Category: Weird Articles
Published on Thursday, 27 February 2014 00:00
34-year-old Matthew Hogg has been suffering from an extremely rare digestive condition since primary school – auto brewery syndrome. Every time Matthew consumes starchy or sugary foods, his stomach converts the food into alcohol which is then released into his blood stream. The alcohol is so strong and released in such huge quantities that he ends up being intoxicated despite him never touching a single alcoholic drink.
Before the alcoholic in you starts getting all excited and jealous over this man's unique ability to produce alcohol, for Matthew, it has always been a nightmare living with it. This rare condition developed for unforeseen circumstances when he was just a young boy and his parents have spent their entire life savings of over $80,000 on diagnosing his illness. After visiting multiple specialists, the condition was finally identified by Dr. Keith Eaten in London when a test revealed high levels of ethanol in his blood and indicated bacterial overgrowth in his small intestine. It is due to the yeast overgrowth that converts the carbohydrates and sugars into alcohol.
“I have experienced symptoms from birth and during my childhood there were countless times I suffered drunkenness without having consumed an alcoholic beverage,” Matthew lamented. “Every time I eat bread, potatoes or starchy rice I produce 100 percent 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.”
The hangovers that Matthew constantly suffers from are so horrible that it leaves him bed-ridden and exhausted. Even his studies suffered as a result from this condition. He had been a straight-A student all along and managed to clinch a place in Sheffield University for a computer science degree, but he was forced to drop out of school as he was unable to concentrate from the nature of his condition.
“I would start feeling intoxicated a few hours after having something to eat as my body began digesting it. My overriding memory of this time is feeling frustrated that my brain wasn’t functioning at the level I was used to. I looked at equations in my favorite science classes and I knew I should have no problems understanding and solving them, but they now looked like gibberish,' Matthew said. “There were times when I also acted out of character. I was generally everyone’s friend at school – a social butterfly. But there were instances when I upset people with uncharacteristic behavior akin to a drunk who stirs up trouble or lets things slip that they wouldn’t have when sober.”
It does not just only stop at his studies, in fact, his entire life is affected by the auto-brewery syndrome. He took on a job after quitting school but that did not work out for him too. While at work, he would experience dizziness, nausea, and aggressive behavior that proved to be huge problems. He then lived off disability benefits that were granted to him after he developed irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and anxiety.
“I lived on disability and family support from 1999 until 2008, when a website dedicated to information about poorly understood chronic illnesses that I set up – The Environmental Illness Resource – began to produce an adequate income through advertising,” he said. Unfortunately, his luck was short-termed as that lasted only until 2012, and he’s now being supported by his parents and his girlfriend, Mandy.
26-year-old Mandy admits that even though she loves Matthew, their relationship has not always been a bed of roses. Since he switched to a strict diet of meat, fish, vegetables and nuts, she needs to ensure that there are no tempting snacks or banned foods around that could cause him to get drunk.
“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 realize that his syndrome should not dictate his future happiness,” Mandy said. “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.”
Mandy enjoys living a healthy, active lifestyle but she can't do with Matthew as his condition prohibits it and she ends up going out alone. In fact, his condition is so severe that none of the treatments he tried has had any effect of him. He has been on anti-fungal medications, probiotic supplements and selected nutritional supplements but so far, nothing has worked.
“For many years I’ve eaten something close to a Stone Age diet, which is based on meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Despite this, the underlying cause of the condition has not been successfully treated, so I still suffer chronic symptoms, including fatigue, aches and pains, exercise and stress intolerance and cognitive dysfunction, just not the symptoms of an acute severe hangover,” Matthew explained.
“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,” Matthew said forlornly. “It’s a frightening amount of money we’ve spent and the fact that I have not been effectively treated as a result is a real kick in the teeth.”
There are effective treatments out there, especially if the condition is recognized early. I spent the first 10 years doing all of the wrong things as a teenager and making the situation many times worse and more difficult to recover from,” Matthew said.
“I hope my story helps people recognize this condition in themselves or their loved ones, and that they seek help and advice as soon as possible,” he advised others with the same condition to not ignore it.