This is more of a personal story… One that took me some time to find the guts to write. Now in hindsight, I don’t quite know why.
It’s been almost four years since I began changing my way of eating radically and started going gluten-free.
For years I suffered from monstruous digestive issues. Think ‘hours in the toilet’, heart racing like it was going to win a marathon, cold sweating like an elephant, cramps that make your eyes pop out of your head, fire raging on the inside, and frequently looking like a pregnant lady…
I actually thought that most of my symptoms were normal (seriously, I did?!) until things got to the point where I could no longer eat out, enjoy dinner at a friend’s place or even cook my own meals for fear of getting sick. And not just a fear but I actually got sick. Frequently. Very frequently. I was anxious and panicky whenever I had to eat somewhere that wasn’t home because I never knew how my body might react.
I’ve got tons of stories where I spent whole evenings racing in and out of the toilet at friends’ places or bolting out of restaurants trying to get home before my body spiralled completely out of control. One seriously embarrassing moment was when I hastily dragged my mum out of a gorgeous Melbourne restaurant where she got to meet my uni supervisor and his wife for the first time… yeah, that was just slightly uncomfortable.
Sometimes my symptoms would last for days…
Plus, I was terrified – or plain embarrassed – to talk about my health and gut issues. I was simply hoping that they would go away again. Magically disappear. But of course they didn’t. They just got worse.
Eventually I was so desperate and saw a naturopath / dietitian. In hindsight, I can only smack myself in the head for not going sooner! Once we had a few underlying issues sorted out, it became clear that over the years gluten had wreaked havoc on my body and caused issues such as leaky gut syndrome and severe inflammation all over my digestive system. We also found that I had trouble tolerating too much fructose and lactose but I’m much closer friends with either of them than with frenemy gluten.
Most of my acute symptoms disappeared within a few weeks of not stuffing myself full of bread, pasta and other easy gluten culprits. But let me tell you, in Australia gluten is in almost everything! Even stuff like glue on envelopes… And yes, licking an envelope can still make me sick.
Once I’d cleaned out my pantry, it looked pretty sparse… and I was on a super steep learning curve to life after gluten. Without any regrets.
Ok, so why am I telling you all this?
Because eating gluten-free and travelling don’t always go hand in hand easily.
I can accidentally eat the wrong thing – has happened – or not even find anything to eat – has also happened. Having to trudge around a city to find a place that has something on the menu for me, needing to always ask wait staff about ingredients hoping that they would understand or even just finding a supermarket so I can buy some carrots, can be super painful for me and anyone else that’s getting dragged along. For simplicity, I might just decide to go without food – never a smart decision! – and then get super cranky because my blood sugar levels drop too much.
The worst part, of course, is when I get sick on travels. Happens at least once every trip. Well… almost every trip.
Having to worry about whether you will find something to eat when you travel to another country or simply explore a new place can be hugely stressful, exhausting and make your head spin.
But it doesn’t have to.
These days, part of planning a trip is working out what safe food I might be able to buy or where I could find a cafe or restaurant that works for me. It’s just another thing that I do now. But it can be tricky sometimes to get that kind of information so I want to start sharing my stories (ups and downs) and how I deal with travelling gluten-free in a gluten-saturated world.
And hopefully make life easier for others on the gluten-free travel journey. Oh, and I still indulge in donuts whenever I can. Gluten-free, of course.
So here’s to gluten-free around the world!