It’s long been the case that free-from beer leaves a lot to be desired, taste-wise. For those of us that have a gluten intolerance, this has meant swearing off our favourite boozy beverage completely.
Thankfully, along with a general shift towards better quality alternative products that consider flavour just as much as free-from, there’s now a market bubbling with brilliant options for drinkers steering clear of gluten.
Why go gluten-free?
In the past decade, awareness about food intolerances and sensitivities has increased, along with the evolution of testing. We are now much more conscious of trigger foods, and their impact on our health and wellbeing, making us a lot more cautious about the products we choose to consume.
Coeliac UK estimates that around 10% of the UK population now follows a gluten-free diet. For a small percentage of people, coeliac disease makes it important to avoid products containing gluten due to severe illness. But a larger percentage of people have general intolerance to gluten which can be uncomfortable, resulting in a host of symptoms.
Can you really be intolerant to beer?
It sounds like the start of a bad joke, doesn’t it? And plenty of us have certainly felt unwell the day after too many beers. But while a hangover can certainly make you feel worse for wear, it’s not the same as having an intolerance.
Looking at beer, there are a few things at play when It comes to food intolerances. As well as the gluten, Its also possible to be intolerant to the wheat, yeast or alcohol in the drink.
While the general term ‘alcohol intolerance’ suggests a sensitivity to ethanol, it’s more likely that you are reacting to one of the many ingredients found in the beverage.
These potential ‘trigger foods’ are often completely overlooked, as we tend to assume that it’s simply a case of ‘drinking too much’, which causes us to feel unwell.
Wheat and gluten
A component of wheat-based beers and ales, gluten can be a common cause of many problems with digestion. If you feel that the swollen stomach that you’re experiencing the next day simply doesn’t add up to the amount you actually drank, it could be the case that it’s the gluten causing you problems.
The basis of the fermentation process necessary in beers and wines, yeast is a common trigger for food Intolerance. Feeding off sugars to ferment, the resulting bubbling can be upsetting for the digestive system for those with a yeast intolerance. While it can be difficult to avoid yeast when it comes to alcohol, you can choose to partake in spirits and mixers such as vodka, gin, or bourbon. Or instead, opt for filtered beers and wines.
Many artisanal beers, as well as ciders and perries, are made using a range of fruits. This can be bad news if you have an intolerance to berries, apples, pears, or other fruits such as citrus. As a food we assume is good for us, even in alcohol we don’t tend to think fruit would cause us any problems. But, if you’re experiencing reactions to certain fruits, this could be the reason for the discomfort.
What are the symptoms of a beer intolerance?
The gluten in beer can be responsible for a host of complaints, from bloating to irritable bowel syndrome, itchy skin, fatigue, migraine, acne, and eczema. The severity of these symptoms varies from person to person. For some, it might only be one or two symptoms or quite mild. For others, it can be a lot more extreme and debilitating.
So, what are the alternatives?
While gluten-free beer used to be a rather unpalatable option, developments in the brewing process have meant that there’s now a wide range of delicious gluten-free alternatives that are virtually indistinguishable from beer made using traditional methods.
This recent article from The Guardian lists a few products on the market worth trying if you need a free-from tipple.
What is food intolerance?
It’s estimated that around 45% of the UK population has some kind of food intolerance. Often, they go undetected for years, causing mild, but persistent and frustrating problems that stop you from feeling your best.
Food intolerances can occur when your body’s immune system mistakes a food protein as a threat, releasing antibodies to fight it. This reaction can cause inflammation, leading to a host of complaints such as headaches, brain fog, skin conditions like eczema or acne, or joint pain. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and bloating are particularly common complaints.
Take control of your diet
Getting to the bottom of a food intolerance can be frustrating. A common recommendation is the elimination diet, where you remove one food at a time for a few weeks to see how you feel. But this process can take a long time. And, although many of us commonly react to a few different ingredients, the elimination diet is often abandoned when the first trigger food is found, leaving an incomplete picture of what’s causing the problem.
Get answers faster with Smartblood
When it comes to food intolerance testing, it’s important to do your research and choose a reputable laboratory testing company.
At Smartblood, we offer a comprehensive test to help you take control of your diet quickly and discover your own trigger foods.
Our home-to-laboratory service gives you fast, accurate results that pinpoint exactly which foods you are reacting to. Tests are completed in our accredited laboratory by trained experts, with clear, easy to understand results sent to you via email within three days.
Dedicated nutritional support
Our tests include a telephone consultation with our BANT registered Nutritional Therapist. This additional support is there to help you understand your results the changes you need to make to optimise your diet.