The Evolution Of Gluten Free Beer
When I started writing this blog (about 75 posts ago) I was fairly open-minded about gluten reduced beer options. Two years ago, the gluten free beer market looked very different than it does today. There were way less options on the shelf for us then, and the options we did have were mostly gluten reduced. (Read about the difference between gluten free and gluten reduced here.)
Beers like Omission and Stone IPA seemed to dominate the west coast market then. You can even find old posts I wrote about them and why I thought they were finding such success in the market (at the time). Even just a couple years ago, there was a lot less information available about the potential consequences of consuming gluten reduced beers as a Celiac.
However…things are changing. The shift has begun. New truly gluten free offerings are popping up every day, and we now have at least 5 breweries in the US that are 100% dedicated gluten free facilities. There are now just as many gluten free beers out there as there are gluten reduced. The problem now lies in distribution networks and consumer access to these options.
But as the market continues to adapt to the demand of the gluten intolerant community, our access to choices is improving. This adjustment in the gluten free beer landscape is a perfect opportunity to address a very important topic. Should gluten free individuals be consuming gluten reduced beer?
My Experience Drinking Gluten Reduced Beer
I used to drink gluten reduced beer. The green Omission was my favorite (the IPA). It used to be the only “gluten free” option I had in the stores here. So I bought it and began drinking it. The taste was great (naturally, as it was what I was used to) and in the beginning I shrugged off any consequence of gluten contamination. I didn’t get remarkably ill. I felt more or less okay. As okay as someone who battles an autoimmune disease feels on the regular…
But then I began to drink them a bit more often. Instead of having one in a blue moon, I started reintegrating beer back into my lifestyle and started having one most days when I was done with work. That’s when I began to notice the symptoms more clearly, when I was consuming gluten reduced beers regularly (we’re only talking 1 a night here). I also began to notice symptoms if I drank more than 1 in a sitting.
Now, it’s worth noting that I never became violently ill like if I were to drink a regular beer. But the more subtle signs were hard to ignore. I began to wake up lethargic and depressed. My sleep became inconsistent, and my body got achey. All subtle happenings that used to be apart of my day to day life.
That’s when I began to think about the effect this beverage was having on my insides. I realized that if the exposure was enough to present exterior symptoms, my insides couldn’t be thrilled about it either.
As time went on, my access to authentically gluten free beers improved. I realized that my primary excuse for consuming gluten reduced beers–which was that they were the best option at the time–was no longer true. With gluten free breweries popping up and new brews hitting the shelves, it was time to put my support behind those companies that have Celiac’s true best interest at heart.
Consequences Of Drinking Gluten Reduced Beers
Recently, research has surfaced regarding the dangers of consuming gluten reduced beers as a Celiac. An organization called the Gluten Intolerant Group sought to test whether drinking a gluten reduced beer would trigger a reaction in a Celiac person. They put it to the test by taking blood samples from people with Celiac disease and testing them against both gluten free and gluten reduced beer.
The results of the study: *
- It was found that no individuals reacted to the gluten-free beer
- It was found that some individuals reacted to the gluten-removed beer
- Based on the data, Gluten-Free Certification Organization will NOT certify gluten-removed beers
* Study conducted at the University of Chicago’s Celiac Research Center, published by the Journal of AOAC International.
I think there is a market for gluten reduced beers, but it’s not the Celiac community. Gluten reduced beers should be reserved for those who are simply gluten sensitive, or for those who live a gluten free lifestyle out of choice–rather than necessity.
Speak With Your Dollar
So if you were to ask me ‘Should Celiacs be consuming gluten reduced beers?’
Well…I would have to say no.
That being said, it’s really up to the individual to choose what’s right for him/her. But for those of you new to this gluten free arena, those of you searching for advice and recommendations from someone who’s already tested the waters, I would urge you to support breweries that present you no threat.
The only way the free market will take our condition and our need for safe products seriously is if we vote with our dollar and tell them what products we truly want. There are many out there that still lack access to gluten free options. It’s up to the rest of us to fuel that demand with our dollar so that higher quality beers will make it to the hands of thirsty GF beer lovers.
Until next time…
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