Man Brewing His Own Beer – in His Intestines!


When a Texas woman’s husband kept turning up drunk at odd times of the day, even when he swore that he had not had anything to drink, she suspected that he must have an alcohol problem.  The truth was actually much stranger, he was literally brewing his own beer in his intestines.

He wasn’t doing it intentionally though.  It turns out he had a condition called Auto-Brewery Syndrome.

It took a while for doctors to diagnose him, however.   His wife, a nurse by profession, was certain that he was secretly drinking so she tested him repeatedly with a Breathalyzer, obtaining values as high as 0.33 to 0.4 percent.  In the U.S. the legal driving limit is 0.08 percent.

When he finally went to the emergency room, because he was feeling dizzy, he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.37 percent so the doctors examining him also assumed that he was a closet drinker.  Yet, the man was eventually able to convince them that this wasn’t the case and a diagnosis was made.

In order to discover the cause of his random bouts of drunkenness, the doctors isolated the man for a period of 24 hours with no access to alcohol or sugar.  They then tested his blood alcohol level and found it to be 0.12 percent, even though he had not been anywhere near alcohol.  It was then that they realized he must be brewing beer himself in his intestines.

Auto-Brewery Syndrome is quite rare, with only a handful of cases having been identified in the past thirty years.  Some of the stranger cases involved a 13-year-old girl who would get drunk after eating carbohydrates and a preschooler who became drunk after consuming a fruit drink.

It is caused by an overgrowth of a type of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevesiae.  Too much of the yeast can cause any carbohydrates that are eaten to ferment and turn into into alcohol, much like the way that beer and other alcoholic beverages are produced.

The doctors treating the man believe that his case of yeast overgrowth probably occurred after he had been placed on antibiotics related to a broken foot that he had in 2004.  The antibiotics killed off all of his “good” intestinal flora, allowing the yeast to flourish.

The treatment for this condition is to place the patient on a low carbohydrate diet, restricting foods like bread, pasta and sugar, which can be fermented into alcohol.  Anti-fungal medications are then administered to kill the yeast.

The doctors who wrote up the case study caution that other doctors should be more conscientious about not immediately dismissing patients who appear intoxicated, but claim to have had nothing to drink.  While it is extremely rare for someone to be brewing beer in his or her intestines,  when it does happen, it can have important implications in the person’s life.  It can cause loss of jobs, relationship problems and even arrests and jail time.  It is important to take patients seriously so that this condition is not overlooked.

Written by:  Nancy Schimelpfening

International Journal of Clinical Medicine

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