I first learned of celiac disease while studying for my masters in nutrition and immunology at Texas A&M University. Prior to this, I had been sick for over six years with unexplained health problems. After discussing my options with a local physician, I decided to try the gluten free diet. Within days the symptoms had resolved! Ten years and two healthy children later, I am still gluten free. In an effort to help bring celiac disease into the mainstream, I have recently published a Christian romance novel, Trusting for Tomorrow, that highlights the struggles of diagnosing and living with celiac disease. Follow my blog at www.jenniferinjupiter.wordpress.com.
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!
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!