Auto-Brewery Syndrome: The Rare Condition That Can Get You Drunk Without Drinking

A rare condition called Auto-Brewery Syndrome can get you drunk without drinking any alcohol.

Tenzin Chodon
Written by: Tenzin ChodonUpdated at: Apr 17, 2023 11:00 IST
Auto-Brewery Syndrome: The Rare Condition That Can Get You Drunk Without Drinking

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Auto-Brewery Syndrome, also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is a rare condition that occurs when there is an overgrowth of certain types of fungus in the Gastro-Intestinal (GI) system. Our gastrointestinal tract contains several microorganisms, which consist mostly of bacteria, and less than 1% of fungi. Candida, a type of yeast, is the most common fungal species in the gut. 

Normally, the microorganisms present in the gut are in a controlled and balanced proportion. It helps break down undigested food, supports nutrient absorption and also produces certain vitamins that are necessary for blood clotting. However, if there is an overgrowth of microorganisms, specifically of the fungal species Candida, it can go on to convert carbohydrates into alcohol. Read on to find out all about Auto-Brewery Syndrome!

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Auto-Brewery Syndrome occurs when there is an imbalance of the gut microbiome, which can also result from underlying gastrointestinal problems. Furthermore, there are medical conditions that can contribute to a person's risk of the syndrome. These include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth
  • Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • A weakened immune system

According to Medical News Today, long-term or continuous use of antibiotics can also bring changes to the gut microbiome, leading to a fungal overgrowth. 

Understanding How Auto-Brewery Syndrome Gets You Drunk Without Drinking

A series of events and processes in the body can lead to Auto-Brewery Syndrome. As discussed, many microorganisms dwell in the gut, which contributes to several bodily functions. Yeast and other fungal species process the sugars and starches in the food and convert them into energy, resulting in wastes: carbon dioxide and ethanol. However, when these organisms grow out of control, there's a higher production of ethanol due to fungal fermentation. This then leads to high blood alcohol levels in people with Auto-Brewery Syndrome, irrespective of whether they drink or not. 

Symptoms Of Auto-Brewery Syndrome

Patients with Auto-brewery Syndrome usually display many symptoms. Some of the early signs include:

  • Vomiting
  • Belching
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Veisalgia or a hangover
  • Irritable bowel symptoms.


When it comes to diagnosing Auto-Brewery Syndrome, it is important to first rule out other possible causes that can result in similar symptoms. According to research, this could involve a head injury, psychiatric disorder, and hidden drinking habit.

Since Auto-Brewery Syndrome is a rare condition, healthcare providers may conduct several tests to dismiss the likelihood of other illnesses. 

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Tests could include:

  • Stool samples
  • Endoscopic procedure to collect fluid from different parts of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Carbohydrate challenge test 
  • Blood and urine tests


There are several ways to treat or manage symptoms of Auto-Brewery Syndrome. Some of them are:

Diet changes: Auto-Brewery Syndrome can be treated through dietary changes. Having a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can lower the risk of the condition, as per research. 

Medications: Antifungal medications are said to reduce the presence of fungus in the gut, especially when there is an overgrowth of the same. 

Immediate care: In case a person with Auto-Brewery Syndrome develops excessively high blood alcohol levels, medical intervention should be prioritised and immediate care should be given to the patient. 


Auto-Brewery Syndrome is an unusual and rare condition, which can occur in anyone. The condition can often be missed or misdiagnosed as it can be mistaken for alcoholism. Having said that, early diagnosis and management are the key. Paying attention to one’s diet, limiting carbohydrate intake and resorting to the right medications can not only help treat and manage symptoms, but can also avoid the recurrence of the condition.