Monday, September 23, 2013

Your Body and You

The human body is a veritable playground for microorganisms. From your skin to your eyes, bacteria and fungi call you home. Every nook and cranny you've got—if you can see it or not—is home too these little buggers. However, like most cities, some places are less safe to live than others. The stomach is one of those places. The stomach produces acid to help digest food, and because of that highly acidic environment, only a select group of microbes can live there. Organisms like Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and some types of yeast.

Yeast, you say? Any particular yeast?

One, in particular, that you may have heard of—Saccharomyces cerevisiae—Brewer's yeast.

So, what would happen if one had an inordinate level of brewer's yeast in one's gut, and then one ate something high in carbohydrates, like pasta? Spontaneous fermentation?

Nah, that couldn't happen. Could it?

Well, yes.

Just ask the Texas man who suffers from Auto-Brewery Syndrome. According to both NPR and CBS News, the 61-year old arrived at his local emergency room with a blood alcohol level of .037%—almost 5 times the legal driving limit—without drinking a drop. Obviously, the ER docs were skeptical, but, it turns out it was true. Drunk without drinking. It wasn't a one time event, either. His drunken spells had become such a regular occurence that his wife, a nurse, bought a Breathalyzer, to be on the safe side. After years of spontaneously getting drunk, doctors recently determined—and published a report in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine—that antibiotics given in 2003, after surgery to fix a a broken foot, may have killed off the good bacteria in the man's gut, and was naturally replaced by Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Carbohydrates and starches, or foods high in sugar, would get broken down by his stomach acid, and then rather than get absorbed into his bloodstream, fermented.

Viola. Drunk after church.

ABS is pretty dangerous for obvious reasons. Run to the store for milk and the next thing you know Johnny Law has pulled you over for driving on the wrong side of the road. Not to mention that your body is basically poisoning itself. It is however, a rare condition—and when I say rare I mean like shark attack win the lottery on the same day rare. Only a handful of cases, world-wide, have been reported since the 1970s. The cure is pretty simple too, a low-carb diet and anti-fungal medication.

The next time you checking your beer belly out in the mirror, keep this post in mind. It could be worse, it could be a real beer belly.