Gluten-free foods have become big business since the National Institutes of Health acknowledged that Celiac disease affects 1 in 133 Americans every year. Celiac disease and the symptoms experienced by the gluten-intolerant, however, can occur much more frequently if it runs in the family (as much as 1 in 22).
While often referred to as a wheat or a gluten allergy, symptoms rarely, if ever, trigger the anaphylactic response of a typical allergy. Instead, the gluten intolerant suffer digestive upset which can be extremely unpleasant to deal with, especially if you're traveling.
Which Foods to Avoid for the Gluten Intolerant
Today, gluten-free snacks and specially marked menu items are making it easier for families with special dietary needs to travel. However, avoidance of gluten rich foods is still the best defense for keeping your family free of tummy trouble.
To help travelers recognize the variety of foods containing gluten, we've created an easy to download List of Gluten-Rich Foods that the gluten-averse should avoid. Make sure guardians and affected kids have a copy of this list when they're on the road.
Airports Help You Get There Gluten-Free
As with most medical issues, the first challenge of traveling with a gluten intolerance begins at the airport. Most major airlines are now offering gluten-free in-flight meals on long haul and international flights. These options are usually available when booking your ticket. Passengers should verify their request with the airline prior to departure, and again with the flight attendant once on board.
Of course, it's always a good idea to pack your own snacks as a back up. Be sure to obtain a note from your physician explaining your condition to avoid any hassle from the airline.
Gourmet Travel is Tough with a Gluten Allergy
One of the best parts of experiencing another culture is sampling local cuisine. However, a gluten intolerance can make meal time a daunting event. In fact, many individuals find it difficult to navigate restaurants and grocery stores in their hometown, let alone in a different country.
The difficulty isn't necessarily in avoiding the usual suspects — bread, pasta, baked goods — it's in identifying the less obvious sources of gluten. There are many cooking techniques that employ the use of flour which can go undetected. Unless you are privy to the method of preparing buerre manié it could be very easy to assume the stew on the menu is a viable option… until about two hours later when symptoms usually surface.
The list of unsafe foods extends well beyond just wheat flour; celiacs are intolerant to a wide range of common foods and food additives including malt vinegar, rye, barley, beer, and soy sauce to name a few (see this current list of Gluten-Rich Foods). Add a language barrier to the mix and it's enough to make some people want to give up on planning a trip to a foreign country before they even begin.
Communicating Your Dietary Restrictions
Don't know how to say "gluten-free" in Bahasa Indonesian? Don't worry. There are now special dining cards available for free through the site Celiac Travel. The cards are printed in over 50 different languages and can be presented to wait staff, clearly communicating your dietary restrictions to the restaurant.
Many countries also have their own celiac support organizations, and their websites usually include print-outs in the native language that explain your dietary needs thoroughly. These resources can be used in the same manner as the dining cards, but generally are a bit more comprehensive.
Celiac Friendly Travel Destinations
Gluten-free travel within the United States is becoming increasingly easier for individuals with a gluten intolerance. Specifically, New York City and Florida have been recognized by the celiac community as especially "gluten-free friendly" thanks to the increasing abundance of gluten-free restaurants and menu options.
Online dietary resources like The Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program allow you to search for such establishments by city and state, taking the guesswork out of making dinner plans.
If you're looking to travel outside of the US, some countries are inherently better suited to accommodate gluten-free travelers than others.
The local cuisine of Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam is based upon fresh vegetables, lean protein, and rice. Even the noodles are made of rice flour, so travelers can indulge in the local "pasta" without worry (just watch out for that soy sauce).
Gluten-Free Tours Increase in Popularity
If you suffer from a gluten allergy, the idea of traveling to Italy probably seems like self-inflicted torture. But there is more to Italy than pizza, pasta, and bread, and many specialty gluten-free tours promise to assist travelers in discovering local flavors without compromising their health or taste buds.
CEO of Zennfully Delicious, Jennifer Iannolo, suffers from fibromyalgia, and as a result, has treated her condition by omitting gluten and dairy from her diet. Coming from an Italian American family, she wasn't about to renounce her homeland's cuisine completely.
She has just teamed up with industry giants Perillo Tours to introduce Gluten-Free Tuscany, a foodie's tour through some of the most appetizing cities in the region. For more information, check out her .
I hope that my easy to download List of Gluten-Rich Foods that the gluten-averse should avoid is helpful, but please let me know if I've forgotten something. Add your strategies for coping with gluten allergies in the Comments section below, and share your favorite restaurants and recipes.
For more information on celiac disease and gluten intolerance visit the National Institutes of Health.
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