At first, Nick Hess didn’t really know what was happening. “It was weird, I’d eat some carbs and all of a sudden I was goofy, vulgar.”
He would get inexplicably sick, with stomach pains and headaches. “Every day for a year I would wake up and vomit,” he says. “Sometimes it would come on over the course of a few days, sometimes it was just like ‘bam! I’m drunk’.”
No alcohol had passed his lips, but not everyone believed him. At one point, his wife searched the house from top to bottom for hidden bottles of booze. “I thought everyone was just giving me a rough time, until my wife filmed me and then I saw it – I looked drunk.”
Hess would come to realise that he suffers from “auto-brewery syndrome”, a very rare and somewhat controversial medical condition in which an overgrowth of yeast in the gut turns carbohydrates from food into excess alcohol in the blood. What’s it like to live with this odd condition? And if it turns out that many people are being mistaken for alcohol-abusers by everyone from their friends to the courts, what should we do about it?