National Public Radio's blog The Salt reported the case of a 61-year-old man who complained to doctors he was dizzy. He felt drunk, he looked drunk and doctors found he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.37 per cent, about 4.6 times the limit for driving in Ontario.
However, the man said he hadn't been drinking.
"The physicians were not aware of any way that a person could be intoxicated without ingesting alcohol and therefore believed he must be a 'closet drinker,'" reads the study published in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine this summer.
However, when the man spent 24 hours in hospital, with no access to alcohol but meals with plenty of carbohydrates, his blood alcohol concentration rose once again.
This man was operating the world's tiniest micro-brewery.
The study's authors, Barbara Cordell and Dr. Justin McCarthy, wrote they believed the patient had "Auto-Brewery Syndrome," meaning an infection that gave him too much yeast in his stomach, so that when he ate starchy foods, such as bread, they broke down and fermented into ethanol, making him drunk from the inside out.
The abstract says doctors reduced the carbohydrates in his diet and treated him with antifungals to resolve the problem.
Researchers have documented a handful of other cases, including one involving a 13-year-old girl who doctors suspected of abusing alcohol, according to a case study published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition in 2001.
Cordell and Dr. McCarthy wrote researchers should investigate the illness further, and maybe listen a little more closely the next time a patient says, "Honest, doc, I haven't touched a drop!"
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