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      Frequently Asked Questions About Celiac Disease   09/30/2015

      This Celiac.com FAQ on celiac disease will guide you to all of the basic information you will need to know about the disease, its diagnosis, testing methods, a gluten-free diet, etc.   Subscribe to FREE Celiac.com email alerts   What are the major symptoms of celiac disease? Celiac Disease Symptoms What testing is available for celiac disease? - list blood tests, endo with biopsy, genetic test and enterolab (not diagnostic) Celiac Disease Screening Interpretation of Celiac Disease Blood Test Results Can I be tested even though I am eating gluten free? How long must gluten be taken for the serological tests to be meaningful? The Gluten-Free Diet 101 - A Beginner's Guide to Going Gluten-Free Is celiac inherited? Should my children be tested? Ten Facts About Celiac Disease Genetic Testing Is there a link between celiac and other autoimmune diseases? Celiac Disease Research: Associated Diseases and Disorders Is there a list of gluten foods to avoid? Unsafe Gluten-Free Food List (Unsafe Ingredients) Is there a list of gluten free foods? Safe Gluten-Free Food List (Safe Ingredients) Gluten-Free Alcoholic Beverages Distilled Spirits (Grain Alcohols) and Vinegar: Are they Gluten-Free? Where does gluten hide? Additional Things to Beware of to Maintain a 100% Gluten-Free Diet What if my doctor won't listen to me? An Open Letter to Skeptical Health Care Practitioners Gluten-Free recipes: Gluten-Free Recipes Where can I buy gluten-free stuff? Support this site by shopping at The Celiac.com Store.

Belgium!
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8 posts in this topic

Hi all,

We are going to Belgium in April, and though I've done tons of research and feel I should be ok as long as I ask all the questions, it's always best to ask here too.

Does anyone live there or has visited? Any recommendations for foods to stick to/avoid? Are the frites at frites stands really gluten-free?!  Anything that can be easily picked up at markets for snacks? (FYI: also don't do dairy or soy)

We will be in Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and a few smaller towns. I know French but not Dutch. I'll get a translation card to show at restaurants, but if there's any good resources for recognising things on dutch menus, that would be helpful too. We're looking for veggie friendly places too (my partner is vegetarian, but will be eating all the cheese and drinking all the beer while I eat all the fries fried in beef fat...)

Any recommendations welcome. I don't want to have to rely on my bag full of snacks too much.

Thanks!

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Hello, Pegleg84,

Although I've never been to Belgium, I was in Europe to visit my daughter who worked there about four years ago. I was in Spain and England. Thankfully, the markets there seemed to have many more gluten-free choices than I've seen here in the U.S. and at a lower cost. I've also read that Celiac disease has historically been present in Northern Europe, especially.

You probably know this already, but, beware of potatoes or fries being fried in any oil in which other things which have been dipped in flour have been cooked. This is a problem that I run into all the time in the U.S. and have learned to rely on MacDonald's French fries as they cook only their fries in the same oil and their chicken, etc. in other oil.

Also, I have found that I can tolerate Heineken beer without any problem, and I'm full-blown Celiac! It must have something to do with the way it's processed. That may be a good choice for you if you want the true beer taste and not just cider. But, try a few sips first. It may have a different reaction with you. However, I've been enjoying it for about five years now without any problems.

Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

Lou0512

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19 minutes ago, Lou0512 said:

Hello, Pegleg84,

Although I've never been to Belgium, I was in Europe to visit my daughter who worked there about four years ago. I was in Spain and England. Thankfully, the markets there seemed to have many more gluten-free choices than I've seen here in the U.S. and at a lower cost. I've also read that Celiac disease has historically been present in Northern Europe, especially.

You probably know this already, but, beware of potatoes or fries being fried in any oil in which other things which have been dipped in flour have been cooked. This is a problem that I run into all the time in the U.S. and have learned to rely on MacDonald's French fries as they cook only their fries in the same oil and their chicken, etc. in other oil.

Also, I have found that I can tolerate Heineken beer without any problem, and I'm full-blown Celiac! It must have something to do with the way it's processed. That may be a good choice for you if you want the true beer taste and not just cider. But, try a few sips first. It may have a different reaction with you. However, I've been enjoying it for about five years now without any problems.

Have a safe and enjoyable trip!

Lou0512

What?  You have been drinking regular Heineken for five years and have not caused intestinal damage?  Has this been backed up with antibody testing and a repeat endoscopy?  Celiac disease symptoms can wax and wane (change).  Just because you may be symptom free, you can still be doing intestinal damage.  All celiacs should be checked annually for this reason (not always the endoscopy, but blood tests.)

http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/faq/how-often-should-follow-up-testing-occur/

Heineken, like all beers, is brewed and not distilled.  Gluten is not removed in the process.  Correct me if I am wrong.

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I've been to Brussel one time and you must believe that's awesome town! Don't afraid, speak English and people in the shops and restaurants will understand you. You won't have any problem with this trip for sure! I can't recommend any places, because we just hang around and choose any nice cafes to meal.

