Medical mystery time: A 61-year-old man in Texas kept getting drunk, which doesn’t sound mysterious at all, except that he said he hadn’t been drinking. It was enough a problem that his doctors decided to keep him in a hospital room, without booze, for 24 hours. He still got drunk, and they were finally able to figure out what was going on: Brewer’s yeast had colonized his gut, and were brewing a beer inside his intestines.
So when he ate or drank a bunch of starch — a bagel, pasta or even a soda — the yeast fermented the sugars into ethanol, and he would get drunk. Essentially, he was brewing beer in his own gut.
Don’t worry, home brewers: It’s not common enough to be a threat to your industry. In fact, NPR’s reporters were skeptical that this condition was real at all, but they found another doctor who confirmed that this was possible and few other cases:
We dug around the scant literature on auto-brewery syndrome and uncovered a handful of cases similar to the one in Texas. Some reports in Japan date back to the 1970s. In most instances, the infections occurred after a person took antibiotics — which can wipe out the bacteria in the gut, making room for fungi like yeast to flourish — or had another illness that suppresses their immune system.
We’re pretty confident there’s someone out there who will pay for this sort of hyper, hyper-locally brewed beer. Or, if you’re tired of paying to get drunk, try wiping out your gut flora and eating a lot of brewer’s yeast. Whenever you’re ready to get tipply, eat a pile of carbohydrates. Then stick a tap in your belly button and call it a day.