Alcohol and the Gluten-Free Lifestyle

A Word on Alcohol and a Gluten-Free Diet

As someone who freaked out when I was first diagnosed with celiac, I like to say that wine helped me through. While that’s partially true (you can take my dinner rolls, but you can never take my pinot!), the fact is that the alcohol change-up is not that big of a deal when you go gluten-free. Unless you’re a beer connoisseur, and then, my friend, you will be sad.

After calling my dietician every time someone told me I couldn’t have a gin and tonic, I learned that, really, we gluten-free people can still bend an elbow. As long as it’s not Budweiser. There are a lot of rumors out there about vodka, whiskeys, and even wine, but according to my sources (and to Dr. Alessio Fasano in his latest book, Gluten Freedom), we can safely enjoy everything but beer, malt liquor, and a few of those pesky flavored liquors that use barley malt (always check a label!). If you stick to the basics (and the basics don’t include beer and malt liquor), you can order from a bar menu with confidence.

The Great GF Booze Debate
I do feel the need to address the many people who have said they have had issues with whiskeys and other spirits, and who believe wine can be contaminated in the barrel. If you’re feeling sick after eating or drinking something, stop eating or drinking that thing. We’re a sensitive bunch, we’re all different, and gluten is not always the culprit when things go awry. If I have more than three cups of coffee in the morning, my stomach will react like I licked a bagel. This doesn’t mean that coffee has gluten in it. It does not. My stomach just can’t take that extra pressure now that I’m in the celiac club. If you have a shot of bourbon and your gut reacts, stop taking shots of bourbon. Still, bourbon does not contain gluten peptides. That’s just science.

(Gluten-Free) Beer Me
With the explosion of gluten-free beers on the market, we aren’t really even left out at the kegger. Between the always growing selection of gluten-free beer and the rise in popularity of hard cider, I’d say the gluten-free can drink pretty well. Of course, my advice is always to drink responsibly, not only for the sake of your reputation, safety, and waistline, but also because you can’t afford to have altered judgment at the 7-Eleven’s snack aisle at 2 a.m.

There are two different kinds of gluten-free beer: those made with alternative grains such as sorghum and even vegetables such as sweet potatoes, and those that remove the gluten after the beer has been made with barley or wheat. Some celiacs and gluten-sensitive people do not want to touch those beers that have even a trace (less than 20 ppm) of gluten after having the gluten removed. I get it. Why tempt fate? No one is going to make you drink those types of gluten-free beers. But I happen to enjoy the flavor of those options because, to me, they taste more like “real” beer. I’ve never had any ill effects after consuming a beverage (or food) that has less than 20 ppm of gluten. I have, however, had many a negative reaction after being served a meal from a kitchen contaminated with gluten, even though my meal was gluten-free. So while I am incredibly sensitive, the 20 ppm rule that has been approved by many a celiac disease organization holds true for this particular celiac. You may not be able to say the same. So stick to what you know is gluten-free and safe for your belly.

Of course, not drinking alcohol for the 30 days could also be helpful in settling your stomach, joint, skin, sleep, and thinking problems. Alcohol is one of those luxury items, not unlike ice cream, that we celiacs get excited about being able to have even when we have to pass by the donut shop on the way to the ice cream/liquor store. But no one is going to argue that booze and dairy treats are good for your body when you’re in a state of upset-edness. Good for your mental well-being? Maybe. But feel free to skip anything that isn’t nourishing for your body if you want to focus on wellness and not just the fear of deprivation as you go gluten-free. If you’re in a world of hurt from gluten beating down your body, skip the booze, dairy, sugar, and fun. Don’t worry, all those crazy good times will still be there when you’re back in fighting form and more able to consume food and drink without fear. In fact, whenever I’ve been brutally gluten-ed, the one thing that helps me get back into shape is removing any and all inflammatory foods from my diet. Don’t punish your already tender body if your skin is just barely healing and you’re starting to be able to give up your afternoon nap. Be smart, and be healthy.

With that said, I felt it necessary to share a really fun gluten-free cocktail to help celebrate your new lifestyle if that’s that the way you roll. Mix this up at your next party and no one will notice the mediocre crackers.

Raspberry Vodka Refresher
The world’s easiest summer cocktail that also has next to zero calories. I put this together when I was bartending in New York. It’s fizzy, fruity, and boozy. A winning combination on a hot day!
PREP TIME: 5 minutes

crushed ice
2 ounces Raspberry Stoli
juice of 1 lime
4 ounces seltzer
raspberries for garnish
lime wedge for garnish

1. Fill Collins glass with crushed ice. Pour Raspberry Stoli over ice and add lime juice and seltzer. Stir once.
2. Serve with 2 to 3 raspberries dropped in glass and lime wedge.
MAKES: 1 serving

Adapted from The Gluten-Free Cheat Sheet: Go G-Free in 30 Days or Less by April Peveteaux. © 2015 by April Peveteaux. A Perigee Book, Penguin Group USA, Penguin Random House.

About the Author: April Peveteaux is the author of the new release The Gluten-Free Cheat Sheet: Go G-Free in 30 Days or Less (Perigee Books). She has been living with, and writing about, the gluten-free life since her celiac disease diagnosis in 2011. An editor and writer for parenting, lifestyle, and humor publications, she naturally turned her focus to the challenge of living gluten-free in a breadbasket –filled world once she was told “no more pie.” Peveteaux is an advice columnist for Gluten Free & More by Living Without; an editor at Whalerock Industries’ parenting site,; and the author of the bestselling book Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free. She lives and works in Los Angeles with her husband, two children, and pet fox.

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