Medical Oddities: You Can Brew Beer In Your Digestive Tract

on 02/09/14 at 11:15 am

Booze News

indexImagine- your wife begins to think you’re a closet alcoholic, so she purchases a breathalyzer to test your blood alcohol content (BAC) throughout the day. Your doctors concur with her assessment, thinking you’re sneaking off into dark corners to imbibe without the judging eyes of the world to condemn you. The only problem, you really haven’t been drinking. All of the begging and pleading in the world won’t convince anyone. After all, you’re constantly drunk.

That’s exactly what happened to a 61 year old man from Texas. After going to a local emergency room to complain of dizziness, he was told he was just drunk. His BAC was 0.37- nearly 5 times the legal limit to drive. The mystery lay in the fact that he hadn’t been drinking. So how do you get drunk without drinking or otherwise putting any alcohol into your body?

This is where gastroenterologist Dr. Justin McCarthy, from Lubbock Texas, stepped in to try and figure out the curious case of the drunk man who drank no alcohol. What they found was that this man had experienced a set of circumstances that allowed alcohol to be fermented within his own stomach and intestines. Yes, you can brew alcohol in your stomach.

Endogenous Ethanol production, or Auto-brewery Syndrome, was first described in medicine in 1972 in Japan. Very few cases are ever reported, presumably because the syndrome requires an unusual set of circumstances to cause noticeable symptoms. In all of the known cases, some type of yeast (in this man’s case Saccharomyces cerecisiae, or brewer’s yeast) ferments the sugars coming from carbohydrates or any sugary foods into ethanol (ethyl alcohol). Should enough ethanol be produced, you get drunk.

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