It's called "Auto-Brewery Syndrome," and it may take artisanal homebrewing to disturbing new lows.
In a report published recently by the International Journal of Clinical Medicine, medical professionals in Texas recalled treating a 61-year-old man who would regularly exhibit signs of inebriation despite not having drunk a drop.
"He would get drunk out of the blue — on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime," Panola College dean of nursing Barbara Cordell is quoted as saying. "His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer."
Despite being diagnosed by physicians as a "closet drinker," the man's condition continued to perplex Cordell, who eventually teamed up with Lubbock-based gastroenterologist Dr. Justin McCarthy to get to the bottom of this medical mystery.
After isolating him in a hospital room for an entire day and feeding him carbohydrate-rich foods, doctors noted that his BAC was a solid 0.12.
It turned out that an overabundance of brewer's yeast in the man's gut was causing his intestinal tract to act, as NPR put it, "like his own internal brewery."
Brewer's yeast — or Saccharomyces cerevisiae — is commonly used in the brewing of beer and can be found in a bunch of daily foods.
On rare occasions, such as in the case of the sexagenarian Texan, brewer's yeast can refuse to leave the body, instead staking a claim to some meatbag's intestinal tract.
The live-in yeast will then ferment any sugars it comes into contact with, turning them into ethanol, resulting in inadvertent intoxication.
Only a few similar cases could be found in recorded medical history, and the blame is most often placed on antibiotics or an immune-system-suppressing illness that had allowed the yeast to thrive and transform its host's six-pack abs into a six pack.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2013
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