Solve the Medical Riddle: She Suspected That Her Husband Was a Closet Drinker, Third Week

Editor’s note: Welcome to our ThirdAge feature that gives you a chance to play medical sleuth as we share the details of what happened when a patient presented with a problem that stumped the physician at first.

The first week of this riddle, the patient and his wife reported his symptoms to a doctor who referred Sam to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in digestive disorders. The second week, the GI specialist proceeded with the examination using the classic S-O-A-P notes as follows:

S=Symptoms or Chief Complaint

O=Objective Findings

A=Assessment or Analysis

P=Treatment Plan or Recommendations


This week, we’ll let you know what some people have suggested as possible diagnoses. Next week, the specialist will reveal the actual diagnosis. Then we’ll begin a new riddle for the following month!

Some Guesses as to What the Diagnosis Will Be

“Sam’s wife said she couldn’t find any alcohol hidden in the house but alcoholics can be very sneaky. I speak from experience because I was married to one. My husband had hip flasks that he hid in places I would never have though to look. He also had a secret stash of vodka inside the piano that I eventually discovered. He would mix it with milk and act all innocent when he was drinking it! I’m still willing to bet that Sam is a closet drinker.”

— Jean K.

“Maybe Sam has a brain tumor. I’m surprised the doctor didn’t check this out since Sam was acting weird and had an unsteady gait. The wife says he had alcohol on this breath, and maybe he did, but I would still want to know if he has a physical problem like a tumor.”

— Lorna G.

“Ok, so Sam’s blood test after an 18-hour fast was normal but then after he had those doughnuts for breakfast, his blood test showed a high alcohol level. Carbohydrates could be the culprits. He might have Candida overgrowth. I had it and it can cause all kinds of odd symptoms. Some people call it Leaky Gut Syndrome. The Candida albicans yeast that’s normally a good guy in the gut turns into a fungus with these long hyphae. Sam should try cutting out those daily doughnuts he’s eating!”

— Marilyn N.


“I’m guessing that the supplements Sam is taking are contributing to his problem, especially if he’s buying them from an online site. He told the doctor he goes to a health food store but he could be shopping on the Internet as well. My sister was doing that and she got very sick from those pills. Who knows what was in them!”

— Caroline R.

To be continued . . .

Come back to next Thursday when the gastroentrologist will reveal the actual diagnosis and treatment plan.

Marie Savard, M.D., a former Medical Contributor for ABC News and a frequent keynote speaker around the world, is one of the most trusted voices on women’s health, wellness, and patient empowerment. She is the author of four books, including one that made the Wall Street Journal list of the best health books of 2009: “Ask Dr. Marie: What Women Need to Know about Hormones, Libido, and the Medical Problems No One Talks About.” Dr. Marie earned a B.S. in Nursing and an M.D. degree at the University of Pennsylvania. She has served as Director of the Center for Women’s Health at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, technical advisor to the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, advisor to the American Board of Internal Medicine Subcommittee on Clinical Competency in Women’s Health, health columnist for Woman’s Day magazine, and senior medical consultant to Lifetime Television’s Strong Medicine. Please visit

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