A former schoolteacher almost had his life destroyed by a rare condition he was suffering that caused his body to create alcohol.
Mark Mongiardo, 40, from Florida, suffers from auto-brewery syndrome, a condition where microbes in his gut convert sugar into alcohol. It makes him appear drunk even if he hasn’t been drinking.
The diagnosis only came after he had lost his whole career, house and had to move in with his wife’s family. She had even begun suspecting him of sneaking beers when no one was around.
But, Mr Mongiardo had already been dragged over the coals by bosses who accused him of ‘smelling of alcohol’ at school. In 2019 when he was pulled over twice for ‘drink driving’ in six months despite not touching alcohol.
To handle his condition today Mr Mongiardo says he has to take 30 tablets a day and lives on a low-carb diet with no pasta and pizza — hard for an Italian American. He says he always takes a breathalyzer test before driving.
Mark Mongiardo, 40, from Florida, was diagnosed with auto-brewery disease, where his body makes its own alcohol which could make him drunk even when he wasn’t drinking
The former sports teacher had been hauled over the coals by bosses for years before two ‘drink driving’ charges in six months led him to lose his job. The felony charges meant not even Aldi supermarket would give him a job, leaving him losing his home, job and having to move in with the in-laws
Mr Mongiardo now takes 30 pills a day and follows a low-carb diet to stop his body from making more alcohol. He is shown above with his children and wife, who have not been named
‘For years, [my wife] thought I was hiding drinking and I would come home each day and I would basically be drunk,’ he told TODAY.
‘I had symptoms of being intoxicated from slurring speech to balance issues. And this happened even at social events where I had not been drinking.’
Mr Mongiardo began teaching sports in 2005 at a school in New Jersey, but was quickly hauled before the principal after parents said he ‘smelt of alcohol’.
Throughout his career in teaching, and particularly between 2012 and 2016, he was repeatedly summoned by principles over these claims — even though he wouldn’t dream of touching alcohol around children.
In 2018, he switched roles and became an athletic director.
Three weeks into the job, he was pulled over by police, breathalyzed. They accused him of drink driving after he surpassed the legal limit.
Mr Mongiardo insisted he hadn’t been drinking and his boss at the time said they were ‘willing to move past it’ because they were so pleased with his work.
Six months later, when he was pulled over and breathalyzed by police again, they had to let him go.
‘That’s when I lost everything. I lost everything that somebody could lose,’ he told ABC7.
‘I had to sell my house, I had to sell my car. I couldn’t get a job in education, I couldn’t get a job at the grocery store. I had pending felony charges. You know, I was facing prison time for two DWI’s when I had not been drinking.’
The pending felony charges meant he couldn’t even get a job at Aldi supermarket stacking shelves.
It was at this point that his mother suggested that he saw a doctor, pointing out that internet searches suggested it was possible he could have a condition where his body ‘made’ alcohol.
Auto-brewery syndrome is caused by an imbalance in gut microbiota, which can be triggered by a poor diet or antibiotics among other factors.
It leads to a dominance of yeast and other micro-organisms in the gut that convert sugar into alcohol, rather than just energy.
This alcohol can then be absorbed into the bloodstream, making someone ‘drunk’ even if they haven’t been drinking.
There are no solid estimates for how many Americans have the condition, but there are more than 60 cases described in medical literature.
Mr Mongiardo went to see gastroenterologist on Staten Island Dr Prasanna Wickremesinghe, who specializes in the condition.
Mr Mongiardo is pictured above with his wife and two children. The family has now moved to Florida
They did a test where the patient’s blood alcohol levels were tested before and about an hour after he had drunk a sugary drink.
Results showed that, despite not having any alcohol, his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) had jumped to 0.14 units of alcohol per 100ml of blood.
A level above 0.5 is legal evidence that you are impaired.
Describing the moment, Mr Mongiardo said: ‘Within the first hour, I was at 0.14.
‘Once I saw that, [the doctor] was just shaking his head. He said: “You have auto-brewery syndrome absolutely. Your BAC level went through the roof.”
‘We were crying. Honestly, it was just so emotional.’
After getting the diagnosis in May, 2019, the father decided to drop teaching and start working in real estate in New York before moving back to Florida after the pandemic.
He now works at Target in the state where his wife and children have also moved to.
To control his body’s condition, he takes pills as well as following a low-carb diet that has phased out pizza and pasta.
He always takes a breathalyzer test before driving the children anywhere.
The felony charges were also dropped after the police department took too long to bring them to trial.
‘I come from an Italian-American family. I haven’t had pasta or pizza or anything like that since I was diagnosed in May 2019.
‘It was extremely challenging in the beginning.’
WHAT IS AUTO-BREWERY SYNDROME?
Auto-brewery syndrome (ABS) causes sufferers to feel intoxicated and unable to perform simple tasks.
It usually occurs due to yeast accumulating in the intestines after the sufferer ingests sugar.
The syndrome occurs when a sufferers’ yeast in their intestines grow out of control, possibly following a course of antibiotics.
ABS may also be caused by abnormal enzymes in the liver.
Anyone of any age can suffer.
ABS is so rare its prevalence is unknown.
There is no cure.
Avoiding sugar and carbohydrates may help to control symptoms, as well as frequently monitoring a sufferer’s blood alcohol content.
Source: Gundry MD