A new “relatively unknown phenomenon in Western medicine” case study published in a recent edition of the International Journal of Clinical Medicine describes a rare syndrome that had one man’s gut producing it’s own alcohol!
It’s called gut fermentation syndrome, or auto-brewery syndrome, and “only a few cases have been reported in the last three decades” according to Dr. Barbara Cordell, from Panola College in Carthage, Texas, and Dr. Justin McCarthy, the study’s authors.
Drunk All The Time?
The subject of the case study was an unnamed 61 year old man from Texas, who for five years seemed to be drunk all the time!
His wife, a nurse in Texas, started giving the subject breathalyser tests after suspecting something was wrong. Even when he hadn’t been drinking, the subject would register as high as 0.40 – almost five times the legal driving limit in the USA.
Due to the medical community as a whole not being aware of Gut Fermentation Syndrome at the time, the Texas man didn’t exactly receive a sympathetic response from doctors and medical professors – who a few times just refused to believe that he hadn’t actually been drinking. In 2009, he was admitted into an emergency room on a day he hadn’t had a sip of alcohol. Following a few breathalyser and blood alcohol level level tests, he ranked at 0.37!
Physicians at the hospital went on record claiming that the man showed signs of being a “closet drinker”
His wife, desperate to help uncover the truth, arranged a 24-hour observation session at a gastroenterology practice in 2010. The subject saw no visitors and underwent a range of different tests. Doctors finally uncovered what was causing the problems: His stomach was turning food into alcohol.
The study revealed that “The underlying mechanism is thought to be an overgrowth of yeast in the gut whereby the yeast ferments carbohydrates into ethanol.”
The doctors realized that he must have been infected with high levels Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a kind of yeast that is used in alcohol fermentation and, unsurprisingly, baking. They suspected that because the patient had been put on antibiotics following surgery for a broken foot back in 2004, the medications might have killed all his gut bacteria. This allowed the yeast to sort of ‘go wild’ and thrive in his body.
After a thorough regimen of anti-fungal medication, the subject restored his natural yeast levels, and he once again started registering 0’s on the breathalyser and blood alcohol level tests.
The authors concluded the study by saying “This is a rare syndrome but should be recognized because of the social implications such as loss of job, relationship difficulties, stigma, and even possible arrest and incarceration.”
Here’s to the human alcohol machine!
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