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You can get drunk without ever drinking and cause a wreck

They don't call it "beer gut" for nothing. For a very few unlucky individuals, chowing down on a meal consisting mainly of carbohydrates winds up getting them intoxicated without ever taking a sip of liquor.

How can that be? These patients actually have a rare medical condition known as auto-brewery syndrome where their digestive tracts produce large quantities of brewer's yeast.

That's the magic ingredient needed to ferment sugar into alcohol, as any home-brewer can tell you. So in the hours after consuming meals laden with sugars or carbs, these unwitting folks find themselves experiencing all of the side effects of alcohol intoxication -- unsteady gait, dizziness, difficulty operating motor vehicles and even hangovers.

One man got himself drunk so often -- even being buzzed on his way home from Sunday church services -- that his suspicious wife purchased a Breathalyzer to test him for "closet drinking."

His gastroenterologist finally figured it out after hospitalizing him and testing his blood alcohol content periodically. Even when they ascertained he had consumed no booze, his BAC at one point was .12 percent, well in excess of the legal driving limits in all 50 states.

Doctors determined he was infected with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is considered so harmless that often it's taken as a probiotic supplement.

What could this diagnosis mean if someone is involved in an accident that causes injuries to others?

It would be similar to someone suffering from any other medical condition that causes him or her to get into a collision with another driver. The person who caused the accident bears the liability whether he or she was aware of his or her condition or not.

The injured party has a right to pursue compensation by filing a claim for damages or a civil suit in the Virginia courts.

Source: NPR.org, "Auto-Brewery Syndrome: Apparently, You Can Make Beer In Your Gut," Michaeleen Doucleff, accessed Jan. 27, 2017

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