I often see people ask if they can drink alcohol on a gluten free diet. Since I do not drink alcohol myself, I usually keep scrolling whenever I see this question asked on coeliac support groups. However, there are a few myths going around on the topic so I thought I would just clear the issue for anybody who is interested.
First of all, you can drink alcohol if you are on a gluten free diet. But not all alcohol is gluten free.
- According to Coeliac Australia (2), all alcohol is gluten free with the exception of beer. On their website they state that this means anything from bourbon to tequila, sparkling wines, spirits, port, sherry and even cider, in moderation, is safe as part of a gluten free diet.
- Coeliac UK state that people with coeliac disease should avoid barley squashes, beer, lager, stout and ales unless they are specially made gluten-free beers and lagers. Cider, wine, sherry, spirits (whiskey, vodka, rum, gin, tequila), port and liquors are safe for people with coeliac disease (3).
As a rule of thumb alcohol that is made through a brewing process is not gluten free. It is important to only drink beers that are labelled ‘gluten free’- these are the only beers that should be considered to be gluten free despite claims by various people that other beers could be gluten free.
Some people think that if a hard alcohol is made from wheat, barley or rye they are prohibited. The truth is that if the distillation process is done correctly. it actually removes all of the gluten. However, according to Anderson (2014) (1) not all makers of alcoholic beverages distil enough times to purify their beverages completely. In addition, some add in a little of the grain “mash” (which does contain gluten) following distillation to improve colour and flavour, and there’s always the possibility of cross contamination from gluten grains in the manufacturing facility following distillation.
So what should we do?
If you are newly diagnosed, you might want to take small amounts of gluten free alcoholic beverages that are derived from gluten and assess your reaction. If anybody is still worried about drinking alcohol that has been made from gluten containing grains, there is potato based vodka, rum and tequila. And there is always wine, and gluten free beer.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/billy_wilson/4561747862/”>Billy Wilson Photography</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>