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Beer and gluten intolerance

My spouse and I were in Croatia and Slovenia last year. One of us is lactose intolerant, but the dairy we consumed on our trip did not cause any problems. We chalked it up to Europeans being true to their food, and not altering its natural properties. Now we are planning a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, and are really hoping the same is true with Belgium beer. The gluten intolerance my spouse has became an issue after returning from our Croatia trip. We are both beer lovers, and I’m really hoping she will be able to imbibe in Belgium, where Beer is a national treasure. Have you heard of anyone or experienced yourself, tolerating beer in Europe while suffering from a gluten intolerance here in the states?

Posted by
4630 posts

I traveled with a friend that is gluten intolerant and she tried the beer in Germany (big part of the culture there) but it contains wheat and/or barley she became bloated and gained weight during the trip whereas I lost weight. She attributed that to the gluten, the same thing happened in Italy to her last trip

Posted by
128 posts

Beer is made with barley, and barley contains gluten. If I’m not mistaken, Belgium also specializes in a hard cider which I believe, but please do check, is not made with any gluten containing ingredients. Belgium also has some of the Dutch firewater known as jinever. It’s similar to gin.

Your dairy experience is odd. People with lactose intolerance are missing, or are deficient in, an enzyme in their body called lactase, which make is hard to digest lactose, which is found in all milk and milk products. That shouldn’t change based on what else is in the dairy product or how it has been produced, though some companies add lactase to a dairy product and market it as dairy specifically for the lactose intolerant.

Posted by
117 posts

Belgian beer will be similar to domestic beer in that if you have issues with beer here, you will most likely have issues with Belgian beer. The good thing, however, is that there is such a large variety of beer available in Belgium and the Netherlands, you will have options for high-quality gluten-free or gluten reduced beer. The Netherlands beer scene is vastly underrated-craft beer abounds and many craft breweries dapple with gluten free or gluten reduced beers. The Belgian Brewery, Brunehaut, caters to the Gluten Free crowd. Their beer is really good. You may just need to hit the bars that are known for their extensive beer lists and you should be okay.

Posted by
167 posts

Yes beer is made with barley, sometimes wheat too and both contain gluten (more so in wheat)
If you don't have problems here with beer, you should be fine in Belgium.
I too am also surprised you did not have any problems with dairy.
Interestingly, most people with lactose intolerance cannot drink milk or use cream in their beverages; however, they can consume some cheeses without any problem.
If you have additional concerns, you might consult a Licensed Registered Dietitian who specializes in GI issues.

Gastrointestinal specialists usually have an RD on staff.

Posted by
701 posts

yes I know people who have food intolerances that are much worse when they are in Australia than when they holiday in europe.
we drank gluten free beer in northern Italy, last year, so you may be able to source similar beer in Belgium?
hope this helps.

Posted by
3940 posts

One plus of going to Belgium, as opposed to Germany for example, is that Belgium has a wide variety of beers. In Germany all beers will be of barley or wheat and you will have a narrow choice. In Belgium, you will find a familiar line up of blondes and ales, but maybe try some of the darker beers and certainly the fruit beers as well as the sours. You may find some of the more unique beers tolerable.

Posted by
4305 posts

It's a little hard to know what to make of your situation. I know people that cannot drink milk or cream, but have few issues with cheese. You didn't specify what kind of "dairy" you consumed in Croatia so it would be hard to comment on why you might not have had issues there. In any case, lactose intolerance and gluten allergies are not the same thing.

I do know people that claim to be gluten "intolerant" and that report not feeling well if they consume gluten, yet claim they do not have celiac. I'm not sure there is any scientific basis for these claims, but they avoid gluten and feel better. There are degrees of celiac disease for sure and it may be that she has a mild form. Might be worth getting tested as it can get worse and it is a serious disease if left untreated, even in mild forms.

As the others have noted, beer contains gluten so drinking one or another won't avoid reactions. I would guess that different beers can have different levels of gluten in them, so it may be possible that someone with only a mild allergy could consume some beers without noticing significant effects.

Europe is also way more advanced than the US in gluten allergies and providing accommodations for people. You'll find plenty of gluten free beers, and I would think most bars/pubs would have at least one available. As to whether they are any good for someone used to good beer, I cannot say.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all for your information and resources. This will be very useful as we plan our trip! Cheers!

Posted by
276 posts

I can have cream and butte, but not milk. That is because the lactoise is in the whey not the fat, so the higher the fat content the happier my tummy!!!