Toast to wine

Thank goodness: Wine is a safe haven for those of use who wish to be wheat- and gluten-free.

We all know that single-ingredient foods that occur in nature are wheat- and gluten-free: cucumbers, olives, basil, cranberries, etc. It’s when humans get involved and add ingredients derived from wheat (as well as from barley, rye, and oats) to human-processed foods that gluten and other wheat components enter the picture.

The vast majority of wines are made without exposure to anything wheat or gluten. Rare exception: Because of a push to get away from animal-derived clarifying agents, such as gelatin derived from cows (due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease), winemakers have sought non-animal sources of clarifying agents.

Clarifying agents are used to make wines clearer and more appealing to the consumer. Clarification removes residual grape skin, seeds, or stem debris; dead yeast cells; and various proteins. Among the most popular clarifying agent choices are bentonite, potassium sorbate, and sodium benzoate.

However, some winemakers have lately turned to gluten or deamidated gluten for wine clarification. Thankfully, this still remains an uncommon practice. I believe it will become less common as more and more of us raise a stink about gluten exposure in ANY food.

The available scientific data on gluten content in wines in which gluten has been used for clarification suggest that no gluten makes its way to the finished product you pour. There are three studies I’m aware of that have examined whether gluten used in the clarification process make their way to the wine itself. Here is one such study. Obviously, if you consume a rare rogue wine that provokes a gluten response, don’t drink it again, then be sure to tell the winemaker about it. Also, come back here and tell us about it.

So the overwhelming majority of wines are wheat- and gluten-free: chardonnay, pinot grigio, viognier, vinho verde, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, garnacha, malbec, rioja . . . along with all the other wines produced from other varietals and blends. More so than any other class of alcoholic beverage, wines are therefore nearly entirely wheat- and gluten-free–even when you toast with wine!

Now, vodka is another story . . .

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. I’m guessing that the “other story” with vodka is that post-distillation, sometimes flavourings or other substances could be added, and they may contain gluten? Or are you referring to possibly problematic peptides that could remain, post-distilation?

    Thanks for all of the great info!

    • Hi, Brent–

      The only issue I’ve come across is, in the extremely gluten-sensitive, the most minimal wheat protein residues in the vodkas and other liquors distilled from wheat can occasionally trigger adverse reactions.

      I’ve not come across wheat-related problems with the added flavorings, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some out there. This is usually a sugar and high-fructose corn syrup hazard.

    • HI, Katherine–

      The most gluten-sensitive may need to be careful, however, if grains are used in the production process, which apparently is not uncommon.

  2. Susan

    If the damage done to the system is done by carbs (wheat) turning into sugar and thereby too much sugar causing a overly high glycemic index, which in turn damages the body ~ wouldn’t wine, which I’ve read, also quickly turns into sugar cause the same problems described in your book by carbs?
    This makes me very sad. : ( I do like my wine.
    Thank you, Susan

    • I think you should enjoy your wine, Susan.

      The actual carbohydrate content is low, usually 2-4 grams per 4 oz. Alcohol does behave as a carbohydrate, so it is not as harmless as it first seems. But most people do just fine with a glass or two. Of course, choose non-sweetened wines.

      • Boundless

        It might be worthwhile to have an article on alcoholic beverages (ABs) generally (the one above is focused on wine). There are still some open questions.

        It’s pretty clear that we need to avoid:
        * excessive consumption (DUI levels) of anything
        * any consumption of anything made from grains (which is most beers)
        * anything that is high carb (most beers, liqueurs, many mixed drinks)
        * if we are highly gluten sensitive, we need to avoid anything processed using grains, or distilled from them

        Ethyl alcohol is not a carb, and wines rarely contain other carbs, but …

        Dr.Davis: “The actual carbohydrate content is low, usually 2-4 grams per 4 oz. Alcohol does behave as a carbohydrate, so it is not as harmless as it first seems.”

        What are the hazards of light to moderate consumption? My impression is that alcohol might provide the same sort of metabolic distraction to the liver that fructose does.

        The nutritional content of ABs is tricky to discover, because the BATFE won’t let anyone put that data on the product. Their concern apparently is that if consumers realize that beer contains carbs, they’ll drink it for food value. I’d like to think we’re headed into a time where listing the carb content turns people away.

          • Boundless

            Whilst we await an “article on alcoholic beverages (ABs) generally”, I’d like to suggest a subtopic for it.

            > … that alcohol might provide the same sort of
            > metabolic distraction to the liver that fructose does.

            Over on Dr. Peter Attia’s blog, readers are speculating that alcohol stops ketosis, until the alcohol is metabolized. The doctor’s initial observation is that below a certain amount, this might not happen, or might not be a problem.

            I’m wondering if that’s true, and separately, if there are other substances, such as sugar alcohols, that have a similar liver effect, and present a threat to ketosis.

