I have celiac disease and was diagnosed in early 2000s, before awareness was as high as it is now. Knowledge of the disease is understandably low in many developing countries, but myths also abound in the West. It is an auto-immune disease that affects not just my stomach when I eat wheat, but my joints, my ability to function properly, and so much more. Gluten free travel is an added component of stress over and above the usual worries about safe and uncontaminated food.
I understand what it is like to be afraid of what you are eating, and to worry that it will make you sick. The effects of eating gluten for me last for days, and can come from something as innocuous as consuming something that was fried contaminated oil. So if I eat a spring roll made with rice paper that was fried in the same oil as a breaded product, I will still get sick.
I never wrote about having celiac disease in the early days of Legal Nomads, but since I published my book, readers have reached out asking for advice and help. For those of us who are celiac, eating gluten free is not a choice. I wanted to try and provide a resource for people seeking to travel despite the disease.
Legal Nomads Gluten Free Translation Cards
I have used existing translation cards extensively, but have found I still get sick because many people do not know what foods have wheat in them. As a result, I’m building a detailed gluten free travel card guide list with tailored dish and ingredient names, since this is currently missing in the marketplace. Thus far readers who have used the Japanese card have said it allowed them to eat without getting sick. Yay! Translation cards are in the guides for each country. I will be adding to them as the new translations come through. In the pipeline: China, Morocco, Spain, Thailand — more to follow!
A brief testimonial from a reader named Nicole who used the Japan card:
Below are the guides I have written for celiacs or for those who are seeking to avoid gluten but still roam the world.
- Celiac Disease Foundations:
- Celiac Primer: For those who want to understand what exactly celiac disease is, and isn’t, see this guide.
- Interesting articles: I’ve included a few articles below about gluten and other dietary restrictions and diagnoses that might be related to sensitivity to certain foods. While some of these pieces are controversial, I do think they are important to read as the more we know about celiac disease, the better we will be able to eat safely.
- This is Your Brain on Gluten, The Atlantic, Dec. 2013
- When Gluten Sensitivity isn’t Celiac Disease The New York Times, Oct. 2014
- Against The Grain: Should you Go Gluten Free? The New Yorker, Nov. 2014, and the response written by the National Society for Gluten Awareness, here.
- Gluten-free: health fad or life-saving diet? The Guardian, Feb. 2015
- 4 Surprising Facts about Wheat and Gluten Mother Jones, Mar. 2015
- Is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity a Real Thing? Healthline, Apr. 2015
- Alan Levinovitz on fanaticism and myth in diet The Atlantic, May 2015
- Why Food Allergy Fakers Need To Stop Boston Glove, Oct. 2015
- A survival guide for celiacs who travel The Guardian, April 2016 (by me)
- Recipes from the Road: I have a list of gluten-free recipes that I’ve posted on the site. For other great gluten-free recipes see Viet World Kitchen’s list of Asian GF recipes, Jamie Oliver’s GF recipe page, and this list of Mexican GF recipes. For UK restaurants and reviews see Going Gluten Free.
GF City Guides and Blog Posts an on Legal Nomads