Auto-Brewery Syndrome Explained
Scientists have found that there are several things beyond alcohol that can confuse a breath analyzer. Paint fumes, foreign objects in the mouth and improper calibration can all lead to a BAC reading that is incorrect and higher than reality. Diabetes and dieting can also cause drivers to have a higher level of compounds similar to ethanol, resulting in false results from a breathalyzer. While the subjects in these tests turned out to not actually be drunk, there is a condition that can leave sufferers severely intoxicated without them ever taking a drink: Auto-Brewery Syndrome.
What is Auto-Brewery Syndrome?
Many people have never heard of this condition, but for those who have it, it can be life-altering. NPR reports that an infection of Saccharomyces cerevisiae can lead to the growth of Brewer’s yeast in the gut. This is normally not a problem, but when a large amount of soda, or other starchy products such as bread or pasta, are consumed, the bacteria in the intestinal tract can create ethanol and intoxicate the patient without any actual alcohol in the body.
How Common is It?
Luckily, this condition is not common, but because it is rare many people have never heard of it and therefore don’t realize that they have it. There have been several cases reported in the past decade, starting first in 1912 as “germ carbohydrate fermentation.” Cases were identified in Japan and other countries and were sometimes blamed on vitamin deficiencies.
CNN reported that one woman in New York was found to have a blood alcohol concentration that was four times the legal limit, but was not exhibiting any symptoms of intoxication. Due to the fact that people with this disease generally have raised BAC levels, they become accustomed to the condition and can operate normally with levels that would incapacitate another person, sometimes living daily with concentrations that could be lethal to others.
How is it Treated?
Since the condition is so rare, little research has been done on effective treatments. The courses of action that have been found to help in some cases may have little to no effect in others. Some patients find success by avoiding any foods with carbs, alcohol or sugar and taking medicines to fight fungal infections. It can be difficult to completely rid the gut of the bacteria, meaning that once a regular diet is resumed growth may commence again.
If you suspect that you may also be suffering from Auto-Brewery Syndrome, speak with a doctor to begin testing and treatment. If you have been convicted of driving citations related to alcohol, contact an experienced attorney to help you fight for your rights.