Auto-Brewery Syndrome Symptoms and Treatment

Woman leaning back on a couch with her hand on her head
Kris Ubach and Quim Roser / Getty Images
In This Article

Auto-brewery syndrome is a rare condition, first discovered in the 1940s, in which a person experiences alcohol intoxication by creating alcohol in their own body. These individuals do not drink alcohol, yet their body produces alcohol through “abnormal gut fermentation,” which basically means that their body makes alcohol out of regular food and drinks containing carbohydrates by fermenting it in the intestine with yeast or bacteria that live in that part of the body.

The condition is also sometimes called “endogenous ethanol fermentation.”

Risk Factors

Fermentation in the gut is a normal part of the digestive process and happens through the breakdown of food by normal bacteria in the colon. However, in people with auto-brewery syndrome, fermentation happens in the small intestine, further up the digestive tract. Certain fungi have been found to be responsible for producing alcohol, such as Candida glabrata and Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Normally, the liver can detoxify the tiny amounts of alcohol which are by-products of yeast fermentation, but in people with abnormal gut fermentation, too much alcohol is produced and causes the person to become intoxicated.


There are many symptoms resulting from the condition, and perhaps surprisingly to those who drink alcohol recreationally, they are not pleasant. They include:

  • Problems with concentration, memory, and thought processes
  • Fatigue or feeling very tired
  • Aches and pains
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating, gas
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Discharge from the nose, a productive cough, and sinusitis
  • Sugar cravings


Although the condition is very rare, cases have been reported in men, women, and children. There have been reports in several different countries, including Africa, Japan, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

While auto-brewery syndrome can occur in healthy individuals, it is most prevalent in people with the following comorbid conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity-related liver disease
  • Chrohn's disease
  • Short bowel syndrome

Associated Complications

There are several types of problems that can occur as a result of the condition. As well as the unpleasant symptoms of the disease, people may experience social and relationship problems as a result.

Friends, family, and co-workers may believe the person is a heavy drinker, and as denial is common among people who drink too much, denying that they have been drinking may not help.

A 13-year-old girl with the condition was thought to be showing adolescent behavior disorder, including both her symptoms of intoxication and her denial of drinking any alcohol, but, after being restricted from access to alcohol in a rehab center, showed the same signs and symptoms of drunkenness.

Some people have even got in trouble for drunk driving, as the alcohol may show up on a breathalyzer test.

There are also physical problems that can develop, in particular, the small intestine may become more permeable, causing deficiencies in B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. These vitamins and minerals are important in maintaining good health, and not having enough is a type of malnutrition.


The main treatments for the condition are changes to diet to reduce intake of simple sugars, refined carbohydrates, yeast products, and moldy foods, and medications to reduce the fungi and bacteria thought to be responsible in the gut.

Vitamin and mineral supplements may also be needed to address the deficiencies in these nutrients.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cordell B, McCarthy J. A case of gut fermentation syndrome (auto-brewery) with Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the causative organism. International Journal of Clinical Medicine 4, 309-312. 2013. doi:10.4236/ijcm.2013.47054

  2. Painter K, Cordell B, Sticco KL. Auto-brewery syndrome (Gut Fermentation) [Updated 2019 Oct 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2019 Jan-. Available from:

  3. Cordell BJ, Kanodia A, Miller GK. Case-control research study of auto-brewery syndrome. Glob Adv Health Med. 2019;8:2164956119837566. doi:10.1177/2164956119837566

  4. Eaton KK, McLaren H, Hunnisett A, Harris, M. Abnormal gut fermentation: laboratory studies reveal deficiency of B vitamins, zinc, and magnesiumJournal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine. 14(2):115-120. doi:10.1080/13590840410001734965

Additional Reading