A man whose body acts as his own personal brewery has told how his rare condition means he can get blind drunk – by eating a slice of cake.
Nick Carson suffers from a rare disorder called auto brewery syndrome – where his body ferments carbohydrates and turns them into alcohol in his stomach – leaving him blind drunk without him touching a drop of alcohol.
The bizarre illness leaves Nick, from Lowestoft, Suffolk, craving stodgy Victoria Sponge cake – which then leaves him so sozzled he can pass out – the same way an alcoholic would crave a drink.
The cleaning business owner developed the condition after being exposed to strong chemicals at work almost 20 years ago – but it took years until he was finally diagnosed after wife Karen saw the condition on an episode of Doc Martin.
Nick said: “I’ve basically become an involuntary alcoholic because this condition makes you one, whether you want to be or not.
“Having a little bit of sugar or carbohydrates can quickly make me become drunk. I try to stick to a Keto-based diet but it’s hard because there are carbs in all sorts of foods.
“I can go from being stone-cold sober to being three times the driving limit in minutes which is quite scary.
“The effect isn’t pleasant and I have sections of my memory where I have no idea what I’ve done.
“I just talk rubbish and walk around in circles.
“It’s like sleepwalking with activities – you’re not aware of what you’re up to even though you’re still functioning and doing stuff.
“One time I tried a small portion of low fat chips and I became so intoxicated that I lay in the living room, throwing up, before eventually passing out within 45 minutes of eating.”
Nick first noticed the symptoms of ABS in 2003. He was layering a strong flooring solvent on a job at work and went home feeling very ill, before passing out.
His symptoms began to get worse from that point, but he only realised he could have the condition after it featured on ITV’s Doc Martin.
The couple began to extensively research ABS, which can intoxicate someone who hasn’t had alcohol and happens when the body turns sugary and starchy foods into alcohol.
Nick said: “‘Doctors said that the overexposure to the solvent seemed to trigger the reaction and when I ate sugary foods and carbs, it added fuel to the fire and fermented.
“There’s several triggers to ABS but antibiotics are usually involved – it’s always a cascade of things that cause the problems.
“I started having horrendous cravings for Victoria sponge cake, and I don’t usually have a sweet tooth.
“There are points where I would have killed for a slice of Victoria sponge and it’s ridiculous – it triggers an appetite reflex in your brain.”
Mr Carson tries hard to avoid the triggers of ABS, but even the littlest bite of food can turn him worse for wear – meaning he has to constantly carry a breathalyser around to check he’s not drunk.
His wife Karen, a 64-year-old podiatrist, ensures she records her husband during the sudden and uncontrollable outbursts of drunkenness to show him the next day.
Mr Carson said: “It’s unnerving and it attacks my sense of self and becomes like The Matrix when you start to doubt what’s real and what isn’t.
“When you wake up on the other side, there’s a whole lot of psychological damage because you feel so guilty about what you said and did the night before.
“Sometimes people treat my condition as a joke and say that I’ll be cheap to take out because I don’t need a drink but actually it’s horrible.
“As a general rule, I have a breathalyser that I use every hour. It’s like tap dancing on a minefield and I’m constantly checking myself all the time.”
But Mr Carson doesn’t let his condition get him down, and, alongside Karen, he has managed to control it a lot easier.
He is now speaking out for the first time in hopes of spreading awareness about auto-brewery syndrome.
Mr Carson added: “I hope that sharing my story will help people become more knowledgeable about ABS.
“I’m working on building up good bacteria through what I eat so we’re trying to be as natural as possible. I’m sort of on a Keto diet with lots of vegetables and protein and I feel much better.
“Now that I know a lot more about the condition it’s become a little easier to manage. I think we’re coping with it well and I want to keep the ball rolling.”