            Indeed, there are many ingestibles that are the subject of studies and experiments resulting in “you’re gonna due” scare stories one week, and “fountain of youth” stories the next. I’m thinking that a many of these investigations are confounded by high noise. They are trying to measure subtle effects in a wheat-poisoned glycemic diet. If they studied the matter in a ketotic diet, they might get reliable results. Meanwhile, much conventional diet “science” is trying to detect pin drops in an earthquake.

  3. Susanne

    We have read and enjoyed your book and are trying to follow your advice about low / no wheat exposure and high protein, low carb eating.

    We have a question about alcoholic drinks, particularly the distilled ones like vodka. Although there is little or no carbohydrate in these distilled alcohols, they are metabolized like a pure sugar, as I understand it. Therefore vodka and other high alcohol content drinks would act like foods with a very high Glycemic index in the body.

    My reasoning is that we should avoid these types of beverages and limit ourselves to small and only occasional consumptions so as not to raise our bodies’ Glycemic index, which causes blood sugar to rise abnormally and the pancreas to release insulin. This seems to me to be especially important because alcoholic beverages are considered nutritionally empty and tax the liver’s ability to function normally.

    We would really appreciate your feed-back on these issues. Thanks very much.


    • Yes, you are correct. So the key is small “portions.”

      A shot/glass or two is generally safe–too little to exert much adverse metabolic effect. Also, note that, at least epidemiologically, light alcohol consumers tend to be healthier, live longer, and have less heart disease than non-drinkers. The pendulum swings the other way with heavier intake.

  4. Alan Moore

    Dear Dr. Davis,
    Have just read “Wheat Belly” and am determined to stick to no-wheat diet now. Have been blood-tested for wheat and dairy (which for me is off-the-charts except butter and eggs). My wheat sensitivity is there but i had refused to give up croissants until now (bye-bye croissants, you were very alluring.)
    I am 55-yr-old male with eczema-asthma-psoriasis history; the P has been with me for 30 yrs but the eczema and asthma have abated since the P arrived. Have had GI problems past two years and all the invasive tests along with that, until i did the allergy blood tests.
    My (naturopathic) “primary care physician” has me now taking probiotics, and cod liver oil & flaxseed oil twice daily. In addition I take two caps of multi-vitamins daily. A tri-magnesium supplement. CoQ10 also. And something called 200 mg of Zen which is 550 mg of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid and 200 mg of L-Theanine. I gave up taking Vitamin E since it is supposed to be contra-indicative to health.
    Now my chiropractor advises taking Glucosamine & Chondroitin for three months to help my bones.
    It”s not the supplements I mind but the capsules themselves which I”m not sure about: Gelatin, L-leucine and other small print ingredients.
    Any advice? I”d gladly stop taking any of the above as I know hunter-gatherer didn”t.
    Wishing you good health,
    Alan K. Moore

    • Actually, Alan, it sounds like a pretty good program overall. But don”t forget about vitamin D, the most important of all after wheat elimination.

  5. MIchael

    Dr. Davis,
    I have been on something very similar but have added some wheat back in. After reading your book, I will eliminate it entirely. A couple of quick questions about alcohol. There is a gluten Free Vodka called Tito’s that is very highly rated. Is this ok in moderation? Also, I have read your comments about Red Wine but what about white wine namely Chardonnay? I can give up beer but do enjoy wine.

    • Dr. Davis

      White wine is nearly always fine, Michael.

      I’m not familiar with Tito’s, but if it is labeled “gluten-free,” then it is likely safe from a gluten/wheat exposure standpoint.

  6. Neicee

    After spending a couple of years in the great State of Texas I can say Titos is great. Distilled from corn :( but makes the best cough med in the world. Rarely have a mixed drink these days but still enjoy my vino…. relatives in the industry would disown me if I failed to consume my share!

  7. Evelyn

    I am in the middle of “Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight.” It is fascinating! As soon as I get a handle on recipes, etc., I will get both my husband, who has multiple health problems, and myself off the wheat. I definitely have a wheat belly.

    I am curious about other kinds of alcohol and gluten, such as beer, whiskey, rye. I’m very glad to hear about Chardonnay, which is my favorite.

    I have felt for a long time that there must be something in our diet that is causing all the obesity and strange new diseases.

    Thank you Dr. Davis for turning the light bulb on. Eureka!

  8. Marieke

    Hello Dr. Davis,
    I’m considering starting the wheat belly diet- but I’ve been strictly gluten free for over 1 year, and I actually am farily convinced that I have leaky gut syndrome, mostly b/c of the other food allergies that emerged at the same time as the wheat allergy (peas, almonds, ham, chocolate, msg). I am struggling w/weight in my belly, and I follow a pretty healthy diet overall= lots of fresh fruits, veggies, very little processed foods.

