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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 have not been tested, but have gone mostly gluten free after talking with my doctor. I have experienced several issues when eating gluten containing foods. Most beers so far cause me no problems. Except IPA's . I have had Coors Light, Labatt Blue Light, Guiness, Corona, etc., with no issues. But Devil's Hole IPA from a local micro brewery, hurt me and in general IPA's seem to give me a variety of issues.

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    I just found this thread, and I'm seeing a serious conflict of interest in the article. Since the author owns and operates a company that brews gluten free beer, of course he would tell us that conventional beers aren't safe. That means more potential cash for him.

     

    Maybe that's not the case, but it's something to consider. I'm celiac, and I find that I have to sample beers and liquors carefully and one at a time to see if I react, as there isn't a clear cut answer at this time (as far as I can tell).

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    What about GMOs? I started having problems with Gluten about the time the GMOs started coming out. Is there a difference between gluten from a GMO or Non-GMO? What about eating Non-GMO wheat from Europe? I am going to try and see what works and what does not. Any comments?

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    Thank you so much. I had been told the fermenting process destroys the gluten. I believed that until this afternoon.

    Fermentation doesn't destroy the gluten. Distillation does. Hard liquors are safer than beer.

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    My sister ( and other relatives) has a 100% gluten allergy, diagnosed over 25 years ago. I have a lot of health issues from bruising, migraines - left side, sensitivities to perfumes, low sense of smell lactose intolerance, low immune - colds, muscle weakness for my larger muscular size, severe muscle spasms, light sensitivities, saliva stones, eczema, joint issues - knee swelling from 16 years old and on. The addition of minerals in my twenties made everything better but not gone. In my forties life was getting bad - diagnosed with sleep apnea. Sleep Apnea treatment solved the migraines, sensitivities things, better stamina, more social, life improved and tolerance to alcohol greatly improved - no mores sensitivity or alcohol headaches. At 52, I tried gluten free - greatly improved stamina, strength - extremely less bloating, better brain function, no more back spasms, joint issues - knees are better, basically a better quality of life than in my forties. At 58 years old, my knees -back are better than my all my previous years, better sense of smell, and a decent memory. To improve as you age says a lot for the above. One thing I have to take mineral supplements, which work better with the gluten free and sleep apnea treatment. Very few colds and sore throats compared to younger years. I still struggle with bruising (better) and old joint injuries, but have managed without medical treatment to date.

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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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