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When your gut makes its own alcohol it's called 'auto-brewery syndrome'
It might sound like fun, but this rare condition can make life very difficult.
- When yeast becomes trapped in your gut, very rarely it can start fermenting alcohol.
- Individuals with auto-brewery syndrome need to avoid eating carbs and sugar, or they can become incredibly intoxicated during inconvenient moments, such as when they're driving or working at the office.
- The condition can cause a multitude of health issues and make life truly challenging for those afflicted by it.
It might seem appealing to certain college students, but this rare condition would probably make life extremely difficult: auto-brewery syndrome. When enough yeast becomes trapped in your gut, it can turn your body into a mobile fermentation vat — eat the wrong foods, and suddenly you're as drunk as a lord.
Becoming a mobile fermentation vat
Everybody produces a little bit of alcohol in their gut from the fermentation of partially digested food. This is easily metabolized such that you don't notice any ill effects, but for individuals with auto-brewery syndrome, the amount of alcohol that their gut produces overwhelms the body. The condition doesn't typically make you extra confident and friendly, either. Instead, it results in painful headaches, little energy, and extreme intoxication during inconvenient times.
For instance, one 35-yeard-old schoolteacher was pulled over for drunk driving in New York State. When police administered a breathalyzer, they found that her blood-alcohol content was four times the legal limit. However, she was able to evade drunk-driving charges after doctors tested her gut and found that her intestines were fermenting high-carbohydrate foods.
The earliest cases of the condition were reported in Japan, which makes sense for both cultural and genetic reasons. First, yeast convert carbohydrates and sugars into alcohol, and the Japanese have a famously high-carb diet, making them more likely to experience the condition's symptoms. Second, about 50 percent of East Asians possess a genetic mutation that interrupts the body's alcohol metabolism.
Normally, alcohol is converted into toxic acetaldehyde, which is converted into acetate, which is converted into water and carbon dioxide. But many East Asians possess genetic mutations that increases alcohol's conversion to acetaldehyde and decreases its acetaldehyde's conversion to acetate — the result is commonly known as "Asian flush reaction," where the build up of acetaldehyde causes an irritating red flush, nausea, headaches, and other unpleasant side effects. It's likely that auto-brewery syndrome was first discovered in Japan because of how much more noticeable it would be and how much more obviously unpleasant the condition would be to those who suffered from it.
But auto-brewery syndrome has been documented outside of Japan as well. Matthew Hogg from the U.K. was diagnosed with a particularly strong case of auto-brewery syndrome. In an interview with Vice, Hogg said:
"Up until the age of 16, I was a straight-A student and found academic work enjoyable and rewarding. I was also a keen athlete and sportsman, and had a great social life. As the auto-brewery syndrome began to assert itself, all of this changed. I found myself struggling badly at school when, in my mind, I knew I shouldn't be having any problem. […] I looked at equations in my favorite science classes and knew I should have no problem understanding and solving them, but they now looked like gibberish."
Auto-brewery syndrome isn't common enough to be recognized as a disability, but as a side effect of his constant exposure to alcohol, Hogg was diagnosed with IBS, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and anxiety — enabling him to get treatment. To manage his auto-brewery syndrome, Hogg also sticks to a paleo diet, eating only meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
How do you get auto-brewery syndrome, and can it be treated?
The causes of auto-brewery syndrome aren't extremely well known since it's so rare, but it has been observed to occur in a few instances. When individuals with a diseased small intestine undergoes surgery to remove the diseased section, they can develop short bowel syndrome. This condition prevents patients from absorbing nutrients normally because they don't have enough digestive tract to do so. In this case, carbohydrates passing through the digestive tract can start fermenting since they aren't being fully absorbed by the body.
Making drastic changes to the gut's microbiome can be a risk factor as well. Taking antibiotics, for instance, can upset the balance between the helpful and harmful bacteria in your gut, potentially providing yeast with the opportunity to gain a foothold. Overindulging in sugary or carb-laden food can have a similar effect.
If you were to become one of the unlucky few to acquire auto-brewery syndrome, treatment mainly consists of changing your diet to avoid carbs and sugars and to eat more protein. There's also been some successful reports of anti-fungal therapy and antibiotics as well as supplementing with probiotics to help rebalance the gut. While auto-brewery syndrome might sound like a medical superpower (Brew your own beer in your gut!), most are better off when their beer and wine are brewed by professionals.
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
Meteorologists propose a stunning new explanation for the mysterious events in the Bermuda Triangle.
One of life's great mysteries, the Bermuda Triangle might have finally found an explanation. This strange region, that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean between Bermuda, Miami and San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been the presumed cause of dozens and dozens of mind-boggling disappearances of ships and planes.
A unique exoplanet without clouds or haze was found by astrophysicists from Harvard and Smithsonian.
- Astronomers from Harvard and Smithsonian find a very rare "hot Jupiter" exoplanet without clouds or haze.
- Such planets were formed differently from others and offer unique research opportunities.
- Only one other such exoplanet was found previously.
Munazza Alam – a graduate student at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
Credit: Jackie Faherty
Jupiter's Colorful Cloud Bands Studied by Spacecraft<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a72dfe5b407b584cf867852c36211dc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GzUzCesfVuw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists discover burrows of giant predator worms that lived on the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- Scientists in Taiwan find the lair of giant predator worms that inhabited the seafloor 20 million years ago.
- The worm is possibly related to the modern bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois).
- The creatures can reach several meters in length and famously ambush their pray.
A three-dimensional model of the feeding behavior of Bobbit worms and the proposed formation of Pennichnus formosae.
Credit: Scientific Reports
Beware the Bobbit Worm!<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1f9918e77851242c91382369581d3aac"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_As1pHhyDHY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The idea behind the law was simple: make it more difficult for online sex traffickers to find victims.