California drivers may be interested to know about auto-brewery syndrome, a condition that occurs when too much yeast is trapped in the digestive system and is turned into alcohol. An individual who has the condition can consume a food or drink containing starch, and the carbohydrates will be fermented into ethanol by his or her body. It is a rare condition that occurs primarily in Japan, but there have been some cases in the United States that have confused medical experts.
Because of the rarity of the condition, there is very little documentation. However, a case study was conducted in 2013 and involved a 61-year-old Texas man who exhibited symptoms associated with drunkenness, such as lightheadedness and dizziness, and had a 0.40 blood alcohol level despite the fact he was not drinking.
The man had the syndrome for two decades and stated that he had irritable bowel syndrome that increased his gas and bloating. He also experienced chronic headaches and fatigue, mental impairment, muscular aches and pains and mood swings. Another case involved a woman from New York with the condition who had been charged with a DUI as she had slurred speech and glassy, bloodshot eyes. Her blood alcohol level was also at 0.40. Although there is no known cure for auto-brewery syndrome, the woman was able to alleviate her symptoms with anti-fungal medication prescribed physicians who found an excessive amount of yeast content in her gut.
This condition can present challenges for people who suspect that they have it and who have subsequently been handed drunk driving charges. They may want to meet with an attorney to see if a medical test can be performed, and if the results are positive, used to convince the prosecutor to drop the charges.