He’ll get drunk on anything!
Well actually, there are some people who don’t even need to drink to be inebriated. This rare phenomenon is called gut fermentation syndrome or auto-brewery syndrome.
As you can probably imagine, this is no fun: it’s a disease. Sufferers typically end up at the
doctor’s or A&E because of serious dizziness. Their blood exhibits high alcohol levels even
though they attest to not having had a drop of alcohol.
This rare syndrome is caused by a specific organism - Saccharomyces cerevisiae – that
colonises the intestines. Actually a type of yeast, it’s well known among bakers and brewers
for its ability to help bread rise and beer ferment.
In the intestines of these patients, the same process occurs. The yeast transforms glucose
into ethanol, causing a rapid rise in the blood alcohol level. As for why this yeast develops in
some, we’re not yet sure. Imbalances in the intestinal flora as a result of antibiotic use could
be the cause, but future studies will have to confirm.