Drs. Barbara Cordell and Justin McCarthy at first thought the patient was hiding his alcoholism.
“He would get drunk out of the blue — on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime,” Cordell explained. “His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer.”
The research team made sure that the man was not in possession of any liquor and isolated him in a hospital room for a period of 24 hours. Even after consuming only food rich in carbohydrates, the man still ended up with a 0.12 blood alcohol content on his blood test.
During further testing, Cordell and McCarthy discovered a buildup of a certain type of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, in the man’s intestinal tract. The condition, dubbed gut fermentation syndrome or auto-brewery syndrome, causes starch to ferment sugar and thus produces ethanol. Essentially, the man’s stomach was his own brewery.
The man was finally cured with a low-carbohydrate diet and a steady regimen of antifungals to help combat the yeast buildup.