Report: Man gets 'drunk' without booze, turns out gut brews alcohol inside body

A man was reportedly getting drunk without the use of alcohol and it turns out that his own gut was brewing booze inside of him. (File Photo: KUTV)

A man was reportedly getting drunk without the use of alcohol and it turns out that his own gut was brewing booze inside of him.

An August case report published by researchers from Richmond University in the medical journal BMJ Open Gastroenterology stated a middle-aged man was experiencing symptoms related to alcohol intoxication and was later diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome: a rarely diagnosed medical condition where the patient's gut ferments carbohydrates into alcohol.

According to the report, auto-brewery syndrome (ABS) - also known as gut fermentation syndrome - occurs when foreign fungi found in a person's gastrointestinal tract converts ingested carbs into alcohol. Patients with this condition were said to get inebriated and suffer all the medical and social implications of alcoholism - including getting arrested for drunk driving.

The report detailed the case of a male patient who manifested many alcohol-related symptoms yet claimed repeatedly to health and law enforcement officials that he had not ingested any alcohol.

According to the report, a previously active 46-year-old man with no significant medical or psychiatric history sought help about his condition. He told doctors that he had been experiencing memory loss, mental changes and episodes of depression for at least six years starting in January 2011. The doctors then learned that these changes began to occur after he received antibiotic therapy for a complicated traumatic thumb injury.

About one week after the completion of the antibiotic, the man began to notice changes in his personality with episodes of depression, "brain fog" experiences and apparent aggressive behavior, which was considered to be very "uncharacteristic" for him, stated the report. He was initially evaluated by his primary care physician for the fire time in January 2014 before being referred to a psychiatrist, who treated him with sedatives and antidepressants.

Then one morning, he was arrested for presumed DWI. He refused to take a breathalyzer test and was then hospitalized, where it was reported that he had blood-alcohol content levels at 200 mg/dL.

According to ClinLab Navigator, those with BAC levels often experience confusion, disorientation, impaired balance and slurred speech.

Medical personnel and police refused to believe him when he repeatedly denied ingesting alcohol before he fully recovered and was discharged from the hospital.

After hearing a similar and successfully treated case by a physician in Ohio, the man's aunt purchased a breathalyzer to record his BAC levels and persuaded him to visit Ohio for treatment, where basic laboratory testing came back normal, according to the report. A comprehensive analysis of his stool also came back negative for common gut parasites and had normal protein and enzyme levels; however, there was an unusual detection of two forms of yeast found among his usual gut bacteria: Saccharomyces boulardii and S. cerevisiae. While the former yeast is sometimes used as a probiotic medicine, the latter is commonly known as "brewer's yeast" or "baker's yeast."

To confirm the diagnosis, the man was given a carb-based meal and his BAC levels were monitored under observation. After eight hours, his BAC levels rose to 57 mg/dL (close to the legal BAC limit for driving), according to the report. He was then treated for the Saccharomyces fungi found in his stool with oral medication for two weeks. In the absence of improvement, the researchers changed his medication for another 10 days. When his symptoms improved, he was discharged on a strict carb-free diet along with supplements given by his physician but no further antifungal therapy was prescribed.

Despite receiving antifungal treatment and eating a carb-free diet, the man still experienced flare-ups and saw internists, psychiatrists, neurologists and gastroenterologists in attempts to get his spontaneous drunkenness under control. During this time, one episode left him with a dangerous head injury and potentially fatal BAC levels. Even at this time, the medical staff refused to believe he was sober.

As his symptoms got worse, the man searched for further help and found the researchers at Richmond. As they began to examine him, they found out that prior to his thumb injury, he had been a light social drinker but completely abstained from alcohol afterward. The researchers then also learned that the man had a construction company that was involved with restoring hurricane-damaged homes - many of which had mold contamination.

So, the researchers placed him on antibiotics and monitored him closely for about two months. Fortunately, the therapy proved to be successful and rid the man of the alcohol-creating microbes; however, at one point, he ate pizza and drank soda during his treatment and had another severe ABS relapse. He was then prescribed probiotics to promote healthy gut bacteria growth and was slowly able to reincorporate carbs back into his diet.

Now, a year-and-a-half later, he remains symptom-free and can enjoy carbs without the fear of getting drunk or experience alcohol-induced illnesses.