What types of alcohol are gluten free and what effects will the alcohol in gluten free drinks have on my health?
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If you have coeliac disease, or are allergic or intolerant to gluten and choose to drink alcohol, you need to know which drinks are gluten-free.
Whether your drink contains gluten or not, to keep health risks from alcohol low, follow the UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMOs) low risk guidelines. That means not drinking more than 14 units per week on a regular basis (about six pints of typical strength lager, or five 175ml glasses of wine in total), having several drink-free days each week and never binge drinking.
Gluten is a type of protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. It’s found in foods made with these grains, like bread, pasta, cereals, cakes and some sauces and ready meals – as well as in drinks, including some alcoholic drinks.
Some people need to avoid gluten because they’re intolerant or allergic to it. And at least one in 100 people in the UK are estimated to have coeliac disease, where gluten should be avoided completely.1
For people with coeliac disease, it’s essential to maintain a completely gluten-free diet to avoid symptoms including stomach aches, diarrhoea and fatigue and longer-term complications including weakened bones and severe anaemia.2
For expert information and advice on coeliac disease, visit Coeliac UK.
Most beer - whether lager, stout or ale - is made using barley, wheat or rye. That means these drinks do contain gluten and so are off the menu if you’re following a gluten-free diet.
But there are some specially made gluten-free beers, either made with grain that doesn’t contain gluten, like rice, or with the gluten removed at the end of the production process. Legally, only products with less than 20 parts per million (PPM) or less can be labelled as ‘gluten-free’.3
Gluten-free beer still contains alcohol. Checking the number of units on the label or the alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage on the beer's packaging will mean you’re aware how much alcohol is in your drink and can stay within the UK low risk drinking guidelines. There are gluten-free alcohol-free beers available too – swapping a standard beer for an alcohol-free one could help you cut your overall consumption.
All commercially produced wine, spirits, cider and liqueurs are gluten-free because of the way the ingredients they use and the way they’re made, even though some are made from gluten-containing grains. According to Coeliac UK, they can be included in a gluten-free diet.4
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 alcohol regularly can increase your risk of developing a range of health problems including heart disease, stroke and several types of cancer.
As demand grows, more brewers are bringing gluten-free beer onto the market. However, they still contain alcohol. Stick to the UK low risk drinking guidelines
Wine and spirits don’t contain gluten – but how many units and calories does each one have? Find out with our handy Unit and Calorie Calculator
Reading a drink’s label will tell you if it’s gluten-free – and while you’re there you can see how many units or how strong it is with the Alcohol By Volume (ABV). If you want to know exactly what is in your drink, choosing a low alcohol or alcohol-free drink means all ingredients – including any allergens - legally have to be displayed on the label, which could help you choose.
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.
Last Reviewed: 7th August 2023
Next Review due: 7th August 2026