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Auto-Brewery Syndrome: Man's Belly Brews Beer

color photo of a fat man with a ...
color photo of a fat man with a ...

When a Texas man reportedly staggered into a local hospital, complaining of dizziness, staff made the rather obvious conclusion.

They gave him a Breathalyzer test.

And sure enough, the 61-year-old appeared to confirm their suspicions. He blew .37 -- nearly five times the legal limit in Texas.

Diagnosis: Drunk.

The only trouble is the patient claimed he hadn't drank a drop all day.

The re-diagnosis? Gut fermentation syndrome, also known as auto-brewery syndrome.

In a paper published earlier this year in Scientific Research Publishing, U.S. researchers Barbara Cordell and Justin McCarthy call it a "relatively unknown phenomenon in modern medicine."

Cordell and McCarthy tested the theory on the Texas patient, keeping him in a hospital room for 24 hours and giving him heavy helpings of carb-rich foods.

Essentially, they found a common yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae was building up in his intestinal tract. In turn, the yeast caused starch to ferment sugar -- ultimately producing ethanol.

The Texas patient's stomach had become a micro-brewery, basically distilling booze from starchy foods like bagels and pasta.

"He would get drunk out of the blue — on a Sunday morning after being at church, or really, just anytime," Cordell, dean of nursing at Panola College in Texas tells NPR. "His wife was so dismayed about it that she even bought a Breathalyzer."

The prescription?

A low carb diet and plenty of anti-fungals reportedly kept the man's intestines clean and sober.

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