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Understanding auto-brewery syndrome

You may remember hearing about a New York woman who was charged with a DUI that she said was because her body created beer. Her blood alcohol level was 0.40, her speech was slurred and her eyes were bloodshot. She insisted that she had not had a drink for hours. The police took her to the hospital, because a 0.40 blood alcohol level is considered life-threatening. It was determined that the woman suffered from auto-brewery syndrome, and her case was dismissed after the judge received evidence that she suffered from a medical condition which raised her blood alcohol levels.

Symptoms of auto-brewery syndrome

Auto-brewery syndrome is very rare, but it has been studied since 1912. It occurs when there is an overabundance of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer's yeast, in the intestines. Many times, the person does not even realize they're suffering from a high blood alcohol level until it's more than 0.30. For a normal person, that level would be completely intoxicating.

There currently is no cure for auto-brewery syndrome, but the symptoms can be controlled through:

  • Anti-fungal medications
  • Low-carb diet, avoiding sugars or carbohydrates
  • Not drinking alcohol
  • Not eating yeast

Using auto-brewery syndrome as a DUI defense

Auto-brewery syndrome causes a hangover and affects a person's ability to drive and perform certain tasks. It does make you appear to be drunk, and you will get a higher blood alcohol level when you blow a breathalyzer. Many times, health professionals will not believe that you have not been drinking. Your condition might be chalked up to "closet drinking."

The research about auto-brewery syndrome is still limited. It's believed to be more common in Japan than in the United States. Even with multiple documented cases, doctors are still skeptical that this condition is a true diagnosis. Generally, a person must be hospitalized and closely monitored for 24 hours or more to measure blood, vitals and symptoms and to ensure no alcohol is consumed. Treatment is possible, but more studies are needed to determine the definitive cause and best treatment methods.

An arrest and conviction for a DUI affect your record for the rest of your life. It has significant consequences for you, not only when it comes to driving, but also to your employment prospects and insurance rates. Get your good name back by clearing your driving record. There's a lot at stake when you're accused of a DUI. If you believe you may have been wrongly charged because of this condition, you should consult with a legal advocate to help you prove your claim.

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