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Travelling with Celiac Disease

Over 2.5 million people descended upon Vancouver to attend the 2010 Olympics. Statistics also tell us that 1 out of 100 people are affected by Celiac disease, a medical condition in which the absorptive surface of the small intestine is damaged by a substance called gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Do the math! How did thousands of people on a gluten-free diet travel to and from the Games and still manage to have the time of their lives?

They came prepared. Expect the unexpected and when things work out, enjoy. Always travel with your own supply of gluten-free food. Almonds are rich in vitamins & minerals, essential fatty acids and protein. Pumpkin seeds and sunflowers are great alternatives for the nut allergic. All pack a caloric punch and are safe to transport on planes and across borders. Check with your celiac-friendly food store for healthy, gluten-free protein and fruit bars. Keep a supply in your suitcase to replenish your day pack as needed.

They got along with their travel mates. Remember, they are on holidays, too. Getting a gluten-free meal may be on your mind but it is probably the furthest thing from theirs. Keep an eye out for celiac opportunities (amenable restaurants and retailers) so that you can work your needs in with their plans.

They checked ahead with their hosts. Staying with friends, family or a B&B, hit the ground running by calling ahead. Before you arrive, make your needs known or work out an arrangement to meet them yourself. Avoid any awkwardness or misunderstandings by providing them with gluten-free recipe ideas or getting your own groceries. Then have a great time!

They knew how to grill their servers. Check with a restaurant’s hostess, maitre d‘ or manager in advance or as soon as you arrive to see if they offer gluten-free options. Let your server know that you have an allergy concern. (Allergy may be better understood than intolerance.) Asking for their recommendations helps them to serve you their very best gluten-free dish. Once you have ordered, ask your server to confirm with the chef that precautions will be taken. If the server seems uncertain, politely ask to speak with the manager or chef yourself.

They Googled it. The information highway all but guarantees a great gluten-free trip! The goods are quite literally at your fingertips. From cruises to kayaks, tours to tortillas, the marketplace is competing for your celiac attention. The world has quite literally become a gluten-free oyster! Now get out there and enjoy it!

Ellen Bayens is a celiac who dares to dine. She created, the only comprehensive listing of celiac-endorsed restaurants in Canada. Download FREE maps to over 2500 trusted restaurants across the country. Ellen tells Celiacs where to go, no matter where they are!