Guest post: Travelling with food allergies

A good friend of mine just returned from an amazing trip to Chile for

Habit for Humanity

- so awesome! Shan is on a gluten-free and dairy-free diet to help alleviate the symptoms of

Hashimoto's disease

 (an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid). Many people with autoimmune diseases have reported improved healthy by adjusting their diet - usually through a paleo diet and/or a gluten and dairy-free diet. It was Shan's endocrinologist who put her on the diet, and so far she's had good results. Travelling to Chile when she didn't speak Spanish however, made sticking to the diet plan more than a bit tricky. Read on ...

If you are Celiac or are on a 100% gluten free diet for any other reason like I am (I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid condition), travelling overseas and finding GF food to eat can be a real challenge. Especially if you’re visiting a country where English isn’t the common language. And, if you’ve got problems with dairy too…. well, good luck!

In March, I embarked on a two week trip to Chile to work on a build project with several others from my organisation. The experience itself was amazing, however, maintaining a healthy, gluten free and ‘limited dairy’ diet was extremely difficult. Here’s what really helped me:

I took as much gf, df snack food as I could with me from NZ to Chile - i.e. snack bars & gf weetbix. 

Obstacles:

  • You've got to declare the food is in your bag on arrival, and that meant I held up our tired, weary group while food was being checked by customs at Chile’s international airport. Thankfully, the group I was travelling with didn't mind waiting around for me.
  • Unless you're travelling with other gluteys- don’t ‘expect’ others to be understanding of your food allergies/intolerances. Be prepared, take what you can for emergency snacks.

Our group had a translator and one of our team member's knew basic Spanish - thank goodness! They were both kind enough to translate for me on many, many occasions, i.e. finding suitable food to eat at a restaurant, bar, local dairy or the mall.

Obstacle:

  • Without a translator, I’d have been lost! Note to self - in future I’ll need to travel to an English speaking country if I don’t have the invaluable help of a translator. Alternatively, I’ll need to learn the language before visiting a foreign language country.

Finding that home-cooked Chilean food is very healthy and basic and therefore, most is GF! Yay! Examples: Salad, rice, potatoes, meat, veges.

Obstacle:

  • Not all travellers will have the luxury of having home-cooked meals made for them.

A yummy salad Shan got to eat while in Chile.

I had black coffee vs my usual coffee with soy or rice milk. Not as yummy but do-able.

Obstacle:

In Chile, dairy’s, Cafes and restaurants don't offer milk-alternatives, i.e. soy milk or rice milk. Only the jumbo supermarkets have soy milk. These supermarkets are hard to find as they aren't dotted around all over the place like they are in most NZ cities.

So all in all, I survived my trip overseas and didn’t die of hunger, but I was sure worried about it beforehand and learnt some good lessons for next time along the way.

Shan