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Travel Fears Disappear with a Safe Gluten-Free Trip to the Abacos Bahamas


Hole-In-The-Wall, The Abacos

Celiac.com 06/07/2010 - Traveling with celiac disease/gluten intolerance is a challenge and I suspect many of us would rather stay home than risk getting sick in a foreign country.  Well, our family had been planning and having to put off a trip to visit friends in the beautiful Abacos, Bahamas for three whole years.  And…finally the trip was only a week away when the fear of getting sick from other people’s food began to rob me of my excitement.

We all know that food intolerances present multiple obstacles when it comes to travel.  The problem is that over the years my list of food intolerances has grown to embarrassing proportions.  Besides gluten intolerance/celiac disease, I can’t have dairy, sugar, honey, caffeine and many, many additives.  In addition, I have to be cautious with citrus, nuts, raisins, and bananas.  Consequently, sometimes when I go places I feel I have only two choices:  starve or get sick. And, I was scared to death with the trip finally imminent, that I would inadvertently eat something wrong and spend our long-awaited five-day vacation in bed.  However, as I thought about the trip, I realized my two biggest obstacles were somewhat psychological: 

1.       Fear.  We know what it’s like to get sick; we know how long the recovery can be, so fear can keep us bound.  When I’m fearful, I pray.  God wants us to have an “abundant life”, and avoiding new experiences due to fear of inadvertently eating something that makes me sick squelches a full life.

2.       Embarrassment.  I tell my husband that if people really knew all that foods I have to avoid, they might think me delusional.  But, when I add that they can’t dip their bread knife in my jar of mayo, their thoughts are confirmed.  Ten years ago if I had gone to someone’s house who had Sharpie- labeled jars with “Jennifer-only”, I would have thought they were insane.  Thankfully, I am learning that staying healthy is way more important than a little embarrassment and now I just tell people how it is.  If they draw incorrect conclusions, so be it.  My goal is to stay healthy and live life with energy!

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So, this trip, I decided that fear and embarrassment would be replaced with "proactivity.

1.        My husband emailed our friends the foods I could eat (if you focus on what you CAN eat it doesn’t sound as bad as listing the endless foods you can’t eat) and even explained the “double-dipping” rule.  Bless him!

2.       I packed all my hard-to-find staples that travel easily.  These include:  Fearn Brown Rice Baking Mix, Quinua noodles, Silk Soy Milk (the non-refrigerated type), Mary’s Gone Crackers, a small jar of Hellman’s mayo and Polaner All Fruit Jam.

3.       We rented a place with a kitchen.  For me, this is a must.  Once we arrived, our friends took us straight to a grocery store so I could purchase the perishable foods we’d need, and then we were set to cook at our vacation spot. 

What a wonderful five days!  We snorkeled reefs and a blue hole, we swam to a deserted beach, we climbed a lighthouse and hiked over rocks surrounded by incredible views.  We saw endangered parrots, we ate fresh-caught fish, and best of all, I never got sick!  Fear wanted to keep me home, but prayer, preparation, a supportive husband, and understanding friends allowed for the most glorious five-day trip I can remember!  And, this too-many-foods-to-list-intolerant lady is already planning her next trip…without fear!

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2 Responses:

 
Shannon
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said this on
21 Jun 2010 9:07:52 AM PDT
This article is a blessing to my family. We spend a lot of time at home so my son won't get sick eating out. It seems just about every time we eat out, he does get sick and we have to run home, even after we indicate the severity of his illness. It's so heartbreaking to see my son sick. Thank you for this article.

 
Jennifer
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said this on
22 Jun 2010 8:04:34 AM PDT
Dear Shannon,
So sorry to read about your son - this has got to be so much harder with a child. My eldest daughter was very sick (unrelated to celiac) for two years and it is heartbreaking to watch your child suffer. I will pray for you.
Jennifer




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Me too. I had numerous chest x rays as I couldnt shake colds off and they always progressed on to my chest. Barely happens since my diet change

You make a good point i'll be sure to watch out. My mom is coming with me shes not gluten free I'll have her try the stuff that may be contaminated and tell me how it is :b hahah

I have been thinking that I need to change my diet and this article has only confirmed it. I eat quite a lot of gluten-free 'treats' at the moment, cakes, chocolate etc. I rationalise by the fact I dont drink or smoke and have a restricted choice so I 'deserve' a break, but I guess my choices are leading in a bad direction. Maybe I'll have a go at making some better choices...

Love reading this story as it is rare (I think) to find someone else with the swallowing issues! Hate that this is your experience however! My daughter also has the swallowing issues and it got so severe (we had no idea about Celiac) that she had to do intensive therapy to learn how to swallow again. It got better but never resolved. Once she went gluten-free it got way better though a recent exposure to oats caused it to flare up again. Do you mind me asking - Has your swallowing issues 100% resolved being gluten-free? Does it ever actually go away and stay away or will it always pop up from time to time?

I will say what everyone else says and get tested again with the endoscope and biopsy to confirm, you will need to be on gluten for 12 weeks for blood test 2 weeks for endoscope at least a slice of bead a day. The thing about celiac is many symptoms can be quite minor, hell even before I had my MAJOR symptoms show I had some of the other issues show up in my every day life and I just thought it was normal. Regardless if you keep eating gluten with celiac disease it will slowly eat away at your body internally til it does become a problem. Celiac is a autoimmune disease that reacts to the gluten proteins, and has misdirected attacks on your own body internally by mistake trying to kill the gluten. Now the damage can lead to all kinds of other auto immune diseases, random allergies, food intolerance, and even cancer. I suggest if you do have it, stay on the gluten-free diet, your just basically changing brands there are many gluten-free food versions of everything now days. Be thankful you got this early, I developed issues with dairy, corn, peanuts, and a whole list of others along with another autoimmune disease Ulcerative Colitis that makes it so I can not eat sugars or carbs or my intestines swell. Getting on a gluten-free diet before your damage progresses will not only keep you healthier for longer, and let you live a pretty normal life but also save you from this pain and very limited diet if the damage progresses too much. As to your fatigue, you changed over to gluten-free diet, you stopped eating a bunch of the Fortified foods, and depending on the route you took of either whole foods ore more processed foods. You could be eating to many empty carbs, starches, and not enough nutrients. OR if you took the whole foods approach you be lacking in your daily calorie intake or not the right ratio of nutrients. You might have to supplement a few of them.