Beer in the Fructose Malabsorption Diet
Is Beer Safe for Those with Fructose Intolerance?
Since fructose malabsorption is a relatively new condition, it is difficult to find specific information about safe foods to eat with this condition, especially beer. There are a lot of generalized dietary guidelines and assumptions strewn about on the internet, but the truth is, the condition is different for everyone; and some people have a milder case than others. This is why I wanted to venture into the topic of beer. True, some fructose malabsorbers may have to avoid it entirely, because they have trouble with additional things other than fructose, like fructans, sorbitol, mannitol, etc. But this might not be true for everyone.
Which Beers Are the Safest to Drink?
The more refined a beer, the lower the fructose content will be. Unrefined beers have a cloudy appearance, where a refined beer looks more clear. Disclaimer: most beers are made with some type of malt, which contain varying amounts of fructose. The brewing process should eliminate most of the fructose in beer, but without individually testing each one, there is no way to know for sure.
Pale Lager (blonde or golden ales) - Pale lagers are a dry, crisp beer made with Pilsner malt and noble hops, but look out for those that use corn to lighten the body of the beer (this is common with cheap American beers). Those in this category are the most fructose friendly beers.
- Pilsner - A pale lager, traditionally a Czech beer, is also brewed in German and European styles. Easy-to-find brands of pilsner are Amstel, Beck's, Foster's, Heineken and Stella Artois (these may contain wheat, however).
- Helles - A German style beer that is a hoppier-tasting pale lager than the pilsner. Ask if your local beverage depot carries any.
- American pale lagers - For a list of American "all malt" pale lagers that don't use adjuncts or unmalted grains in the brewing process (i.e. no corn, wheat or other grains), check out BeerAdvocate.
Low carbohydrate beer - Sugars, including fructose, are carbohydrates. A low carb beer will naturally have less fructose.
Be Cautious About These Types of Beer
- Gluten Free - This may seem like a logical choice, since many fructose malabsorbers are sensitive to wheat; but make sure that what you are getting is truly a beer. Most advertised "gluten-free beers" are actually ciders, which makes them inappropriate for a person with a fructose allergy.
- High Carb - Fructose is a carbohydrate, so naturally, a high carb beer is going to have higher levels of fructose. Here is a list of beers and their respective carbohydrate contents.
- Malt Liquor - These often have added corn (or other adjuncts) and sugar to increase the alcohol content. They also contain fructans and enough fruit sugars to warrant caution.
- Select Cheap American Beers - While malt itself is relatively safe (not to be confused with malt liquor), cheaper beers add corn syrup to reduce the cost of production.
- Sweetened Beers - Beware of anything with the word "honey" in the name and avoid fruity beers, too. Many fruits contain fructose or sorbitol, and both can aggravate your symptoms.
- Wheat Beers - Calm down, this one is still up for debate. Those with fructose intolerance are advised to limit wheat intake, because of its fructan content; however, there are those who argue that the brewing process breaks down any questionable ingredients. Additionally, not all fructose malabsorbers have a strong reaction to wheat. I suggest experimentation. Belgian and German beers often contain wheat, as do some microbrews.
Yeast consumes sugar, and it prefers the taste of fructose and sucrose over glucose. Glucose helps with fructose digestion, so it can be reasonably assumed that consuming beer should pose minimal risk of exacerbating your condition. That being said, malt liquor and beers sweetened with honey (or by other means) should be avoided. Since even a fructose-free beer may still contain fructans and sorbitol, experiment with wheat beers to see if they work for you. Whichever beer you choose to test, start with a small amount to see if you have a reaction.
If you have fructose malabsorption and you've had good luck with a beer, please list it in the comments.
© 2013 Katie Hamre