Drinkaware is an independent charity working to reduce alcohol misuse and harm in the UK. We're here to help people make better choices about drinking.
Gluten is a type of protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Increasingly people are looking at the amount of gluten in their diet. This could be because they are intolerant or allergic to gluten or have coeliac disease (a more severe form of gluten intolerance) so may need to avoid gluten altogether and follow a coeliac disease-friendly diet. Or it might be for other health reasons.
It means steering clear of food like bread, couscous and some salad dressings. But what about the gluten in alcohol?
Remember that whether you choose alcoholic drinks that contain gluten or are those that are gluten free, if you wish to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest to follow the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low risk guideline of not drinking more than 14 units per week on a regular basis.
Standard beer usually includes wheat, rye or barley. That means it’s off the menu if you’re following a gluten free diet. It’s the same for any kind of beer, including lager, stout and ale.
In the last decade manufacturers have begun to produce specialist beers for people on a gluten free diet.
It’s important to keep in mind that gluten free beer still contains alcohol so be sure to check the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage on the beer's packaging so you are aware how much alcohol is in your drink and can stay within the low risk guidelines.
All wine, spirits and liqueurs are gluten free because of the way they’re made and, according to Coeliac UK, can be included in a gluten free diet1.
With spirits, the distillation process removes any trace of gluten, even if it includes an ingredient like barley.
But though wine and spirits are all gluten free, they’re definitely not alcohol free. This means that regularly drinking too much of them can have serious consequences for your health.
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing a range of health problems including mouth, throat and breast cancer.
The UK CMOs advise that if you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it's best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days. If you wish to cut down the amount you drink, a good way to achieve this is to have several drink-free days.
- Refresh your drinks. Exploring a gluten free diet can be a great way to change what you drink, as well as eat. Soft drinks aren’t just for kids – take a look at the selection at your local supermarket.
- Gluten free isn’t alcohol free. As demand grows, more brewers are bringing gluten free beer onto the market. However, they still contain alcohol, so it remains important to stay within the low risk drinking guidelines.
- Find out what’s in your glass. Wine and spirits don’t contain gluten – but how many units and calories does each one have? Find out with our handy Unit & Calorie Calculator.
- Check the label. Reading a drink’s label should tell you if it’s gluten free – and while you’re there you can see how strong it is with the Alcohol By Volume (ABV). For example, if a drink is 12% ABV that means 12% of it is alcohol.
- If you’re cutting down on gluten for health reasons, doing the same with alcohol is a great idea. Read our tips for reducing your alcohol intake.
For expert information and advice on coeliac disease, visit Coeliac UK.