A 46 year old man may have just given a new meaning to the term “beer gut.”
Apparently he started producing beer in his gut after it accidentally became colonized by high levels of brewer’s yeast!
The normally healthy 46-year-old began to experience mental fogginess, dizziness and memory loss in 2011 and had to give up his job. He saw multiple doctors, but they couldn’t work out what was wrong. A psychiatrist prescribed him antidepressants in 2014, but this didn’t help.
A few months later, the man was pulled over for driving erratically, and charged with DUI, and police told his family he had been hiding a drinking problem. But the man was not an alcoholic, instead he was suffering from an extremely rare condition known as “auto-brewery syndrome.”
When he was pulled over for drunk driving, the man (whose name is being withheld) insisted he hadn’t had anything to drink. But a blood alcohol test told a different story, suggesting he had consumed 20 standard alcoholic drinks, and he was arrested and charged with DUI.
A relative of his urged him to have more tests since she said she had heard of similar cases where people acted drunk despite insisting they had nothing to drink.
The man went for additional testing and doctors found the fungus Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or brewer’s yeast, in the man’s stool sample. The fungus is commonly used in brewing to turn carbohydrates into alcohol, and was kicking off this process in the man’s digestive system, causing his alcohol blood levels to spike without him drinking!
In a test for auto-brewery syndrome, the man was asked to eat a meal heavy in carbohydrates. His blood alcohol levels rose after the meal. Doctors prescribed him with anti-fungal medication, and told him to stop eating carbohydrates.
Symptoms Return for Another Round!
However, his symptoms of inebriation returned, causing him to hit his head and suffer bleeding in his skull. Large amounts of alcohol were once again found in his system. He insisted he hadn’t been drinking, but doctors didn’t believe him.
The man found new hope after he visited the gastroenterology department at Richmond University Medical Center in New York. Physicians there confirmed fungal yeast had formed in his upper small bowel and a pouch linking the junction of his small and large intestines. They learned the patient had worked for a construction company and helped to repair houses contaminated with mold, which they believe explained his condition.
The man took a different course of anti-fungal medication and was ordered by doctors to stop eating carbohydrates for six weeks. Around a year and a half after he first visited Richmond University, he no longer experiences symptoms and can once again eat normally.
The bizarre case was presented in a recent edition of New Scientist. Dr. Fahad Malik, who treated the man when he was a physician at Richmond University Medical Center, told New Scientist the patient “was extremely happy when he started to recover, because for years, no one believed him. The police, doctors, nurses and even his family told him he wasn’t telling the truth, that he must be a closet drinker” he said.
“Now he is off antidepressants, he’s back at work and he’s finally getting on with his life. The most surprising finding was how functional the patient was with such a high blood alcohol level. He had developed a high tolerance to the alcohol.” Malik said.