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We are preparing to cruise and one topic this of great concern is the availability to get gluten free food along the way. Over the last few years it has gotten much easier to shop for groceries that are gluten free in the US. Does anybody have experience in other countries? My husband gets really sick if he gets even the slightest amount of gluten in his diet.
 

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I can not consume wheat or corn and in all my years of planning and dreaming I never thought about my food issues. I am so glad you asked the question and hope that you get good feed back.
 

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Welcome to the club. In the last five years the entire world has quite literally become aware of celiac disease and there are large amonts of gluten-free food being made and exported from Italy, Israel, Canada and other nations.

The problem in world traveling will be translation. Literally. You try to explain to a cook that you can eat "corn flour" but not "wheat flour", and why "garbanzo bean flour" is perfectly safe--unless there was cross-contamination, try translating that. There are some translations of "gluten" handout cards available these days, and international awareness (a great of it thanks to the previous pope, who would not let a RC girl in NJ eat wheat-free communion wafers and created a blowup) but personally?
The only way I feel semi-safe is to simply and totally avoid the chance of gluten.
There are RICE noodles, commonly sold in oriental supermarkets the world over, which are safe. And gluten-free foods, pricey but available in major markets all over now. Best bet is still going to be like home: Don't eat anything "processed", don't eat out if the kitchen is likely to be very busy. Use the same care you would at home, and if someone asks "Would you like a..." Just smile and say yes, I really would, but I might burst into flames and explode if I ate one.
The humor usually slows them down enough to get their attention. And assistance.

There is actually some type of gene therapy that went into clinicl trials earlier this year, and slim hope that in five more years, we'll be able to take a pill (no doubt a $10 pill) and then simply EAT again.


Having learned slowy, repeatedly, and the HARD way that even chicken soup often has gluten added to it, I've become a bit like (shudder) Ted Nugent. If I didn't kill eat, grow it, or read the label on it--I won't eat it.

I'm told that the expression on my face is particularly mournful when the crew are all chowing down into fried fish & seafood, there's just nothing safe for me to eat in those places.
 

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Hellosailor - I read all the labels since I am head cook and bottle washer along with grocery shopper. After knowing that my husband has Celiacs for the last several years, I have come to depend on certain things like potato starch, corn masa, and rice flour. It is still difficult to find some of these at times. I am just hoping that a lot of the things available here are available elsewhere also. Our eating out is very limited, my husband has something against asking for the cook to come out and talk about what is available so we only eat at places that actually offer a gluten free menu and you might as well forget eating stuff that friends have prepared unless one of us is there to assist. I can't blame him on that one.
 

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Maize, rice, sorghum, millet, oats, buckwheat, fonio, quinoa, and lots of other grains including amaranth, assorted grains mostly grown and used in Africa, and others, can all be purchased in bulk and stored for extended periods of times. So long as you don't mind eating unleavened bread instead of yeast rolls and loafs there is absolutely nothing wrong with using those other grains instead of wheat. I don't know anything about Celiac disease, so it may be that those other grains are not allowed either, but I doubt that they have any (or much) gluten in them because that is why you can't use them to bake a leavened bread, they won't rise. Bulk grains are terrific, they store well for extended periods of time and then when you need them you just grind them into flour and use them for whatever you want.
 

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You can still have yeast breads without gluten. Many folks are confused with whether yeast has gluten in it, it normally does not.

The problem is not just the grains or the storage, but insidious cross-contamination. Celiac disease is like radiation poisoning: Every time you are hit by gluten, the damage becomes cumulative, it rarely if ever fully heals unless caught very very young. Eventually the intestinal villi just die off and do not regrow at all, leaving you without the ability to digest dairy products and metabolize many nutrients. Somewhere around that time, a number of autoimmune diseases ranging from cancers to arthritis also trigger--and don't go away. So celiac is not a case of "Oh, I had explosive diarrhea today, I'll be all right tomorrow" it is a case of every time you are exposed, you come closer to permanent and potentially fatal damage.

The situation doesn't have to be all that black,the trick is, to be very very careful about keeping your total "radiation" exposure down, for life.

Cross-contamination is a *****. If you eat oats (which are safe) they are normally rotated in fields with wheat, so there is always some wheat content in "safe" crops like oats. (Barring some farms that take great pains to not rotate and to use totally separate mills.) When flours are milled, one mill and one set of millstones are typically used for all grains--more contamination.

Potato chips? All cooked in the same oil, if one batch of BBQ chips has wheat as a binder in the spices--they're all contaminated now.

Order a safe order of scrambled eggs in a diner? No, that's not safe either, if the diner just grilled a cheese sandwhich on the grill there's gluten in the grill oil, your eggs just picked it up unless the grill was rinsed down. Chinese food in a wok? The leftover soy sauce from the meal prepared before yours is a contaminant.

