I honestly can say that on vacation I am at times a “HANGRY” person. I constantly hear that living & travelling with Celiac is becoming increasingly less difficult. This is true, but there is still so much room for improvement.
Awareness of celiac disease is on the rise, but many places have never heard of it, so patience is required – both in explaining the issue and handling the mistakes. I was diagnosed in the early 2000’s, before the current explosion of gluten-free trendy eating. The disease, which affects close to 1% of the population, is misunderstood. It's an autoimmune condition, not an allergy. Those of us who have it suffer greatly even if we eat a small amount of food that contains gluten. This includes cross-contamination.
We are taking a chance every time we eat out. It isn’t just stomach distress, either. Eating gluten causes our bodies to attack the cells lining the gut which can result in malnutrition, lower vitamin absorption, inflammation, serious fatigue, severe anemia, bone loss, irritability and depression, dental defects, Lymphoma and bowel cancer, … the list goes on. (Condiments can be your worst enemy.)
Some countries are Gluten free friendly. My favorites are Australia, Italy and of course Finland. There is something so liberating about being able to walk into almost any restaurant and ordering something with only a slight twinge of stress.
I have found that preparation is key – so before leaving I research the area I am visiting and I make an extensive list of shops and stockists restaurants. Sadly, the Gluten Free diet fad can hinder Celiacs. I can always tell when I hand out my Celiac travel cards (so useful) , the blank look from the waiter usually means walk away. My research is not always as useful as it once was, as the slightest contamination will get me ill.
I pack GF protein bars, GF Oatmeal and yes, some ENSURE. After 4 or 5 days of ENSURE I remind myself of how fortunate I am to be on vacation or travelling but to be honest I still get “HANGRY”. It's at this time I start to dream of Juliette & Chocolate (yes they have Gluten Free options).
As I open a fresh ENSURE, I can say that overall this disease has forced me to rethink my relationship with food in more ways than one.
Thank you for taking the journey with me,
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