Sian Baker

Medically reviewed by Sian Baker, Dip ION mBANT mCNHC
on April 9, 2024. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Check My Body Health blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Beer allergies are a real thing, but they’re not as common as you might think. If you experience negative reactions after drinking beer, it’s more likely a sensitivity or intolerance to certain ingredients like barley, yeast, or hops.

Beer Allergy: What to Know

A beer allergy is when you experience symptoms after consuming beer. Symptoms can be unpleasant, ranging from itchy skin to stomach pain. Serious allergies can cause breathing difficulties or anaphylaxis, but thankfully this is rare. In this post, we’re going to explore the signs and symptoms of beer allergies, how common they are, and what to avoid if you suspect you suffer from one.

Can you actually be allergic to beer?

Yes, you can be allergic to beer. Beer allergies can occur due to reactions to various ingredients used in brewing, such as barley, hops, yeast, and additives.

How common is this allergy?

Beer allergies are relatively rare, but they can occur in individuals who have other allergies or intolerances to specific ingredients found in beer. Cross-reactivity with other allergens, such as gluten or histamines, can also play a role.

Signs & Symptoms of a Beer Allergy or Intolerance

What are the symptoms of a beer allergy?

The symptoms of a beer allergy can vary in severity and may include:

  • Oral allergy symptoms: Tingling or itching in the mouth and throat, swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat.
  • Skin reactions: Hives, rashes, or itchy skin.
  • Digestive issues: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
  • Respiratory symptoms: Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Severe reactions: Anaphylaxis, which can cause difficulty breathing, a rapid drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

Here is a table summarizing the symptoms:

Symptom Type Examples
Oral Allergy Tingling, itching, swelling of lips/tongue
Skin Reactions Hives, rashes, itchy skin
Digestive Issues Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain
Respiratory Symptoms Coughing, sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath
Severe Reactions Anaphylaxis (rare)

What are the symptoms of a beer intolerance?

Beer intolerance typically involves digestive discomfort rather than an immune response. Common symptoms include:

  • Stomach or intestinal pain
  • Bloating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Fatigue

What is food intolerance?

Food intolerance develops when your body struggles to digest certain foods. Unlike an allergy, it does not involve the immune system. Instead, the symptoms arise from the digestive system’s inability to process certain food compounds. While less severe than allergies, intolerances can still cause significant discomfort and affect quality of life.

How common is a beer allergy or intolerance?

Beer allergies are uncommon, but people who are allergic to ingredients like barley, hops, or yeast may have a higher risk. Beer intolerance, particularly to gluten or histamines, can occur in individuals sensitive to these components.

How do you test for a beer allergy or intolerance?

If you suspect you have a beer allergy or intolerance, consider the following steps:

  • Consult a doctor: They can evaluate your symptoms and medical history.
  • Keep a food diary: Record what you drink and any symptoms that follow.
  • Elimination diet: Remove beer and beer-containing products from your diet to see if symptoms improve.
  • Allergy testing: Blood tests or skin prick tests can help confirm an allergy.
  • Food intolerance test: This can identify sensitivities to beer and its ingredients.

What should you do if you think you have a beer allergy or intolerance?

If you frequently experience symptoms after consuming beer, avoid it until you can get a reliable diagnosis. Speak to a healthcare professional for proper testing and advice.

What ingredients in beer could cause allergies or intolerances?

Barley and Gluten

Barley is a common ingredient in beer and contains gluten, which can trigger allergic reactions or intolerances in some people. Symptoms of a barley or gluten allergy may include digestive discomfort, skin reactions, and respiratory issues.

Hops

Hops give beer its bitter flavor and aroma. While rare, some people can be allergic to hops, experiencing symptoms like skin irritation, respiratory issues, and digestive discomfort.

Yeast

Yeast is used in the fermentation process of beer. Yeast allergies can cause symptoms such as skin rashes, digestive issues, and respiratory problems.

Additives and Preservatives

Some beers contain additives and preservatives that can trigger allergic reactions or intolerances. Common culprits include sulfites, used to preserve freshness, and certain artificial flavors and colors.

What foods should you avoid if you have a beer allergy or intolerance?

To avoid allergic reactions, steer clear of the following beer-containing foods:

  • Beer-battered foods
  • Beer bread
  • Certain sauces and marinades
  • Some desserts like beer cake or beer ice cream

10 Alternatives to Beer

  1. Gluten-free beer
  2. Cider
  3. Wine
  4. Spirits (vodka, gin, rum)
  5. Hard seltzer
  6. Kombucha
  7. Non-alcoholic beer
  8. Herbal teas
  9. Sparkling water
  10. Juice blends

How to test if you have a beer allergy or intolerance

The symptoms of a beer allergy or intolerance can be challenging to manage. To find out for sure if beer is the cause, consider ordering a food allergy blood test or an advanced food intolerance test.


FAQ

Can beer allergies cause anaphylaxis?

Yes, although rare, beer allergies can cause anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction.

Yes, many beers contain gluten, which can trigger allergies or intolerances in individuals sensitive to gluten.

How quickly do beer allergy symptoms appear?

Symptoms can appear within a few minutes to two hours after consuming beer.

Can you outgrow a beer allergy?

It’s possible, but not guaranteed. Some children may outgrow food allergies as they get older.

What should I do if I accidentally consume beer?

Seek medical attention if you experience severe symptoms. For mild reactions, antihistamines may help, but consult a healthcare professional for proper guidance.

If you suspect you have a beer allergy or intolerance, consider trying one of Check My Body Health’s intolerance tests for a comprehensive analysis of your dietary sensitivities.

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