A MAN whose life was shattered because he always appeared drunk found out he in fact had a rare condition.
For decades, Brandon Jacobs, 42, behaved like he’d hit the booze even though he hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol.
Baffled as to why he felt so intoxicated, Brandon developed crippling anxiety because of how people would treat him, including his family.
He was fired from jobs when employers refused to believe he was sober, and ended up on suicide watch.
“People just assumed I was a closet drinker,” Brandon, from Alberta, Canada, said.
He spent years looking for answers until one day, he came across a leading doctor on a TV show discussing familiar symptoms.
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After getting in touch with the doctor, Brandon was diagnosed with auto-brewery syndrome, whereby his body turns the carbohydrates he eats into alcohol in his bloodstream.
It’s so rare that only a few cases have been documented in the past several decades.
Brandon’s symptoms first started when he was just 13 years old.
He said: “I started to feel, at the time, whatever I could identify as ‘not well’, and it was just assumed I had hypoglycaemia and low blood sugar.
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“My first memory was playing baseball when I was this age and not feeling like myself but not being able to identify what was going on.”
Over the years, Brandon's symptoms continued on and off. But in his mid-30s, the problem became much worse.
The health enthusiast said: “[I] often felt intoxicated in spite of having not had alcohol. I ate well, practiced yoga, worked out often, but I seemed to be getting sicker and sicker.
I received a lot of judgement and realised that many members of my family were talking about me behind my back
“My day-to-day life was extremely arduous, difficult, anxiety-inducing and lonely.
“I just appeared intoxicated to other people and the shame was so high that I tried to deny not feeling well.
"My speech changed as did my cognitive functioning. I felt like I was moving very slow and felt like I was looking down from above on myself.
"I heard things like 'What is wrong with you?', 'What did you do before you came here?' and 'What did you have to drink?'.
"I always told people that nothing was wrong with me and that I hadn’t 'done anything', but it was always extremely shameful to have to defend myself against what my family thought.
“People assumed I had anxiety and drank to go to family functions to calm my nerves.
“I received a lot of judgement and realised that many members of my family were talking about me behind my back.
“I didn’t have much to say other than I wasn’t drinking and I didn’t know what was going on.”
Brandon added: “No one besides my family said anything to my face.
“But I did lose jobs and contract work to people who didn’t believe me, particularly in our yoga community."
What is auto-brewery syndrome?
Auto-brewery syndrome (ABS), also known as gut fermentation syndrome, is a very rare and somewhat controversial condition.
It is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the gut that turns excess carbs from food into booze.
The booze in then absorbed into the blood stream and sufferers become drunk.
As the condition is so rare very little is known about it and it is not widely recognised.
Because of the nature of the condition people are mistaken for closet alcoholics.
Those who have the condition may appear drunk, sweaty, confused and have less coordination after eating a meal that triggers an episode.
As the condition is so rare a cure is not yet known, but antifungal medications to control the growth of yeast in the stomach are thought to help
Brandon said in spite of his pleading, people made "preconceived notions" and sacked him.
He hit rock bottom with severe anxiety and he often felt unable to leave the house.
“My anxiety was warranted but it almost led me to not be able to work at all," Brandon said.
“I was always waiting for something bad to happen, even though some days nothing happened at all.
“I was on suicide watch and often talked about taking my own life since no one wanted to help me (except for my partner) and everyone had labelled me already.”
When Brandon turned on the TV seven years ago, he was shocked to find potential answers to his lifelong problem.
He said: “The show was a depiction of a man who appeared to have been drinking and driving despite not having had any alcohol and he ended up being diagnosed with ABS.”
The show involved a Ohio-based doctor named Dr. Kanodia, who Brandon and his wife agreed instantly that they needed to see, regardless of the cost.
Brandon said: “I went through a series of tests (blood, urine, saliva and stool) to be diagnosed with ABS and SIBO [small intestinal bacterial overgrowth].”
ABS may be caused by too much yeast in the gut – where the process of turning carbs into alcohol occurs.
Meanwhile, SIBO is when there is a build-up of bacteria in the gut, causing symptoms such as bloating, constipation and sometimes malnutrition.
With a diagnosis, Brandon was finally able to get treatment, which for ABS, usually involves changing the diet and sometimes anti-fungal medication.
He has combined traditional treatment with wellbeing therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, and nutrition.
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Brandon said his symptoms are “completely resolved” and he no longer lives in fear of his conditions.
His journey led him to set up his business, Park Integrative Health, a clinic that combines modern Western and traditional medicine to treat illness.
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