Have you ever made your own drinks? Your own wine or even distilled liquor? Quite a lot of work right? From grapes or plums to something that actually gives you a buzz. Well not for people with the rare disease auto-brewery syndrome. For their bodies produce ethanol in their own gut. A few months ago a 61-year old man in Texas was diagnosed with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.37 without drinking a drup of alcohol. An amazing example of how wonderful the human body works from time to time. And a great way to avoid alcohol taxes of course.
Let’s have the story from Texas first. A few months ago a 61-year old man checked himself into a hospital, since he was feeling dizzy and some other symptoms of drunkness. After the nurses pulled out the breathalyzer it turned out that his BAC was 0.37. But the man swore he didn’t drunk any alcohol the whole day. While other medical professionals suspected the man was a secret drinker, Barbara Cordell – dean of nursing at Panola College in Carthage, believed there was more behind the man. Together with Doctor Justin McCarthy, a gastroenterologist in Lubbock, she wanted to check him out.
They locked the man up in a hospital room for 24 hours after they first checked his belongings for liquor. This day he got carbohydrate-rich food, while the doctors checked his BAC periodically. Between 2 of these tests his BAC went up by a stunning 0.12 percent. After a while Cordell and McCarthy found out what the problem was. The man had too much brewer’s yeast in his gut. Therefor his intestines were working like an internal brewery and he would get drunk just by eating.
“The patient had an infection with saccharomyces cerevisiae“, said Cordell. “So when he ate or drank of starch – a bagel, pasta or even a soda – the yeast fermented the sugars into ethanol and he would get drunk. Essentially he was brewing beer in his own gut. He would get drunk out of the blue – after a Sunday morning being in church or really just any time. His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a breathalyzer.”
Now this disease is extremely rare and that’s why it’s difficult to do proper research. One case report is simply not enough. All through history there are only a few known cases of auto-brewery syndrome. Most of them the patient just finished an antibiotic cure. Antibiotics can wipe out bacteria in the gut, making it possible for fungi like yeast to flourish. Our Texan friend also had a history of home brewing.
So whatever it is that causes this disease we would like to experience it first hand. Just imagine the possibilities. Sunday brunch with your grandparents will be ten times more fun. “More sugar in your tea dear?” Hell yeah grandma, let’s get this party started! Although we can also see the downside. If you and your friends decide to have an all night drinking session and you are already hammered after diner, this night might not be as much fun for you. Still the advantage of getting drunk on your own is one to cherish. At work, with your in-laws or any situation where you require a drink, but can’t have one… Just treat yourself to a candy bar and let your body take care of the rest.