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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    A Word on Gluten and Beer

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 07/12/2004 - There have been numerous claims that traditional barley-based beers are gluten free or that all beers are gluten free. Unfortunately, the area is very grey and substantiated on technicalities. The purpose of this post is to eliminate the confusion about gluten as it relates to beer.

    Gluten is an umbrella term used to describe a mixture of individual proteins found in many grains. Celiac disease (celiac sprue or gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity) is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by the ingestion of some of these glutens. People with classic celiac disease are intolerant to the gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and a couple other lesser known grains. All these grains have a relative of the gluten protein. Interestingly, corn, rice and sorghum also have gluten proteins but are not toxic to celiacs. Herein lies one of the fundamental problems; the use of the term gluten intolerance to cover only certain gluten containing grains is confusing for consumers and food manufacturers alike. Unfortunately, it seems that the inertia for using celiac disease and gluten intolerance as synonyms is unstoppable. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of both consumers and manufacturers to make sure the terms being discussed are defined and understood.

    As this relates to beer, there is a gluten protein found in barley. This protein is known as hordein. Wheat gluten is known as gliadin. Rye gluten is known as secalin. Presently, assay tests (or lab tests) are only commercially available for the testing of gliadin. We are unaware of any tests for hordein or any manufacturer that presently tests for hordein (Note: If you know of anyone that does in fact test specifically for hordein, please let us know). Therefore the idea that a barley based beer can be considered gluten free based upon the lack of testing is very difficult to fathom. It should be understood that a company using an assay test for gliadin to test for hordein will not return accurate results.

    There has been widespread speculation that the brewing process eliminates these hordein proteins making all beers gluten-free. Although commercial assay tests for hordein are not available there is conclusive evidence that the brewing process does not degrade hordein to non-toxic levels. A research study in Australia on improving beer haze shows that hordein is still present in beer after the brewing process (http://www.regional.org.au/au/abts/1999/sheehan.htm). Therefore, claims that hordein or gluten is destroyed in the brewing process is unsubstantiated and clearly, based upon the Australian research, is highly questionable.

    Based upon the continuous claims by beer companies that beers are gluten free, it is clear that the issue is misunderstood and, as always, it is up to the consumer to educate them on the facts. Hopefully, the information provided here will give consumers and manufacturers alike the ability to discuss these gluten issues intelligently and effectively.

    About the author: Kevin Seplowitz is the President and Co-founder of the Bards Tale Research Company, LLC and organization that researches the correlations between nutrition, diet, and autoimmune disorders. Bards Tale Research owns and operates Bards Tale Beer Company, LLC (www.bardsbeer.com) a company that develops commercial gluten-free beers. Mr. Seplowitz is a diagnosed Celiac.


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    I am gluten intolerant and my favorite gluten free beer is Red Bridge. I had a few seizures before discovering the gluten issue and have been seizure free ever since.

    Chuck. I am interested to know what you mean by "seizures" I have recently started having non epileptic seizures (although they can look like epileptic fits). I'm also having terrible trouble with my bowels which lead me to this site. I'm looking into reducing wheat from diet. Thanks.

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    I get a migraine when I eat anything with a significant amount of wheat in it, like pasta or a sandwich. I can eat small amounts but I get an uncomfortable "histaminey" reaction and after several days of eating small amounts I get the migraine. But I can drink real beer (the darker the better) a couple times a week, or even two in one day, and I don't get the same reaction. The mass produced crap lite beer crap makes me ill though. Anybody know what my problem is? (I don't.)

    Hey,

    Did you find out what's going on? I observed the same thing! I can drink only dark beers (the cheaper, the better). Porters are bad, light beers are bad. Some unpasteurized are OK. Mass produced beers are all bad.

    I get a heavy headache after even half of it. But it's weird - only the left side of my head is in a huge pain. Have you ever observed such a thing? It can start even at the end of drinking "wrong" beer.

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    In regards to testing for celiac through other types of gluten rather than just gliadin: you may want to check Cyrex Labs. I think they will test blood sensitivity to most grain glutens via the following test:

    Array 4 – Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity

    Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity

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    "People with classic celiac disease are intolerant to the gluten proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and a couple other lesser known grains."

    Might be good to know of the "couple other lesser known grains." I guess you don't.

    1. Triticale - a hybrid of wheat and rye.

    2. Khorasan (Kamut) - an ancient type of wheat.

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    Hey,

    Did you find out what's going on? I observed the same thing! I can drink only dark beers (the cheaper, the better). Porters are bad, light beers are bad. Some unpasteurized are OK. Mass produced beers are all bad.