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Belgium trip report!

I just got back and had a great time. As far as I can tell, 0 glutenings. I did get into some dairy a couple times, but the effects were minor and short lived. The worst trouble I had was after a very delicious and entirely gluten-free bowl of brown rice and curried chickpeas. My body has decided it does not like that much fibre and got my IBS going.

I had no problems asking at restaurants since everyone speaks English, and everyone seemed to know what gluten-free meant. Labeled menus are also common in bigger cities.

Anyway, some observations and recommendations:

Fries: they take their frites seriously here, and it seems to fry anything other than fries in the fry fryer would be sacrilege, so they are most likely to be gluten-free. Always double-check though. Do note that they're usually fried in beef/animal fat, so not good for vegetarians.

Sauces: to be safe, always ask for meat/fish/etc without sauce. I do think a lot of them are cream based, so you can ask about the ingredients, but easier and safer to go without. A steak or grilled fish, frites and salad is a good option just about anywhere.

If you can eat dairy, there is cheese aplenty. 

Portions tend to be on the larger side, so don't got for the large of anything unless you're starving or sharing with someone.

If there's somewhere you want to go, make reservations, even for lunch (especially in Bruges). Many restaurants are only open for a few hours at lunch and dinner, and stop serving before their posted closing time (we went to one place twice only to be turned away twice. ugh).  Also, this way you'll have time to ask questions before you get there.

No, I could not find gluten-free waffles. I think we're out of luck there.

Exki: a chain of premade food cafes (like Pret-a-Manger) all over the place. Ingredients and allergens are labelled on everything. 

Beer: unless you can handle gluten-removed, we're also out of luck. Gluten-removed beers like Brunehaut and a few french brands were common in bars, but I didn't find a single one that was actually gluten free (Annoying since Greens is actually made outside Gent). Cider is also not very common. However, lots of good wine, and some of the best gin anywhere.
 

Some specific restaurants we went to:
Gent - Multituli Eetenkafe - great spot out just outside downtown. Labeled menu, big portions, great food. 
         - Le Botaniste - we had lunch here twice. Organic vegetarian spot. Everything is premade but their containers are well separated so didn't worry about CC. Great food both times, a ton of it  for cheap and fast. Sit in the sunroom in the back.

Bruges - Reliva: lovely fine dining spot (very highly rated so reservations are a must) with vegetarian options. Almost everything is gluten free. If you can eat soy, you'll have no problem. A little pricey, but well worth it.
- Soup: for a cheap quick meal, stop at this little soup place just off the main square. Just ask for no croutons or bread.
- Cambrinus - we ended up going to both the smaller bistro/bar (excellent grilled shrimp and charcuterie), and their larger pub restaurant (excellent smoked duck salad). Both were open most of the day, reasonable, comfy, and knew their stuff.

Brussels - Tan: this was my birthday dinner, at a surprisingly classy restaurant upstairs in the back of a health food store. All organic and locally sourced, mostly gluten free with vegetarian and vegan options.
- Ricotta et Parmesan: this Italian spot was right across from our hotel. I was a little suspicious when their sign said "Free Gluten", but without prompting the staff explained they used separate pots and water for the gluten-free pasta. It's a busy popular place. Not cheap, but big portions. We ended up eating there twice. Good corn pasta both times. Lots of options for sauce, all of which are gluten-free.

If you're staying in a smaller town, do your research and make reservations. Restaurants tend to close early, and may not be open on mon/tues, so you don't want to find yourself out of luck. We learned our lesson when rolling into a small town only to find the one decent restaurant open was no longer serving. We ended up at a family joint, which wasn't bad but definitely not what we were looking for.

Anyway, general consensus: Belgium is fairly gluten-free friendly, but do your research first.

Salut!
Peg

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WHAT???????  No Green's beer in Belgium?????????  Do they export all of it?  My husband loves Green's beer and says it is the only decent gluten-free beer made. He's tried quite a few but none of them compare to Green's.

Thank you for this detailed report.  Sounds like you had a lovely time.  Happy Belated Birthday!  :D

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Yeah, I was pretty surprised. However, lots and lots of fantastic wine and gin. Even the house wine at a pub is going to be a nice French or Spanish something. Also drank a lot of port. And they take their gin super seriously there, some really good stuff. The closest I got to having a beer was trying some gin distilled from geuze (wild-fermented beer). Very nice.

Make up for the lack of beer by eating all the fries.

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On 4/24/2017 at 10:42 AM, Pegleg84 said:

Yeah, I was pretty surprised. However, lots and lots of fantastic wine and gin. Even the house wine at a pub is going to be a nice French or Spanish something. Also drank a lot of port. And they take their gin super seriously there, some really good stuff. The closest I got to having a beer was trying some gin distilled from geuze (wild-fermented beer). Very nice.

Make up for the lack of beer by eating all the fries.

I have always noticed that the table wine in Europe is pretty damn good!  I am a wine lover and so is my husband but he does like his Green's beer.

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