What It's Like to Have 'Auto-Brewery' Syndrome

It's nowhere near as fun as it might sound

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 17, 2014 1:45 PM CST

(Newser) – Matthew Hogg's body produces its own alcohol, which sounds kinda fun, until you actually hear what it's like to have "auto-brewery syndrome" (also known as gut fermentation syndrome) from Hogg himself. If he eats any sugar or carbohydrates, he feels drunk—or just goes straight to hungover. Before he was diagnosed, he often experienced "severe alcoholic hangovers" the morning after eating a lot of carbs, he tells Vice in an extensive interview. "I'd get pounding headaches, severe nausea, occasional vomiting, dehydration, dry mouth, cold sweats, and shaky hands. It was as if I'd been out the previous night and drunk the bar dry, but I hadn't consumed any alcohol." And sometimes at school, after eating, he'd suddenly find himself unable to understand science equations or acting "out of character ... akin to a drunk who stirs up trouble or lets things slip that they wouldn't have when sober."

Doctors finally determined that his gut produces ethanol from yeast, and other alcohols from metabolizing other bacteria. For a long time, the syndrome had a terrible impact on his life—hurting both his academic and social lives, forcing him to quit sports, and ultimately causing him to get by on disability for years thanks to a host of other health issues including irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, and anxiety. He's learned to hack his diet, eating mostly meat, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but "the underlying cause of the condition has not been successfully treated," he says, so he still suffers from many chronic symptoms. Has he ever purposely eaten a bunch of sugar to get drunk? Nope, because "the negative consequences outweigh the momentary pleasure," he says. "People may assume this condition is a cheap way to get drunk for recreational purposes; that’s unfortunately not the reality. ... It's always been the case that I feel more hungover than drunk." Click for the full interview.

  (Shutterstock)
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