A Celiac Abroad

When our son was one year old and we were still living in the USA, he started to become food averse. He refused anything that we gave him, and even worse, when he did eat – it often made a return visit less than an hour later. His absolute favorite foods – like Chicken Nuggets or Mac & Cheese – he would not touch. He never had a problem eating before. This started six months of doctors visits and internet searches. A random blood panel and biopsy would finally give us an answer: Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes serious damage to the intestines. The reason? Gluten – it causes the body of a celiac to wage an all-out, no-holds-barred war on itself. The only solution is to eat a Gluten free diet – for life. No cheating, no “growing out of it”.
At first, it seemed impossible. There were so many things to do or think about:
  • Buying brand new kitchen everything
  • Researching what was gluten free and what could be but wasn’t. Soy sauce and french fries cooked in a shared fryer or sprayed with wheat for taste
  • Would we go gluten free too?
  • How are we ever going to leave the house again?
The hardest part though was the beginning. Our toddler refused to eat. We worked hard at convincing him the food we gave him – which looked a lot like the old food – would not make him sick. He didn’t buy it. There is no reasoning with a two year old. It took almost a year before he would eat happily again, but there were small victories along the way (thank you, gluten free mac and cheese)
Grocery shopping became a five hour ordeal – many gluten free items aren’t labeled. Generally, the company doesn’t want to test them for various reasons. We researched companies production plans, ingredients, and allergy statements. It gets complicated though. For example, an item that should be a gluten-free item but is processed on the same equipment as a non-gluten-free item? No go. Malt as an ingredient? Is that a gluten free version or not? After a couple of months, it leveled out – and we became more comfortable with finding what we needed.
It has been almost two years now, and we continue to learn new things everyday. We’ve gotten a Nima Sensor (review and stories coming soon) to help us find gluten while we are out an about, we’ve learned how to say and read “gluten”, “wheat”, “rye”, “barley” in several languages, and we keep learning new tricks to help. We will be starting a series of posts about our experiences with Celiac, and hopefully providing some helpful tips and suggestions along the way if you are considering traveling or living abroad – or even just moving one state over.