Can poorly digested food ferment and give you an alcohol buzz?
September 2, 2019 2:47 PM   Subscribe

After a day or two of poor eating, I might eat something that irritates my stomach or GI a little and then a short time later I start feeling slightly drunk. I understand that there is an enteric nervous system, so could it be that and/or could things actually be fermenting after sitting in the gut for a few days?
posted by Jon44 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Auto-brewery syndrome is a thing, but it’s very, very rare. The odds are good that that’s not what you’re experiencing. Rather, the slight feeling of drunkenness may have to do with blood sugar swings—it depends on what you mean by poor eating though. Taking in a lots of sugar/carbs without any fat will definitely do that to you.
posted by un petit cadeau at 2:56 PM on September 2, 2019 [13 favorites]

Yeah I think it's much more likely you're spiking your blood sugar.
posted by potrzebie at 2:57 PM on September 2, 2019 [5 favorites]

I remember reading a story about this! The guy was actually getting drunk from fermentation in his gut. You may be able to figure out how the medical folks tested for auto brewery syndrome compared to some other condition.
posted by forkisbetter at 6:06 PM on September 2, 2019

Sure, it's possible. Vastly more likely that you're messing up your blood sugar - at the extreme, both hypoglycemia and diabetes can have symptoms like this. When's the last time you had a blood test?
posted by aspersioncast at 5:03 AM on September 3, 2019

There is a theory that food intolerances can trigger release of endorphins/opioids as part of an IgG reaction, so the feeling of intoxication would be part of a reaction to a food your body can't tolerate. This thinking is also behind the idea that people become "addicted" to foods they can't tolerate. I'm not sure how good the science is behind this but it does seem to have some acceptance in mainstream medicine.

It does sound consistent with what you are describing - some intolerances can become more severe after a day or two of poor eating.
posted by riddley at 5:52 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

This can happen with celiac disease/gluten intolerance. I have had it happen on occasion. I also get a "hangover" from it, same feeling as a booze hangover.

Have you ever been tested for celiac? You might want to consider getting a blood test. Not to be an alarmist, but you could be having gluten ataxia, which can be serious if left untreated.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 9:05 AM on September 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

I should also mention that I typically don't have problems with a little bit of gluten exposure, but if I were to get glutened for two or three days running, I'd have serious issues, including dizziness.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 9:09 AM on September 3, 2019

Well, food poisoning will make you feel woozy. My first guess would be that it was a trace amount of a neurotoxin other than alcohol. You say a day or two of poor eating, but poor eating could be a lot of different things and affect you in a lot of different ways.

I'm not so sure that the food is staying in your system long enough to ferment, or that it could ferment in the presence of your stomach acids. You might do a system check to see how long food is staying inside you - the usual method of doing this is eating some sweet corn because you can tell when it comes out.

Do you get jock itch and athlete's foot and other yeast infections? Fermentation requires critters that are usually yeasts. But yeasts are aerobic, and your gut is anaerobic, so it's doubtful that yeast or similar critters that do fermentation could survive.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:20 PM on September 3, 2019

This is how I feel when I get a little bit of gluten in a meal. I have celiac. I suspect that the immune reaction is similar for other intolerances/allergies, so that's something to consider. When it comes over me, it's usually toward the end of the meal and I feel slightly dizzy/heady/buzzy the way you do when an alcohol buzz first sets in. It's not exactly like alcohol though and a rather strange sensation.
posted by purple_bird at 7:49 PM on September 3, 2019

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