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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

    Is Beer Gluten-Free and Safe for People with Celiac Disease?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    This statement is being distributed by Sapporo Breweries:
    "A representative from Sapporo Breweries, Ltd./Tokyo has advised that Sapporo beer does contain barley. However, after the barley is boiled, the gluten is filtered out along with the barley skins. The representative assured me that although the barley itself does contain gluten, their brewing process effectively removes all the gluten from their beer."

    The following comments were written by Donald D. Kasarda who is a research chemist in the Crop Improvement and Utilization Research Unit of the United States Department of Agriculture. If you have any questions or comments regarding the piece, you can address them to Don at: kasarda@pw.usda.gov.

    The reason that this doesnt make sense for celiac patients has to do with the digestion of the barley hordeins, the proteins that are similar to wheat gliadins in barley. During the malting and fermentation processes, the barley hordeins are broken down into smaller pieces called peptides. It is true that no intact hordein proteins can generally be found in beer. However, the smaller pieces of these proteins resulting from enzymatic digestion are often quite water soluble so that they remain in the beer throughout the complete processing to the final product. (Remember that beer is not a distilled product as are whiskey or vodka. Filtration of the beer will not remove these small water-soluble hordein polypeptides.) A barley hordein might have a polypeptide chain including 300 amino acids in its sequence, yet it is reasonably well established by experiments that polypeptides with as few as 13 amino acid residues in the chain can still retain toxicity for celiac patients. These small pieces of the original proteins can (and do) have very different properties from the original larger proteins. In the strict sense, Sapporo is correct that there are no more intact hordeins in their beer. What they cannot claim is that there are no hordein peptides in the beer that might harm celiac patients.

    There is some evidence from analytical methods involving antibodies prepared to gliadins that there are peptides in beer that react with these antibodies. It is not proved beyond any doubt that the peptides in beer are actually toxic to celiac patients, but it is quite possible that the peptides remaining in any barley-based or wheat-based beer, Sapporo included, are harmful to celiac patients. The amount of harmful peptides, if they are present, is likely to be small, but there is no satisfactory analytical data, in my opinion, that defines the amount exactly. So it could be in a range that would be harmful to a celiac patient drinking beer on a regular basis. My guess is, and I emphasize that I cant back this up with scientific results, that a glass of beer once every few months would not do lasting harm to the average celiac patient. By average celiac patient, I mean those who have no obvious allergic character to their disease and do not notice any immediate reaction when they ingest gluten. 


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    It is totally worth it to some people. Beer is the only joy I have in my life. I have been a homebrewer for 17 years and am getting ready to start my own commercial brewery. I was diagnosed with celiac disease this week. Guess what? Beer is totally worth the risk to many people, including myself. I would rather die 15 years earlier and enjoy my beer on a daily basis than give it up.

    Good for you, Zach. I have to steer clear of gluten because of my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, so my reaction to gluten is primarily based on me trying to keep all inflammation as low as possible and keep my weight in check. Since kicking gluten to the curb, I have lost 25 pounds, but I do LOVE beer, and gluten-free beer to me is more a marketing and branding effort than producing a quality beverage. I'd love to connect with you. Please message me about your beer company! janie at prado-media dot com.

     

    All my best to everyone here. It's a big deal, most "non-sick" people don't get that. I hurt all the time, and I have solved a lot of my issues by connecting with others who fight the good fight like you all.

     

    Cheers!

     

    Janie

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    Good for you, Zach. I have to steer clear of gluten because of my psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, so my reaction to gluten is primarily based on me trying to keep all inflammation as low as possible and keep my weight in check. Since kicking gluten to the curb, I have lost 25 pounds, but I do LOVE beer, and gluten-free beer to me is more a marketing and branding effort than producing a quality beverage. I'd love to connect with you. Please message me about your beer company! janie at prado-media dot com.

     

    All my best to everyone here. It's a big deal, most "non-sick" people don't get that. I hurt all the time, and I have solved a lot of my issues by connecting with others who fight the good fight like you all.

     

    Cheers!

     

    Janie

    Hi janie. My name is Kevin and I also have psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis my doctor put me on meds. [enbrel- needle once a week, sulfasalazine-2 tablets twice a day, and celebrex when needed]. the doctor did not say anything about gluten--does it help? I would like your input.

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    There are now a number of gluten free beers available but they don't taste very good! A friend pointed me to a liquid beer enhancer called OnTap Beer that is pretty good at changing the flavor to a much better tasting beer.

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    Are celiacs sensitive to hordein too? Does this mere fact explain why I feel "slightly" better after an IPA but not after "wheat beer"? I do not have celiac but suspect I am sensitive to modern wheat gluten. I searched for science articles related to fermentation of gluten and gliadin in beer, after recently coming across a PubMed article in which about a quarter of the patients (4 of 17 if I recall correctly) didn't react to Lactobacillus-raised sourdough bread due to the microbes metabolizing the main offending wheat proteins. However the same 4 didn't react to yeast-raised sourdough. I have no good reconciliation for this except perhaps those 4 didn't actually have Celiac Sprue? On a related note, I have read many studies in which even diabetics tolerate beer (what I term "carbohols" as alcohol is more like a water-soluble ketone) better than grain, bread and other (unfermented) refined starch. It's unclear to me whether the effect is from the alcohol or the fermentation or both. I am disappointed there is no better research, possibly an overly-cautious ethical consideration among modern scientists (as they had no problem testing alcohol and sugar/carbs on inmates 100 years ago).

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    Hi, I love beer and I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Mine gave me especially problematic dermatitis. I have tried some gluten-free beers: Anheiser Busch's Redbridge and Omission Pale Ale. I found A.B.'s Redbridge to be very flat with little flavor. Omission, however, tastes like a high-quality beer and leaves a nice lacing around the pilsner glass. I don't want to aggravate my condition because I've made a 180 degree improvement, health-wise. No more inflammation, joint pain, brain fog and belly problems. I lost weight very quickly and I was no longer hungry because my body actually starting digesting the nutrients in my food once I started healing from the gluten problem.

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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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