A man has told how he cannot stay sober – as everything he eats turns to alcohol.
Matthew Hogg suffers from a bizarre condition that causes his stomach to brew alcohol every time he tucks into a bag of crisps, sandwich or even a fizzy drink.
The 34-year-old was born with an in-body brewery that went undetected for 20 years meaning he spent years being ‘drunk’ after eating highly starchy or sugary foods – even when he was at primary school.
The strength of the alcohol his body produces is so powerful that he suffers a hangover every morning and has chronic alcohol poisoning and liver disease.
As a result, he is often bed-bound and suffers from exhaustion.
Teetotal Mr Hogg, of Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, said: ‘Every time I eat bread, potatoes or starchy rice I produce 100 per cent proof drinking alcohol that travels around my body through my bloodstream – if I eat a portion of rice I would suffer a hangover equivalent of having glugged three bottles of red wine the night before.
‘I have experienced symptoms from birth and during my childhood there were countless times I suffered ‘drunkenness’ without having consumed an alcoholic beverage.
‘I was a stubborn teenager and wanted a normal life so I insisted on partying and drinking and after sailing through my GCSEs I had to scrape through my A-levels to go to university.
‘But soon after starting I dropped out – I had noticed I was getting drunk more easily and was suffering severe hangovers after most meals.
‘Drinking alcohol is now a big no – I already have my own personal brewery and the body was not designed to handle even more alcohol.
‘Plus, why pay someone else when I can make my own special brew.’
Mr Hogg suffers from auto-brewery syndrome, where an overgrowth of yeast in his small intestine produces pure ethanol that is then absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
The condition is aggravated by eating processed food or those which are starchy and sugary.
To manage the condition, he has to stick to a very natural diet of meat, fish and vegetables.
However, he experiences some symptoms even on this diet.
While studying for his A-levels, Mr Hogg’s condition became more severe and he would often experience ‘drunken’ affects, such as dizziness, nausea and even aggression, during classes.
He said: ‘I would start feeling intoxicated a few hours after having something to eat as my body began digesting it.
‘I’m usually quite a shy and quiet person and had a lot of friends at school, but there were times when I would act like a raging drunk by saying horrible things to people, slurring words, upsetting people and just stirring up trouble.
‘My parents were baffled by my behaviour. I had always been a quiet, sensible child and even as a teenager I was never prone to being moody or stroppy.
‘But suddenly I started acting like Kevin the teenager, from Harry Enfield and chums.’
The complexity of Mr Hogg’s condition baffled NHS doctors, who insisted he visit a psychiatrist as a result of regularly missing school.
But he eventually sought private help from specialists in London and Mexico.
His family spent their entire £50,000 savings trying to have Matthew’s condition identified and it wasn’t until a blood test showed abnormally high levels of ethanol and other alcohols present, indicating small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, that a diagnosis was made.
Mr Hogg added: ‘I finally recognised I’d been suffering auto-brewery syndrome all these years after reading a book about a Japanese man who was arrested by police for drunk-driving despite insisting he was teetotal.
‘It explained that an overgrowth of yeast in the gut could cause this – along with all the symptoms I had suffered for so many years.
‘I now understood that I had my very own brewery in my gut that was poisoning my body and mind.’
The illness has had a devastating impact on Mr Hogg’s life – he is unable to hold down a job and pursue a career as a nutritional therapist.
He also has to adhere to a strict diet in order to manage the fermentation in his gut – the vast majority of common foods, drinks and snacks are off the menu, along with fast food and takeaways.
Mr Hogg, who lives with girlfriend Mandy Taylor, is forced to stay home as a result of having little or no energy on a daily basis – but he did set up the Environmental Illness Resource website to help fellow sufferers.
And 26-year-old Mandy ensures that there are no tempting snacks or banned foods in the cupboards to tease him into breaking his regime.
Mr Taylor, a teacher, said: ‘We are able to go out for meals as a couple but not as often as we would both like.
‘I watched other friends in their “normal” relationships and did feel envious of what they had but this made me fight for Matthew and make him realise that his syndrome should not dictate his future happiness.
‘He would never control or tell me what to do but I don’t want to sit and eat or have things in the house that would make him feel tempted or negative about the foods he has to stick to.
‘We both enjoy living active lifestyles but due to his condition he isn’t able to participate much – so quite often I have to go the gym or do recreational activities alone.’
Mr Hogg’s condition is so severe, that usual treatment procedures of anti-fungal medications, probiotic supplements and selected nutritional supplements do not prevent the production of alcohol.
He has been left to manage the level of fermentation himself with only vitamin and minerals to help.
He said: ‘We now have no savings left and even if we did are at a loss as to how to regain my health – the most precious gift a human being is endowed with.
‘I must typically eat a natural diet based on meat, fish, eggs, seeds and vegetables and drink only pure water and herbal teas.
‘This is extremely difficult at first and would no doubt be impossible for most people, yet the consequences of eating a more conventional diet are even worse with a brewery in your gut.
‘It’s a frightening amount of money we’ve spent and the fact I have not been effectively treated as a result is the real kick in the teeth.