    I get a heavy headache after even half of it. But it's weird - only the left side of my head is in a huge pain. Have you ever observed such a thing? It can start even at the end of drinking "wrong" beer.

    I get headaches only on the right side when I'm around perfumes or other aromatic chemicals. New car smell is the worst. I instantly feel like I've been hit on the right side of my head with a sledgehammer. Gluten, on the other hand, causes all my joints to ache. So far, it hasn't happened when I drink beer, though it happens every time I eat wheat, so maybe I'm ONLY sensitive to the wheat, not barley gluten. Maybe I should try eating some barley soup, which I used to love, but haven't had in 10 years.

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    After two trips to Japan, a country that has mostly rice products, then coming home to wheat country, I started suspecting a gluten problem. Since I was 16 I have had a problem with acne. I am in my 60's now, still with this problem. In Japan the problem went away. 2 years ago I started a gluten free diet and have had little problem with acne. HAS ANYONE ELSE had this type of gluten sensitivity? Some people think I'm crazy, (ie. doctors).

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    After two trips to Japan, a country that has mostly rice products, then coming home to wheat country, I started suspecting a gluten problem. Since I was 16 I have had a problem with acne. I am in my 60's now, still with this problem. In Japan the problem went away. 2 years ago I started a gluten free diet and have had little problem with acne. HAS ANYONE ELSE had this type of gluten sensitivity? Some people think I'm crazy, (ie. doctors).

    It can cause numerous problems including skin problems i.e., psoriasis.

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    After two trips to Japan, a country that has mostly rice products, then coming home to wheat country, I started suspecting a gluten problem. Since I was 16 I have had a problem with acne. I am in my 60's now, still with this problem. In Japan the problem went away. 2 years ago I started a gluten free diet and have had little problem with acne. HAS ANYONE ELSE had this type of gluten sensitivity? Some people think I'm crazy, (ie. doctors).

    i have had a pilonidal cyst, I currently have a sebaceous cyst that I have to drain every 2 weeks (on my own because doctors are expensive), and I have had a persistent problem with a disorder that I was recently diagnosed with called "hydrodenitis supporativa". It's a cluster of boils with tunnels connecting them together and the last flare up was so bad I was on the verge of going to the emergency room ( if you knew me, you'd know that is not something id do unless it was really serious. I haven't even had a physical in ten years). I've had the hydrodeinitis supporativa for about 8 years. it doesn't heal. It just gets worse. I've tried multiple things to get rid of it, the best treatment I've found is tea tree oil. I'm just now coming around to eliminating gluten and I'm going to see how it goes. I'm really hoping that's what it is.

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    In Ontario, Canada for gluten free beers you can try New Grist, Messenger & so on. I am going to try Red Bridge today; seems to be a favorite of a few people in this chain.

    Gluten free diet is certainly known to be of benefit in childhood seizures which are poorly controlled by medications.

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    Yan,

    I could have said the same thing two weeks ago before I landed in the hospital with diverticulitis and a fever of 103.5 F. Diverticula don't develop overnight. The problem with gluten is, IF you have an intolerance to gluten, you may be unknowingly damaging your intestinal track. I have known for years that I have gluten sensitivity and cheated from time to time (taking communion, eating half a slice of rye toast) with little more than upper gastrointestinal gas. But the night before my major distress I visited my home town and ate stromboli. Not one bite, or two, but the whole splendid, poisonous stromboli. I will never cheat again. Never never. Not beer, not malt, not communion wafer. And in my case, I think I'm sensitive to gluten-free oatmeal so no more McCann's.

    Just a thought but as several of our parishioners have food allergies we have been making a gluten, egg and other stuff free communion bread. That might be something to take up with the church leadership OR bring your own and give it to your Priest/Pastor/Minister with an explanation about why you need it. gluten-free crackers would work also but we have decided to serve everyone gluten-free bread for communion.

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    I tested non celiac but "showed signs of gluten intolerance." So, I went gluten-free and all the IBS, brain fog, and dizzy symptoms went away. I've always been a beer drinker, and after a few months, tried Guinness again with no ill effects. If I can handle hordein, am I specifically gliadin intolerant? I can't drink miller lite or gluten-free liqueurs anymore, but for some reason, Guinness is just fine. Very cool, but also confusing. Any thoughts?

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  • About Me

    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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