For some people, having a digestive system that converts ordinary food into alcohol might sound like a dream come true: You never have to drink in order to get drunk! But this condition, called auto-brewery syndrome, is as real as can be, and for the people who have it, it can make everyday life a nightmare.

Also known as gut fermentation syndrome, auto-brewery syndrome is a rare condition in which a type of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, ferments food in the stomach, producing ethanol, the type of alcohol found in beer, wine, and spirits.

Thankfully, very few people have this viable yeast culture in their stomachs, but for those who do, living with it can be a real challenge. Just think about it: What if you suddenly became very drunk at random times throughout the day? Not only would it make interactions with family, friends, and colleagues exceedingly uncomfortable, when the intoxication wears off you’d have to deal with crippling hangovers, chronic fatigue, and other side effects of alcoholism.

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One especially inconvenient time to experience this condition? When driving. Not only is it inherently dangerous, is can lead to arrest. However, thankfully, as the condition gains awareness, more judges are recognizing it as involuntary. Late last year, a judge dismissed a DWI charge against a 35-year-old schoolteacher after she was able to prove that she had auto-brewery syndrome. 

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