Drunk without Drinking: Auto-Brewery Syndrome

March 21, 2017

by Dr. Barbara Cordell

When my husband was 61 years old, he broke his foot, had to have surgery, and received antibiotics. Shortly afterwards, he started having very sporadic episodes where he seemed very drunk but hadn’t been drinking. I thought maybe he had diabetes or low blood sugar but all tests turned up negative. One day, I thought he had a stroke and took him to the ER where all tests were negative except for his blood alcohol level which was .44 — nearly six times the legal limit in Texas! Even though he claimed to have had only one beer that day, the doctors assumed he was hiding his drinking and had binged a liter of booze.

The episodes of drunkeness began to increase in frequency over the ensuing months while I tried to research what could possibly be causing these episodes. We bought a breathalyzer and began to track his episodes and try to correlate them with diet, stress, and activity. I finally found some articles on Auto-Brewery Syndrome (also known as Gut Fermentation Syndrome) out of Japan, and a few from the United States describing Joe’s symptoms exactly. We were very fortunate to find a gastroenterologist nearby who was willing to be open-minded and read the literature and run tests to confirm the diagnosis of Auto-Brewery with a gut overgrowth of saccharomyces ceriviseae.

Auto-Brewery SyndromeDr. McCarthy and I published a case study about Joe and we were subsequently contacted by dozens of people who were also suffering with symptoms of ABS. I have started a website and a facebook page where we can share our stories and our findings. I have also published a second article and have been conducting research with another physician, Dr. Kanodia in Ohio. But our disease has yet to be recognized in any formal way by the medical community or even a rare disease site. Because the patients who suffer with ABS have the same exposures to antibiotics, yeast, food, etc. as the rest of us, we are beginning to believe there may be a genetic component that causes some to develop the syndrome. We continue to have hope that research will shed light on our little known disease and find relief. Please help us spread the word.

Stay Connected

Sign up for updates straight to your inbox.