Coeliac Disease: What Alcohol to Drink?

Once known as prolamins, gluten is a family of proteins that are found in some of the grains we normally consume, like wheat, barley, and rye. 

Gluten has many culinary benefits. It helps to provide a chewy texture to some foods, and gluten is also added to processed foods to promote the retention of moisture and improve the texture. In bread, the gluten helps the bread rise and remain moist.

Gluten can also be found in many drinks. While this has many benefits for individuals, it poses a problem for those who are coeliac and cannot tolerate gluten.

Disorders and Allergies

There are disorders and allergies that are associated with gluten intolerance.

Celiac Disease

For those who have celiac disease, their body has an immune reaction to consuming gluten. It is a digestive and autoimmune disorder that can damage the small intestine as well as other organs.

Individuals with celiac disease are affected by the following symptoms:

• Diarrhea
• Fatigue
Bloating and gas
Abdominal pain
Nausea
Vomiting
Constipation

Adults with celiac disease can also experience symptoms non-related to the digestive system, like anemia, bone density loss, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, and joint pain.

Wheat Allergy

Less severe than celiac disease, a wheat allergy is an abnormal reaction from the immune system when any of the wheat proteins are present. Reactions can occur from consuming wheat or inhaling wheat flour.

This allergy can be confused with celiac disease, but it’s the body producing antibodies to the proteins, not an abnormal immune system reaction. The reactions those with wheat allergies face when the proteins are present can include:

• Hives
• Nasal congestion
Headache
Swelling
Diarrhea
Anaphylaxis

Gluten Intolerance

Different from a wheat allergy and celiac disease, gluten intolerance can cause some discomfort but is unlikely to be life-threatening. Symptoms of gluten intolerance are nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches, and bloating.

Can Those That Are Coeliac Consume Alcohol?

Individuals who are coeliac often worry about the foods and beverages they consume. Alcohol is common in social settings, which begs the question; can those who are coeliac consume alcohol?

Yes, those who are coeliac can drink alcohol – as long as they are mindful of the kinds they can safely drink.

Alcohols That Don’t Contain Gluten

Fortunately, for those who can’t consume gluten, there are gluten-free alcohol options.

Liquor

Pure, distilled liquor is considered gluten-free; this even applies to distilled liquor that is made from barley, wheat, and rye. The distillation process that distilled liquor needs to go through is the reason for this.

The process of distillation removes protein when manufacturers go through the process correctly. There are ways to verify the absence of protein or the presence of protein products by using scientifically valid analytical methods. Companies that manufacture distilled alcohol half to prove that there is no protein or added ingredients in the distillate and that they’re have been steps taken to prevent cross-contamination; companies have to be able to produce this evidence upon request.

However, be wary of liquors that add ingredients and flavorings after the distillation process, as some of these flavorings may contain gluten. Safe liquors to drink after distillation are absinthe, bourbon, gin, cognac, liqueur, rum, scotch, vodka, and tequila. Mixed drinks, like the Espresso Martini, are also gluten-free.

Beer

Beer goes through a different creation process than distilled liquor; it’s made from fermentation. Most beer is made from barley, which is not safe for those with coeliac diseases and allergies. Some options claim to be “gluten-free” while also being barley-based, though its safeness for those with coeliac diseases is uncertain. However, there are gluten-free beers available that are manufactured safely!

Wine and Champagne

Most wine options are naturally gluten-free, but if they aren’t, it’ll say so on the label. Sparkling wine is also naturally gluten-free as well.

To be safe, it’s important to read the labels of your beverages before consumption to make sure it’s gluten-free and manufactured in a plant where gluten isn’t also processed.

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