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Celiac disease and alcohol – can you drink it?
There is often confusion about alcohol and celiac disease. Is it something that should be avoided completely or can you still partake in an adult beverage every now and then? We’re going to lay out all the details for you.
#1 Rule – Avoid all gluten-containing alcohol
Obviously, any alcoholic beverage that has gluten is out of the question. Below, we’ll walk through different types of alcohol and discuss where (or if) the have a place in a completely gluten-free diet. If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac disease, it’s important that you avoid any drinks with traces of gluten in it.
Beer can be a complicated drink to tackle when it comes to its gluten content. As you probably know by now, the gluten protein is found in barley, rye, and wheat.
Standard beers are made from hops, barley, or other grains which makes them undrinkable for anyone with celiac disease. Even though the gluten content of your standard beer may be under 20 ppm (which is usually considered safe for consumption by people with celiac & is required to be considered “gluten free”), most standard beer producers can’t definitively say for sure that their beers land under this target. Therefore, I’d recommend avoiding the risk and staying away from these beers completely since it doesn’t take very much gluten to trigger a reaction.
TLDR; Avoid all beers unless specifically noted as “gluten-free” or “gluten-removed” on the label.
As more and more people decide to cut gluten out of their diets, brewers are responding. It’s becoming more common to see “gluten-free” beers on the shelf at the store. There are a couple of different ways brewers make their beer gluten-free.
Some gluten-free beers may still be brewed with barley, but a special process is used to remove the gluten from the end product. These are considered “gluten-removed” beers and are generally safe to drink for a person following the gluten-free diet. Other brewers choose to use naturally gluten-free ingredients like sorghum or buckwheat to make their beer. As with anything, it’s important to read the beer labels so you know exactly what you’re drinking.
TLDR; Gluten-free beers are safe to drink. A few popular brands of beer include: Omission, Groundbreaker, and Glutenberg.
Hard cider is naturally gluten-free since it’s made from fermented fruit. Again, it’s important to read the ingredients label though. Some brewers may decide to add barley as a flavor enhancer. This should be denoted on the packaging, so look carefully. That being said, hard cider is normally a great option for a gluten-free alcoholic beverage.
TLDR; Hard ciders are (mostly) safe to drink. Just be sure to read your labels to be 100% sure.
Gluten content can get a little tricky when thought about in terms of hard liquors as well. A common train of thought is that distilled spirits are inherently gluten-free because the distilling process removes the gluten – even in spirits made from grains.
There seems to be some controversy around this in the celiac community though, and some people avoid drinking distilled spirits made from grains to avoid the risk of triggering an immune response.
The Celiac Disease Center recommends sticking to pure spirits and avoiding any spirits that are flavored or colored. These spirits could contain malt or other additives which would re-introduce the gluten protein after the distilling process.
It’s worth pointing out that in the U.S., the law prohibits a manufacturer from labeling their product “gluten-free” if it ever contained gluten-containing ingredients throughout the manufacturing process. So – a pure spirit may be gluten-free, but may not sport the gluten-free label because of this.
Some safe choices for distilled spirits include potato or corn vodka, rum (not the spiced or flavored varieties, though), and tequila.
A Caveat – Whiskey, Bourbon, Scotch
Technically, these spirits should be gluten-free because of the distilling process. But these are made from cereal grains, and this is where the controversy lies. It isn’t universally accepted that these are 100% gluten-free and safe to drink. In fact, some celiac sufferers have reported drinking these spirits and having adverse reactions to them while others can drink them safely without triggering a response.
There doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus, other than this – you have to listen to your body and make decisions for yourself that are safe and responsible. To be completely safe, I would recommend only sticking to alcohols that you know your body can tolerate.
Wine, Sparking Wine, Brandy, Cognac
Wines (both regular and sparkling) are normally gluten-free and safe for consumption since it’s made from fermented grapes. I say *normally* because some people claim that the way the specific wine is aged in barrels can introduce gluten back into the product. Wine coolers should be avoided due to general high sugar content and other additives/flavorings that are included in the product.
Brandy and cognac are both safe for consumption since these are distilled wines.
To Drink or Not…
Hopefully this helps clear up the confusion about alcohol and a gluten-free diet. All of this said, though, you can always abstain from alcohol completely. The choice to drink is completely up to you.
If you do choose to do so, stick to the aforementioned gluten-free options and you’ll be safe.
This is the “alcohol” section of our celiac guide series. Check out the other installments below:
- The Ultimate Guide to Celiac Disease
- Symptoms of Celiac Disease
- Testing for Celiac Disease
- Treatment for Celiac Disease
- Celiac Disease & Your Diet
- Awareness of Celiac Disease
- Celiac Disease & Our Anatomy
- Celiac Disease & Weight Gain
- Celiac Disease & Alcohol
- Celiac Disease FAQ
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