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Everything You Need to Know About Gut Fermentation Syndrome

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Wouldn't it be fun if you could get drunk whenever you wanted, without even buying a beer? Well, unfortunately for people with gut fermentation syndrome, this scenario is their reality, and it's anything but fun. The science of gut fermentation syndrome is both a little confusing and a whole lot of fascinating. After all, what would having a brewery in your stomach even be like? Lucky for you, we've found out exactly what it's like and how it works, so you can answer that pesky question of, "What is gut fermentation syndrome?"

Gut fermentation syndrome is also called auto-brewery syndrome, and with good reason. To put things very simply, people who have this syndrome turn things they ingest into alcohol, without even trying, and it gets them drunk. Most people don't know they have it until something goes terrible wrong. And no, we're not just talking about someone writing on their face with a permanent marker.

This is nothing to be jealous of, but it is an unusual and interesting thing that happens to some people. So, unless you're one of those people, grab yourself a drink and read on for more facts about gut fermentation syndrome.

  • It Can Be Genuinely Exhausting

    One major symptom of gut fermentation syndrome is fatigue, and that makes perfect sense when you think about it. If you're always getting a little (or sometimes a lot) drunk, how often do you think you have cheery happy mornings the next day? To put it more bluntly, people with this condition live in a state of nearly constant hangovers. Often, people who have auto-brewery syndrome notice they have difficulty sleeping, headaches, fatigue, and general hangover-like symptoms before they actually notice they're getting drunk all the time. One person explained it as "the worst hangover imaginable," so that seems pretty reasonable. 

  • It Might Convince You to Go Carb-Free

    As it turns out, studies have found that the stuff that ferments the most are carbs. Carbohydrates, when they break down in the gut of someone with auto-brewery syndrome, produce a greater amount of alcohol, and the extreme cases of high blood alcohol levels were generally linked to high-carb meals. Sugar also produces this, so you can pretty much cut donuts out of your diet entirely.

    In fact, doctors often recommend diet changes as a primary means of treating this condition. No yeast, no sugars, and no carbs are first to cross off the list, followed by no citrus and no chicken. If that doesn't sound fun, you're definitely right. People with Auto-Brewery Syndrome are a nutritionist's worst nightmare. 

  • It's More Prominant in Japan

    Photo: osamukaneko / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Given that the United States is really big on sugar, carbs, and all things processed and delicious, it stands to reason that we'd be the ones with most of these cases. But as it turns out, that's not true. In actuality, Japan has the majority of cases, even though it is still very rare. While we are not sure exactly why this is, it may have something to do with the fact that people in Japan tend to have faulty enzymes in their digestive tracts more often than in other nations. 

  • It Can Happen to Children, Too

    Photo: Tormod Ulsberg / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    You might think that this condition only hits adults, but gut yeast has no regard for legal drinking ages. Kids can have this condition too, and there are two notable cases where this has happened. One girl was only 13 years old and had symptoms while she was in school. More startling is the case of a three-year-old girl who became drunk after simply sipping some juice. Because a child's liver can be damaged more easily, especially at the young age of three, these cases are a lot more dangerous than they might for adults.