    So, my questions are:
    1. will the wheat belly diet help to heal my gut?
    2. are there supplements I should add to the diet to help with intestinal strength?
    3. do you think the wheat belly diet will help, even though I’ve strictly adhered to being wheat free for 1 year?

    Thanks so much for your time!

    • Dr. Davis

      Please read the posts on this blog, Marieke, and you will find your questions answered . . . many times over!

    • Dr. Davis

      Benign, Dawn, except for the carbonation.

      But as an occasional indulgence, entirely benign from a wheat standpoint.

  9. Pippa

    I found some champagne (“bubbly”) on the weekend and consumed over three nights – half a bottle. For the first time since going wheat free (23 July 2012), I have actually gained 1.5 kg. This is very clear to me that bubbly,/champagne is not a wise move for weight loss for me and possibly others. On a positive note, I have now lost 10 kgs since beginning wheat free and could not be happier. To those who are wary, you will never look back!!

    • Dr. Davis

      Yes, I hate that effect, Pippa, as my wife and I are wine lovers!

      But I fear that it is indeed true.

  10. viral

    Dear Dr Davis
    Your book is so well written that I make it a point to re-read some fav paras again and again !
    I had a question on Carbonated waters like home made sodas,I know you have made a point about
    carbonation and its effect on lowering the body ph.
    How about drinking carbonated plain calorie less water made at home in a soda maker ? Is this a no no to drink ?

    • Dr. Davis

      Thanks, Viral!

      But same issue?: Carbonated beverages are an acidic pH challenge. Note that carbonated beverages make useful paint removers and drain cleaners. They are quite caustic to the human body.

    • Dr. Davis

      Too much sugar, I’m afraid, Cheryl. Even though it is in the form of wine, it is still sucrose with 50% fructose.

    • Cody


      Check for New World Rieslings instead of the German ones. You can often find “dry” versions that taste just as good, but with a lower sugar content.


  11. Cindy

    Dr. Davis, Forgive me if this question has already been answered. There has been much talk of wine….(who knew this would be such a sticking point?) I get that the dry wines are low in sugar, wheat free, and have a low glycemic index. But I read somewhere, ( I think it was on Dr. Atkins site) that the body processes the alcohol before it processes food. This was given as a reason alcohol prevents or slows weight loss. ( I may have totally butchered that explanation!)
    My question is…can I have a glass or two of red wine at night and STILL lose weight if I am wheat free and watch my carbs all day? I’ve been doing exactly that. I’ve followed the diet for two and half weeks now (can’t wait for the recipe book) and have lost no weight to speak of. Couple pounds–maybe. Am I doing it wrong? Though I’ve never had any wheat or gluten “sensitivities,” I do “feel” better. Less achy, more energy, etc. The diet is easy. It makes sense. But when does the weight loss start??

  12. Dr. Davis,

    I have been a avid whiskey drinker most of my life. Drink of choice being CC and Diet sprite. I have recently switched that drink to vodka and water, with a splash of cranberry at the advise of many. My goal is weight loss, and the vodka has less calories and eliminating the carbonation seems to be a good idea. I have lost over 20 pounds since going wheat free, but I have noticed that I have been gaining weight since making this switch even though I have reduced calorie consumption over the last few days. I also notice I am more tipsy when drinking my same 2-3 drinks than I was with Whiskey. I suspect that this might simply be a temporary effect but hoped to get your 2 cents on the topic. Why might this be happening and is this switch a good idea?

    • Boundless

      > … switched that drink to vodka and water, …
      > … gaining weight since making this switch …

      If the weight to be lost is fat (and it usually is), the way it’s lost is ketosis – metabolism of fat to ketone bodies, which your cells use instead of glucose (from carbs primarily). Google “alcohol ketogenic diet” for a tsunami of chatter on that.

      Although there is still a lot of debate about alcohol and health, most seem to agree that it kicks you out of ketosis until it’s all metabolized – postponing weight loss. The question I don’t have clue on is: if you are eating and drinking, what’s happening with the food?

      By the way, fructose, and more than a trvial amount pf carb consumption also kick you out of ketosis (and I’m wondering about sugar alcohols too). Beer, liqueurs, mixed drinks and sweet wines probably contain more than enough carbs to suspend ketosis, entirely apart from the alcohol.

      A side effect of falling out of ketosis is that appetite may be provoked, and those handy bar snacks are not your friend.

      Some claim that dry red wine is not a ketotic problem, but that may be idiosyncratic.

      > I also notice I am more tipsy when drinking my same 2-3 drinks …

      Yep, that is a commonly reported effect from drinkers on low carb/keto diets.

      Is it due to a combination of low blood sugar (due to having been in ketosis) plus low blood ketone bodies (due to not being in ketosis at the moment)?

