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Emilushka

To Go To China Or Not ... Help!

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Hi! I'm new to the forums. My name is Emily. I am studying to be a doctor (less than a year to go until I get my MD! Woo hoo!) and I just got diagnosed with Celiac Disease a week and a half ago. I have already started feeling somewhat better, with less bloating and improving diarrhea and greatly reduced nausea (the gastritis seems to have been the worst of it for me). I'm definitely not at baseline yet, but I feel like the past week and a half have really confirmed my diagnosis.

As part of my medical school curriculum, I can pay extra money (which means extra loans) to go to China for a month and get some international medicine experience. The loans required aren't that prohibitive once you consider how much money I've already taken out.

But there's wheat in soy sauce, and there's lots of soy sauce in China. I do not speak Chinese. I will hopefully be in an area with a lot of English-speakers, but I won't be able to read labels or guarantee the source of my food. And the trip lasts for a month.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance if it doesn't make me horribly sick again, but if I spend the whole time feeling miserable, how can I enjoy it? Can I safely travel to China, not ever staying in a hotel, not speaking the language or reading labels?

I'd be living in a dorm. Eating a combination of cafeteria food (probably) and street/restaurant food. The program I'm going with is brand-new and poorly established. I'd be one of the first using the program at all. They have been slow to get back to me about required vaccinations, so I can only imagine what a nightmare the food experience could be.

What do you guys think, just knowing what you know about the difficulty associated with having Celiac? I don't want to spend my "glorious month" in China feeling sicker than a dog, or come back and feel the same. But I also don't want to miss out on an opportunity if it makes any sense for me to go.

Thoughts? Help?

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I think it depends on a few things.

1. where in China- Hong Kong is the only place where gluten-free eating would be easy. Lots of Chinese food is naturally gluten free. Believe me, you can survive a pretty long time on rice, seafood, coffee and fruit. (at least that's what I survived on!)

2. can you be make your own food? It is much less stressful if you are making your own food and can focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free. I would suggest you bring soy sauce and lots of snacks with you.

3. when would you be going. You are still really new to this, it takes a while until you will feel more comfortable with cooking gluten-free

4. you can always volunteer your time afterwards to work short term in China (or anywhere else in the world)

?

Hi! I'm new to the forums. My name is Emily. I am studying to be a doctor (less than a year to go until I get my MD! Woo hoo!) and I just got diagnosed with Celiac Disease a week and a half ago. I have already started feeling somewhat better, with less bloating and improving diarrhea and greatly reduced nausea (the gastritis seems to have been the worst of it for me). I'm definitely not at baseline yet, but I feel like the past week and a half have really confirmed my diagnosis.

As part of my medical school curriculum, I can pay extra money (which means extra loans) to go to China for a month and get some international medicine experience. The loans required aren't that prohibitive once you consider how much money I've already taken out.

But there's wheat in soy sauce, and there's lots of soy sauce in China. I do not speak Chinese. I will hopefully be in an area with a lot of English-speakers, but I won't be able to read labels or guarantee the source of my food. And the trip lasts for a month.

It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance if it doesn't make me horribly sick again, but if I spend the whole time feeling miserable, how can I enjoy it? Can I safely travel to China, not ever staying in a hotel, not speaking the language or reading labels?

I'd be living in a dorm. Eating a combination of cafeteria food (probably) and street/restaurant food. The program I'm going with is brand-new and poorly established. I'd be one of the first using the program at all. They have been slow to get back to me about required vaccinations, so I can only imagine what a nightmare the food experience could be.

What do you guys think, just knowing what you know about the difficulty associated with having Celiac? I don't want to spend my "glorious month" in China feeling sicker than a dog, or come back and feel the same. But I also don't want to miss out on an opportunity if it makes any sense for me to go.

Thoughts? Help?


Vegetarian 1998

Wheat free 2001

Gluten free May 1, 2008.

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Thank you!

I think it depends on a few things.

1. where in China- Hong Kong is the only place where gluten-free eating would be easy. Lots of Chinese food is naturally gluten free. Believe me, you can survive a pretty long time on rice, seafood, coffee and fruit. (at least that's what I survived on!)

The two places I'm looking at are Shanghai and Beijing. My real worry is just that there will be soy sauce that sneaks into all the food and I'll end up feeling sick and miserable.

2. can you be make your own food? It is much less stressful if you are making your own food and can focus on foods that are naturally gluten-free. I would suggest you bring soy sauce and lots of snacks with you.

From previous posts to this forum, it seems like China doesn't allow anything organic to enter the country, so that would disallow snacks/soy sauce. But I will definitely ask if there's a way for me to cook for myself!

3. when would you be going. You are still really new to this, it takes a while until you will feel more comfortable with cooking gluten-free

I'd be going in April. By that point, I will be far from an expert, but I should have a better understanding of what I can and can't tolerate. I was diagnosed on September 10th, so that would get me over six months of experience with the gluten-free diet.

4. you can always volunteer your time afterwards to work short term in China (or anywhere else in the world)

Yes, and I plan to do exactly that. It's just hard to get a better opportunity than med school credit for traveling abroad for a whole month ... later on in life I'll have kids and a job. Right now I just have a really supportive and understanding fiance.

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Shanghai is great. Assume Beijing would also be friendly. There is a local ex-pat support food allergy group there that can give a list of several restaurants. I think it's a Yahoo group. One of the large American hotels (Hyatt I think) makes gluten free bread that you can buy. There is also a grocery store chain called City Shop that carries western food and has tons of gluten-free food.


---------------------------------

MP - celiac for 10 years

 

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I don't know much about China, but if you won't have access to a kitchen for full cooking you could buy a rice cooker when you get there. Buy a big bag of rice and subsist on rice and vegetables for a month. It would probably get boring but you could do it as long as you are not traveling to remote villages. Also many of the rice noodles I get at the Asian market here in the US just require hot water for several minutes to "cook". Seems like it would be easy to find plain rice noodles, but you will need an interpreter to help you.


A simple meal with love is better than a feast where there is hatred. Proverbs 15:17 (CEV)

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GO! GO! GO!

If you were my kid, that's what I'd tell you. Eating plain rice and vegetables would hurt you at all for just one month. You can work it out. Don't let fear guide your decisions. Educate yourself and GO!

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Here's an emergency plan. Because these are big cities, they probably have American hotels like Hyatt ( like Janet said). If you get in a pinch, you could always go to them for help and food.


 

 

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GO! GO! GO!

If you were my kid, that's what I'd tell you. Eating plain rice and vegetables would hurt you at all for just one month. You can work it out. Don't let fear guide your decisions. Educate yourself and GO!

I agree! Life is to short for "I should haves".


Lisa

Gluten Free - August 15, 2004

"Not all who wander are lost" - JRR Tolkien

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Thanks for the tips, especially about the ex-pats and Hyatt and other possibilities.

I WILL GO. :-D

I may come back a couple pounds thinner from all the rice and veggies, but what's a couple more pounds between friends? I'll probably fit in better over there if I'm a couple pounds skinnier. From what I've heard from Chinese people I've known, the standard of "fatness" is quite different in China.

OK. I will admit that I am very nervous, but I will make it work. You guys are an inspiration.

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