Humans Can Actually Brew Alcohol in Their Guts

The strange case of Auto-Brewery Syndrome.

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Today in Stupid Human Tricks: Auto-Brewery Syndrome. A recent academic paper shared the story of a Texas man who was admitted to the hospital with a 0.37 percent blood alcohol level, but doctors were puzzled because he claimed to not have had anything to drink.

It turns out that the patient had "an overabundance of brewer's yeast in his gut," and so whenever the man ate any starch, the combination would cause a chemical reaction leading to fermentation, and getting the man super hammered.

The patient had an infection with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Cordell says. So when he ate or drank a bunch of starch — a bagel, pasta or even a soda — the yeast fermented the sugars into ethanol, and he would get drunk. Essentially, he was brewing beer in his own gut.

Cases of Auto-Brewery Syndrome are rare, because in most people, yeast organisms will pass right through. but if they remain in the gut for long periods of time, then problems can arise. So step aside, eyeballing.

While NPR reports that cases similar to the Texas man's date back to 1970, there are only a handful, and the report outlining the syndrome is only a case report, and not a wide, controlled clinical study.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.