Auto-brewery syndrome

Auto-brewery syndrome
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 Xxx.x
ICD-9-CM xxx

Auto-brewery syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is a rare medical condition in which intoxicating quantities of ethanol are produced through endogenous fermentation within the digestive system.[1][2] One gastrointestinal organism, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a type of yeast, has been identified as a pathogen for this condition.

Claims of endogenous fermentation of this type have been used as a defense against drunk driving charges.[3][4][5]

One case went undetected for 20 years.[6]

It has also been investigated, but eliminated, as a possible cause of sudden infant death syndrome.[7]

A variant occurs in persons with liver abnormalities that prevent them from excreting or breaking down alcohol normally. Patients with this condition can develop symptoms of auto-brewery syndrome even when the gut yeast produces a quantity of alcohol that is too small to intoxicate a healthy individual.[8]


The effects of the disease can have profound effects on everyday life. As well, the recurring side effects of dizziness, dry mouth, hangovers, disorientation, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome can lead to other health problems such as depression, anxiety and poor productivity in employment. The random state of intoxication can lead to personal difficulties, and the relative obscurity of the condition can also make it hard to seek treatment.[9]


  1. Michaeleen Doucleff (September 17, 2013). "Auto-Brewery Syndrome: Apparently, You Can Make Beer In Your Gut". NPR.
  2. Kaji, H.; Asanuma, Y.; Yahara, O.; Shibue, H.; Hisamura, M.; Saito, N.; Kawakami, Y.; Murao, M. (1984). "Intragastrointestinal Alcohol Fermentation Syndrome: Report of Two Cases and Review of the Literature". Journal of the Forensic Science Society. 24 (5): 461–471. doi:10.1016/S0015-7368(84)72325-5. PMID 6520589.
  3. Logan BK, Jones AW (July 2000). "Endogenous ethanol 'auto-brewery syndrome' as a drunk-driving defence challenge". Medicine, Science, and the law. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  4. Cecil Adams (October 20, 2006). "Designated drunk: Can you get intoxicated without actually drinking alcohol?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  5. "New York drink driver says her body is a brewery". BBC News. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  6. Gazette, Evening (Oct 7, 2013). "Auto-brewery syndrome: Teetotal Teesville man can't stay sober as everything he eats turns to alcohol". Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  7. P. Geertinger MD; J. Bodenhoff; K. Helweg-Larsen; A. Lund (1982-09-01). "Endogenous alcohol production by intestinal fermentation in sudden infant death". Zeitschrift für Rechtsmedizin. Springer-Verlag. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  8. "The Man Who Gets Drunk On Chips".
  9. VICE (February 11, 2014). "The Man Who Is Drunk All the Time Because His Body Produces Its Own Alcohol". Retrieved 19 November 2014.
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