      • Dr. Davis

        Thanks, Boundless!

        Yes, go very lightly on the alcohol when you are trying to lose weight. It turns off the mechanism for fat mobilization.

      • Boundless all you say makes perfect sense. If I had changed my diet as well as my type of alcoholic intake. But I did not.

        > Yep, that is a commonly reported effect from drinkers on low carb/keto diets.

        My consumption of quantity of alcohol has not changed. And I was on the lower carb diet prior to switching from whiskey to vodka and best I can tell monitoring my calorie and carb intake on myfitnesspal I should still be losing weight very gradually.

        The calorie difference between whiskey and vodka is not very significant, but I did feel eliminating 2-3 carbonated diet beverages per day might be beneficial. However, something in the switch seems to be kicking me out of ketosis for a longer period, or possibly some other explanation for gaining. I don’t know, it may be my body is so used to whiskey it treats it differently. I now have gained weight for a 4th day for a total of 3.5 pounds, and am going back to what has been working up till now. If its not broke I guess, don’t fix it.

  13. Kathy

    I have had swelling, Dr.s continue to say “sausage fingers”. I even had to have my rings cut off.
    Abdominal swelling is huge, arms etc. I have been a healthy eater for decades- “however” oatmeal , whole grains as that is what was recommended to me. I am a Hashimotos patient and exercise , yoga etc. I went gluten free last year and had no results. None. I am very eager to begin this plan . Red wine and dark choc. are my only “treats”. I am finding the breakfast times to be a problem as , surely, we cannot have eggs daily?
    Thank you!

  14. Kathy

    Hi, it is Kathy , again. Is there any kind of high protein bar to take “on the go” with out wheat ? I have tried the gluten free ones . They often have tapioca and things not recommended . If anyone knows of any ,(high fiber a plus) please, let me know!! Also, there are conflicting comments re those of us with constipation: to take psyllium ….I have tried Konsyl, as it says gluten free! My thanks again for any help. ( I have suffered for decades, to point of severe anxiety and eager to be well!!, not to mention 40 lb weight gain , with “correct ” eating and
    exercise.!!! K

  15. VickiB

    I have just finished another round of dieting with HCG, which has been very successful every time. The problem comes in when I get to the “for life” maintenance phase and add carbs (& wheat products) back into my diet. I read your book and have decided this time try following your recommendations when I can add more variety into my diet (which is very similar to the HCG diet recommendations). What I would like to know is, since it’s not a gluten sensitivity that’s leading me to do this, if I have an occasional mistep (not catching something on a label), will it still be fairly effective?

    • Dr. Davis

      No, Vicki. The gliadin opiate in wheat will trigger appetite for up to 5 days after a single wheat indulgence. You will then have to struggle with often overpowering desire for junk carbs.

      It’s just not worth it.

  16. I’ve been on diet for a week and haven’t lost a lb ! I habe no wheat at all or sugar! I have the nut bread for breakfast full cream with coffee, for lunch salad with full fat cheese and olive oil and vinegar raw nuts and cheese for snack and crust less pizza for dinner . I did have two glasses of red wine three times last week ! Helpppppp

    • David

      Give it time. Not everyone has instant results. I have dropped weight slowly over the past 30 days and I feel better and stronger. Expect to see gradual weight loss over a period of 3-6 months and even a year. Slow weight loss is better and tends to be maintained. Don’t count calories, just eat more meats, fish and whole vegetables and cut out all grains, vegetable oils, sugars and legumes. Don’t eat packaged foods…they are all loaded with wheat products, oils, sugars and additives. Eliminate canned food and bottled dressings and toppings. Drink plenty of water, get exercise and plenty of sunlight. Enjoy the process, don’t worry about the results, they will come in time.

    • gingerbread

      Hi Abby, go to or get the fitnesspal app. I think it is free. There are many apps out there. Their focus is on calories, but if you track your food, in the presentation of what you ate, it will tell you your carb and sugar count for foods entered each meal and totalling for the day. Hope this helps. Most packages will tell you the carb count of a food too. If you stay away from grains, corn, rice and wheat, you can still eat pretty good on 50 carbs per day and be very full.

    • Net carbs = total carbs minus fiber carbs

      Net carbs at or below 50 grams / day,
      and below 16 grams per meal or 6-hour period.

      If you aren’t counting, chances are the numbers are higher than you might guess.

  17. Christine Sunshine

    When you talk about wine, do you refer only to wine produced in the US? What about wine from other countries? I had a reaction to a Chilean wine recently, as did a celiac friend. How do we find out if wines from certain vintners are safe? An email to the company resulted in an ambiguos response.
    Where I live (Mexico) it is expensive to purchase US wines. So my choices are Argentinian, Chilean, Spanish etc.