who suffer from the condition that causes their bodies to brew alcohol often end up being addicted to alcohol under no fault of their own. (Photo by Axel Bueckert/Shutterstock)

The thing about this condition is that it’s extremely dangerous when it goes unchecked. When Marusak’s client was tested, her blood alcohol level was nearly 0.40, which landed her in the hospital since that level in a normal being is considered to be life threatening. The woman was very lucky she got a flat tire and her condition was discovered through this process. She’s basically been a ticking alcohol time bomb, and it was only a matter of time before her blood alcohol level got so out of hand it killed her.

Now, she’s taking anti-fungal medications and is sticking with a yeast-free diet. Unfortunately, her condition essentially makes her a functioning alcoholic, which means she’s likely to have relapses and withdrawals throughout her recovery process. Cordell explained that for some with the body-brewing alcohol syndrome are never able to recover, but that ongoing research is being performed to find a cure.

[Image via Nitr/Shutterstock]