Auto-brewery syndrome

Many of us have woken up drunk as least once in their lives.

You leap nimbly from your bed, blissfully unaware of the chemical mallet poised above your woozy brain. “Wow, I actually feel pretty good right now!” you say, unaware that you are drunk.

For many, this utterance is the beginning of the end. “I feel pretty good right now!” has a powerful suppressive effect on the human body. It invokes a cascade of increasingly depressing realizations concerning your general wellbeing in the coming hours. Consequent phrases often include “Oh boy I’m actually still drunk” and “Siri is it safe to IV-drip Gatorade into my aching crippled body” (no, but apparently you can use coconut juice)

Personally, I choose to wake up drunk only very rarely. Furthermore, I am profoundly grateful for the ability to choose where I drink and when I become hungover- a choice that is not afforded to those who suffer from ‘Auto-brewery syndrome’.


Auto-brewery syndrome is a real condition wherein large amounts of alcohol are continually produced within the digestive tract. The culprits are a set of yeasts, predominantly Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the same yeast that ferments grains and grapes in commercial alcohol production). For some as-yet-discovered reason, these fungi can proliferate to monopolize a larger portion of gut real-estate than normal. When people with Auto-brewery Syndrome ingest carbohydrates, these overabundant yeasts ferment the sugars and produce a large amount alcohol,  causing bouts of incredible drunkenness.

Despite being every neo-hipster’s wet-dream (“Brosef, I started my own NANObrewery“), this condition can be incredibly debilitating. Patients report constant random hangovers, chronic fatigue, irritability- the complete host of horrible symptoms that you encounter as you’re sobering up and entering the hangover phase.

Very little literature has been published on this syndrome, and only a handful of cases have ever been reported. Dahshan and Donovan reviewed two cases involving very young children who frequently became intoxicated after consuming carbohydrates (you think you get fighty when you drink whiskey? Try squaring up with a perma-drunk Japanese 3 year-old hopped up on Capri Sun).

Auto-brewing and driving

This bizarre condition was thrust into the public eye recently when a woman in upstate New York was stopped on suspicion of drunk-driving and found to have a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.36, FOUR TIMES the state limit, despite only having consumed 3 drinks. With an ample benefit of doubt not usually afforded drunk drivers, her lawyer contacted the author of one of the first papers on auto-brewery syndrome and went on to successfully defend the driver in court.

Luckily, auto-brewery syndrome is cured very simply with a low-carb diet and a round of anti-fungal medication. Once a regulated balance of gut flora is reestablished, virtually no ethanol is produced and the patient can return to getting debilitatingly drunk only when she or he chooses to.

This made me want to drink a beer. Cheers!

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