Auto-brewery syndrome is an under-diagnosed medical condition, doctors say.
There are a lot of strange illnesses that can affect us but auto-brewery syndrome is perhaps among the strangest. It occurs due to fungal overgrowth in the digestive tract that could make you feel as if you are drunk. In other words, your gut is producing its own booze.
This leads us to a story about a man who was always being accused of being drunk but he claimed not to drink any alcohol.
He would fall down frequently and displayed ‘brain fog and aggressive behavior’. Even though he continued to swear he wasn’t drinking, he even got arrested for the suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
Everybody in his life, from his family to his doctors and even the police swore that he drank secretly.
The truth behind the matter, however, was something nobody could have expected. It seems as if the 43-year-old man had started to produce alcohol naturally in his gut when he consumed carbohydrates. It is due to a rare condition that is known as auto-brewery syndrome.
Any gut disturbances, such as using antibiotics could permit certain bacteria or fungi within the gastrointestinal tract to grow unabated. When an individual consumed any type of carbs, such as bread or soda, those microbes would begin fermenting the sugar into a form of alcohol. This could lead to extremely high blood alcohol levels according to research.
You may be somewhat familiar with it if you watch Gray’s Anatomy because they feature the condition in one of their episodes. Keep in mind that an individual can be affected in a profound way and it can lead to a variety of problems including those that affect their family, workplace and overall lives.
BMJ Open Gastroenterology reported on this case with information from doctors in Richmond Medical Center in New York. They wrote about this case saying that if there is a time when someone appears intoxicated but denies drinking alcohol, auto-brewery syndrome should be considered.
It started for this man when he took antibiotics for a thumb injury in 2011. Although he was healthy and active, he started to show some very uncharacteristic personality changes and was depressed.
“He was unable to function and it was mainly after meals,” Dr. Fahad Malik, co-author of the case report, told TODAY. “No one believed him.”
He was treated with antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. He was then arrested by police for DUI when he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.2%, which was double the legal limit. Most people would likely experience a blackouts if they had that much alcohol in their bloodstream.
“The hospital personnel and police refused to believe him when he repeatedly denied alcohol ingestion,” the case report noted.
When the man’s aunt heard about a case similar to his in Ohio, she began tracking his blood alcohol levels with a breathalyzer. She also told him he should go to a lab for testing and they discovered brewers yeast in his stool.
The doctors in Ohio had to confirm that he was actually dealing with auto-brewery syndrome. He was asked to eat a meal heavy in carbohydrates then monitored his blood alcohol levels and saw that they spiked after eight hours.
He was given some antifungal drugs and told to eat a carb-free diet and began feeling better. It wasn’t long before he relapsed and had a serious fall. At this point, his blood alcohol levels were all over the charts.
He went to get more help from doctors at Richmond University medical center. They gave him antifungal therapy that was successful for a few weeks but then he had a setback.
“Unbeknownst to us, he ate pizza and drank soda while on this treatment, resulting in a severe ABS relapse,” the case report noted.
Finally, he had gastrointestinal secretions tested and it showed the fungal growth was gone. He began to take probiotics, microorganisms that support the good bacteria in your digestive tract. It helped bring his gut flora back to normal and his symptoms disappeared. He has since started to eat a normal diet according to the report.
His doctors feel that taking the prescribed antibiotics for the thumb injury started the condition that altered his gut microbiota and allowed fungal overgrowth.
It may sound strange, but auto-brewery syndrome is probably more common than most people realize.