In my first article from Asia last week I provided some general advice on travelling gluten free in Asia and why it can be a health choice even for those who do not have Coealic disease. In this brief post I want to explain my journey to identifying my gluten intolerance, which ultimately led me to adopt a mostly grain free diet.
What guides my food choices when I travel
I have not ever been tested for Coealic disease, so I cannot say with certainty whether I am Coeliac or just highly intolerant to gluten. I became aware of my intolerance about two and half years ago when I was fatigued, suffering severe digestive distress, often swollen and slightly depressed. At this point I had already begun research into the importance of whole foods and was well on my way to understanding that low-fat and grain dense diets were not healthy. However, I hadn’t quite made it all the way and was still often eating bread and other gluten containing products.
My wonderful mother gently suggested that gluten could be the cause and after just a few days of removing gluten containing food from my diet the improvements were vast. Two notable occasions really proved my intolerance to me and put me firmly on the path to making gluten free choices. The first was after eating gluten free for about a week I succumbed to a bit of chocolate brownie. Within an hour I was feeling extremely depressed and my hands were swollen. The next occasion was following a flight from Melbourne to London. Usually I get extremely swollen on planes to the extent where my ankles aren’t visible and the amount of fluid in my calves becomes painful. But this was no more! After eating gluten free for a few weeks and opting for a gluten free meal on my flight, I walked off the plane with almost negligible swelling. This was enough to put me off gluten. When I went to France that trip I stuck to meat and cheese and other gluten free choices. I was totally disinterested in the bread and pastries and it was probably the most well I had ever felt on holiday. Without the bread my blood sugar was stable and my energy was constant.
This was the trip the solidified my commitment to gluten free and upon my return home I delved further into literature on the benefits of grain free eating in addition to gluten free.
I visited my GP to discuss the possibility of Coeliac disease, but I was informed that to have a diagnosis I would need to eat gluten for a week to ensure I had the antibodies present. As discussed in this article, Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the components of gluten and can start to attack itself if the gluten particles remain present.
I simply wasn’t willing to endure the effects of gluten just to ascertain whether I had a label. And what if the test came back negative? There is plenty of research out there to support that fact that gluten intolerance and sensitivity can be just as damaging as Coeliac disease. Read Dr Kresser’s on the topic.
To summarise while I do not have a specific diagnosis of Coeliac disease, gluten is an absolute no no for me. More and more people are realising that this inflammatory protein found in wheat, rye, malt and barley is problematic for them too. While travelling I try to remain vigilant in steering clear of gluten to the best of my ability. However, I am also aware that there are times when even if I am making what I think to be gluten free choices, there will be trace amounts of gluten in my food. This is particularly true in countries where Coeliac disease is not really a big issue. In these instances I must accept not feeling 100% and try to identify how to make more safe gluten free choices following the lapse.
For people with diagnosed Coealiac disease accepting trace amounts might not be an option. This just means you will need to be more careful with what you eat when abroad. I hope to provide you with some tips on where to find good gluten free food in the places that I visit. Next week I explain the a no grainer position on grains and travel, don’t expect anything dogmatic though. I do try to be a reasonable person!