Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Gluten Intolerant? Malt Can Get You in Trouble

There’s nothing easy about following a gluten-free diet. But those of us with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have learned that improved health is worth the sacrifice of just eating whatever we want to. Speaking as a clinical nutritionist, the attitude of eating anything and everything isn’t going to maintain health anyway; not in this society where junk ‘food’ and ‘Frankenfoods’ (genetically modified and artificial versions of food) are around every corner.

Malt vinegar is a substance that can be good or evil, depending on how it is made. I certainly found that it was uncommon for my patients to be aware of any potential problems with it – it just wasn’t on anyone’s gluten ‘radar’.

All vinegars (excluding the malt variety USUALLY) are safe and gluten-free because they are distilled.  The distillation process removes the gluten protein, regardless of what grains it might be made from.  Malt vinegar is the only exception because while it is fermented it is often NOT distilled, and the barley protein it is made from therefore is still intact – making it a gluten containing product.

Recently a family member brought home a bag of potato chips of the malt vinegar and salt variety.  They were purchased from Whole Foods, a store that we consider safe due to its awareness of gluten. Despite the fact that my household has been gluten-free for over 15 years, the chips were purchased with no concern or question. Fortunately, I saw the bag and enlightened my family member before a potential gluten “accident” could take place.

By the way, I promptly got on-line and wrote the company asking for clarification. Surprisingly I never heard back. Typically I find that such results are given prompt attention.

[Update: I wrote to the company again and this time did get a response, promptly. That's the good news. The bad news is their response: "Our Malt Vinegar & Sea Salt flavor is not gluten free because of the malt vinegar used.  All of our other flavors are gluten free." - Boulder Canyon Foods. While we cannot accuse them of falsely stating a product is gluten-free when it isn't, I would have hoped that a company that offered so many gluten-free varieties would clearly state on the label of ingredients that a particular product DID contain gluten. That is not the case on this label.]

This may very well be one of the few “loopholes” left in the hidden sources of gluten, at least as far as grocery shopping goes. 

It’s always best to be cautious and not purchase a product with malt vinegar unless the product:

1. clarifies that the malt vinegar comes exclusively from corn, some do.
2. states that the malt vinegar is distilled.
3. and, best choice, the product states that it’s gluten-free.

So while plain wine or balsamic vinegar is fine due to distillation, be alert for foods containing malt vinegar if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease.  All too often when a patient suddenly begins feeling poorly, we discover they’ve unknowingly introduced a new food that contains gluten.  Usually it IS found on the label and they’ve simply missed it due to a long ingredient list.  But in this case, there was no mention of gluten nor a gluten-free status listed as part of the ingredients.

I hope this was helpful. Have you ever experienced a reaction to malt vinegar? Let me know.
If your health needs improving please consider scheduling a free health analysis. We are a Destination Clinic and we see patients from across the country as well as internationally. You, your family and friends are welcome!

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To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP

IFM Certified Practitioner

Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Co-author of “The Gluten Effect”

Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What You Don’t Know May Be Killing You!”

Permission is granted to re-post this article in its entirety with credit to Dr Vikki Petersen & HealthNOW Medical Center and a clickable link back to this page. Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN is founder of HealthNOW Medical Center and the author of “The Gluten Effect”.  She has been featured in national magazines, international medical journals and is a frequent headlined speaker.


Physicians Costa Rica said...

Very good article... thanks so much

Kristina said...


I am thinking that I may have a gluten allergy. I have had joint pain since I was 13, stomach issues (that was once diagnosed as IBS), headaches, fatique..many of the symptoms associated with gluten issues. My question is, what type of doctor do I go to get tested? I don't have insurance but I know its good to find out if you how severe your allergy is, rather than just quitting gluten on my own.

The HealthNOW Doctors said...


Yes finding a doctor to help you is best. We treat patients from all over the US. Please email Eric at He can explain how this is done.