Wheat/Gluten confusion
August 11, 2008 12:54 PM   Subscribe

What is the difference between wheat free and gluten free? I know it has something to do with proteins--I'm finding a lot of stuff about the gluten side but not a lot about just the wheat. More importantly, if someone is allergic to wheat but not gluten, can she drink non-wheat beer, like Budweiser?
posted by prior to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing the reason why gluten-free people can't drink Budweiser is because it contains barley, so in my completely non-medical opinion, it should be ok for those that are just wheat-allergic. If you're worried, sorghum beer exists and supposedly isn't terrible.
posted by giraffe at 1:16 PM on August 11, 2008

Yes. I'm wheat intolerant, but can eat other things that contain gluten (like barley) and have no problems with non-wheat beers like Pilsners and porters.

The difference is that wheat allergy or intolerance is specific to proteins in wheat other than gluten, specifically wheat albumins and such. The allergen is only found in wheat and it's hybrids, unlike gluten which is found in many more things.

Essentially, gluten-free is wheat-free but wheat-free isn't gluten-free. The people I know that are wheat intolerant/allergic (it's not exactly the same thing, but for this purpose they're the same) are usually also allergic to something else like nuts, soy, milk or shellfish. This isn't always the case with people that have celiac disease.

I'm not a doctor, but I have 30+ years experience with allergies, so this is only based on my own observations.
posted by fiercekitten at 1:18 PM on August 11, 2008

Celiac sufferers cannot eat foods with prolamines in them.

Wheat allergens that trigger an immune response are thought to include prolamines, glutinens and albumins, as well a processed derivatives of wheat (digested proteins). Not as much is known about all the proteins involved in an allergic response.

A wheat allergy is triggered by a different immune response pathway than the autoimmune response identified with gluten intolerance.

What is wheat-free is not gluten-free, because other food grains (e.g., rye, barley) contain prolamines.

What is gluten-free is, by nature, wheat-free, because any wheat-grain food will contain prolamines, which are a no-no for celiac sufferers.

If you're allergic to wheat but are not gluten intolerant, I'm not really sure what you could eat. But any grain or grass that doesn't share the same set of allergenic proteins as wheat should work.

A quick search on Google suggests rice and corn are alternative staples in a wheat-free diet. Coincidentally, these two work for GF diets. Oats are also suggested, but are often processed in facilities which handle wheat, so you have to be careful. Barley and rye appear to be options, but with the same caveats. There are other grains and grasses that might work. Talk to your doctor or GP.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:15 PM on August 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Don't have Gluten/Wheat Allergies myself, but used to work in a health food store and have learned quite a bit about the lifestyle.

Some people who have a Wheat Allergy can also be slightly affected by gluten. Think of it more as a sensitivity. Some people with WA will be fine drinking a Bud, but others won't. Heck, even some people with Celiacs swear they can drink Budwiser without being affected by it.

If you're wanting to have a beer, but don't want to worry about having your wheat allergies affected, shop at your Health Food Store. They generally have a great beer & wine selection and will probably feature gluten free brews such as Redbridge and Bard's Tale, both of which are made of Sorghum.

Redbridge may also be in your regular stores (It's an Anheuser-Busch product). The president of Bard's Tale is a Celiac, so he's very stringent about what goes into his products.
posted by aristan at 9:19 PM on August 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most beers do not have wheat in them (the traditional ingredient is barley). It's only some German styles (weissbiers, notably hefeweizens) that do contain wheat. I'd also be careful of mass-produced beers, as they may use wheat as a cost-cutting measure.
posted by neckro23 at 4:30 PM on August 12, 2008

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