Can coeliacs have ginger beer?

Quick answer

Coeliacs need to avoid gluten, which is found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. Traditional ginger beer is made from ginger flavoured water that is fermented with sugar and yeast. As it does not contain gluten ingredients, pure ginger beer is generally considered safe for coeliacs to drink in moderation. However, some commercial ginger beers may be produced in facilities that also process gluten or have trace amounts from equipment. Check labels and contact manufacturers to confirm gluten free status.

What is coeliac disease?

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and triticale. In coeliacs, gluten triggers immune system damage to the small intestine. This affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food properly. Coeliac disease is estimated to affect around 1% of people worldwide.

Symptoms of coeliac disease can include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Pale, foul-smelling stool
  • Iron deficiency anemia

Treatment for coeliac disease

Currently, the only treatment for coeliac disease is following a strict lifelong gluten free diet. This means avoiding foods, drinks and medications that contain gluten. With a gluten free diet, the small intestine can heal and nutrient absorption improves. Symptoms are relieved and complications can be prevented.

Common foods containing gluten that need to be avoided:

  • Bread, cakes and baked goods made with wheat flour
  • Pasta and noodles
  • Breakfast cereals containing wheat, barley or rye
  • Beer and ales
  • Malt vinegars
  • Soy sauce
  • Gravies, sauces and soups thickened with flour

Reading food labels is vital, as gluten can be found in many processed foods. Any uncertainty about ingredients should be checked with manufacturers. Cross-contamination is also a concern when eating out or buying from food vendors.

Is ginger beer gluten free?

Traditional ginger beer starts with water, fresh ginger root, sugar and yeast. The ginger is mashed to release flavor, mixed into the water with sugar and fermented with yeast. This original recipe for ginger beer does not contain gluten.

However, some manufacturers add other ingredients to make commercial ginger beers. These may include:

  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Preservatives
  • Citric acid
  • Fruit juices
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Thickeners like guar gum

While many of these are gluten free, some can potentially introduce trace amounts of gluten or have been processed on equipment shared with gluten-containing grains.

Checking for gluten in ginger beer

When selecting ginger beer, coeliacs need to check product labels and ingredients lists carefully for any sign of gluten sources:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Malt
  • Oats – some coeliacs react to a protein called avenin in oats

Ideally, choose brands that are labelled as gluten free or contact the manufacturer directly to enquire about gluten content and production processes.

Some indications a ginger beer may be unsafe:

  • “Natural flavours” – can hide gluten sources like malt
  • No gluten information available
  • Produced on shared equipment with gluten products
  • Unclear responses from manufacturer about gluten testing

Cross-contamination is also possible if ginger beer is served from taps in bars that pour regular beer. Opt for bottled options where possible.

Ginger beer brands to look for

Many commercial ginger beer companies now produce gluten-free options:

  • Fentimans – range of gluten free ginger beers
  • Fever-Tree – several gluten free ginger beer mixes
  • Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer – labelled gluten free
  • Bundaberg Ginger Beer – confirmed gluten free
  • Maine Root – organic ginger beers, gluten free certified
  • Q Mixers – premium Indian tonic waters and ginger beers, gluten free

Check individual product details as some brands will have gluten free varieties as well as regular versions. Homemade ginger beer is also an gluten free option if made from scratch with gluten free ingredients.

Drinking ginger beer in moderation

While most pure ginger beers are fine in a gluten free diet, it’s best to enjoy them in moderation as part of an overall balanced and nutritious approach. Consider these tips:

  • Limit to 1 standard drink per day for women and 2 for men
  • Drink slowly – take small sips rather than gulps
  • Have with food – this helps slow absorption
  • Avoid on an empty stomach
  • Stay well hydrated by also drinking water
  • Avoid daily intakes if pregnant, breastfeeding or health conditions

The fermentation process means ginger beer is not a high sugar drink. But homemade versions will be lower in added sugars than commercial brands.

Benefits of ginger

Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for digestive upsets, nausea and other health complaints. Modern research has also linked ginger to some potential therapeutic properties, including:

  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Antioxidant properties
  • Anti-nausea benefits
  • May aid digestion
  • Could help reduce pain and cramps

Ginger contains active compounds like gingerols, shogaols and zingerone that give it a hot, fragrant flavor. When purchasing ginger beers, check the labels indicate real ginger root extracts have been used.

Other drinks for coeliacs

Beyond traditional ginger beer, there are many other gluten free drink options for coeliacs to enjoy in moderation:

  • Sodas and fizzy drinks – check labels as some use wheat derived ingredients
  • Pure fruit juices – avoid malt added versions
  • Smoothies – use gluten free grains like rice or quinoa
  • Coconut water
  • Herbal teas – chamomile, peppermint, rooibos etc.
  • Coffee and tea – beware flavored syrups that could contain traces of gluten
  • Wine and gluten free beers – from grapes, sorghum, buckwheat etc.
  • Cider – stick to plain rather than flavored varieties
  • Sparkling water with fresh fruit

Hydration is important in coeliac disease, so aim for 8-10 glasses of fluids daily.

Potential for cross-reactivity

Some individuals with coeliac disease could potentially experience cross-reactivity to proteins in yeast. This is not directly linked to gluten but an associated immune response in sensitive individuals.

Symptoms of yeast sensitivity can include:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Bloating and gas
  • Brain fog
  • Low mood
  • Skin issues like acne, eczema or rashes

This effect is not clearly understood – some coeliacs consume yeast without problems. But those with recurring symptoms may choose to limit or avoid yeast containing products like ginger beer.

Other considerations

Coeliacs need to watch for hidden sources of gluten beyond obvious grains. Always thoroughly check ingredient labels and manufacturing processes. Key points to keep in mind:

  • Oats – some brands process oats alongside gluten grains, causing contamination
  • Flours in baked goods – e.g. wheat flour is commonly used
  • Thickeners and stabilizers – flour, maltodextrin, starch
  • Cross-contamination – shared equipment and facilities
  • Natural flavourings – can conceal barley or wheat
  • Communion wafers – made of wheat flour

Alcohol also requires caution, as beer, lagers, ales, rye whiskey and grain vodkas contain gluten. Some concerns have also been raised around possible contamination issues with wine or distilled spirits aged in oak barrels previously used for gluten grains.


Pure traditional ginger beer made from water, ginger, sugar and yeast does not contain gluten. So generally it can be part of a gluten free diet for coeliacs when consumed in moderation. However, precautions are needed around commercially made ginger beers, as additional ingredients may introduce gluten or traces of cross-contamination. Carefully checking labels and contacting manufacturers is advised. For coeliacs sensitive to yeast, fermented drinks like ginger beer could potentially trigger symptoms. But most can enjoy an occasional ginger beer as part of a varied and balanced gluten free diet.

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