It can take a LONG hard sleuthing job to figure it all out. And, as little as five years ago, this was all almost unknown--even among physicians and internists.

Corn tortillas pack well as an alternative to travelling bread. They also remind you of why Mexico failed to conquer the world. (G)
 

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Interesting hellosailor, thank you for the information. It prompted me to read some wikipedia entries about it, I had no idea! It sounds like a lot of people too, like 1.6% of the population and possibly even more, that is like almost 1 person in 50. I had heard of the disease but I thought it was more rare, though it does seem like every day I hear someone saying they have wheat allergies or something, I just figured most of those people also had about 50 other things they had self-diagnosed. :D
 

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Well, the percents are still only guesses, and they vary with the genepool (i.e. higher in Irish, Scandanavian, lower in African) so they're a bit hard to pin down. Then, until ten years ago, a diagnosis of celiac was almost impossible. The tests to confirm blood fractions didn't exist. The intestinal biopsies were still rare science that no one thought to perform or knew how to interpret. And most of the time, even 5 years ago, it just got called "irritable bowel syndrome" and if folks died in their 60's or 70's from intestinal cancer...it was just written off as death from cancer. Rather than death from cancer caused by celiac disease.

"Syndrome", by the way, doesn't mean "disease". It literally means "there's a whole batch of complaints about this and that, but we really have no idea what the real problem causing all these pains is." Sometimes IBS means one or another specific disease, sometimes it just means "your guts aren't working right".

And it gets worse because now there are three "nervous systems" recognized in the human body. One of them is largely the digestive tract and the associated nerves running up to the brain, which control serotonin metabolism. Serotonin metabolism being a big big part of clinical depression, a major feedback system in the body, which is actually controlled by the digestive tract and another victim of celiac disease.

And then there are the many fine people (who are of great benefit to celiacs because they double or triple the size of the food market) who are simply nuts and claim they can't eat wheat or gluten because it is 'evil' somehow. OK, they're nuts, clinically certifiable, but they're also the reason why there are now maybe six gluten free "beers" on US market. Sometimes nuts is good, right? (G)

BTW, as an "expatriate" Guinness fan...if anyone asks how gf beer tastes, the answer is simply "Well, it is the best beer I have had in years." A left-handed compliment at best.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
It was really funny watching my husband drink one of those gluten free beers for the first time about 6 months ago. He would take a sip and then wait a while and then take another sip. He reacted so violently to beer in his younger years that he was scared to try it even though he knew what his problem was.
 

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It was really funny watching my husband drink one of those gluten free beers for the first time about 6 months ago. He would take a sip and then wait a while and then take another sip. He reacted so violently to beer in his younger years that he was scared to try it even though he knew what his problem was.
So it turned out okay then I guess, he didn't Linda Blair it all over the place or anything ...
 

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my wife is a diabetic so at some time in the future i will have some problems too.

the funny part is she is going to school to become a pastry chef, who will specialize in low/no sugar food
 

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The chief baker for Whole Foods found out not too long ago that he was a celiac, and that's why Whole Foods now has their own gluten-free bakery operations. (Some nice products, but often spoiled in distribution and storage.)
 

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Regarding cross-contamination

It is so frustrating to me that, especially in the U.S., companies advertise one thing, but on the back label, state something else. My girlfriend has a very similar issue in having a wheat allergy, and, as they say, if it has wheat, it has gluten, but it may have gluten, and not necessarily have wheat. So often, the label will show in big eye-catching letters, "Gluten, or wheat-free!" However, look for the fine print on the back of the package, and it'll say it's processed in a facility that handles any one or several of the offending products. Why even make a product that claims to be safe, only to contaminate it on the production line...and risk potentially fatal reactions? The little profit that comes from that Ooops purchase can't be worth the lawsuits and bad press that would follow. Never more true is another saying, "Let the buyer beware."
 

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Back to what I mentioned about milling your own flour from grain - one of the comments I read somewhere was that you have to worry about grains like oats being cross contaminated with wheat that was grown the year before in the same field because you get volunteer wheat plants that end up being harvested with the oats. That isn't a problem if you mill your own grain because you can easily sort out the wheat seeds from other seeds like rice, amaranth, oats, etc. I can see it being a problem in an automated factory that just grinds things up, but for a human being wheat seeds are obviously out of place if you just look at the grain as you are milling it. Wheat seeds don't look like anything else.
 

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This was a new experience for me, dealing with gluten and food issues...since one of my good friends has celiac disease.

A lot of the stuff I take for granted would nuke him. When we were delivering his sailboat last spring, we were fortunate to find a small market that had a huge gluten-free section about five minutes from where we had the boat. This was a real eye-opener for both him and me. Fortunately, awareness of celiac disease and related food-borne problems is better, and there are now alternatives for many traditionally gluten-laden foods. Rice-based pastas are a good example. While some of these aren't quite up to the flavorful standards of what they're replacing, they provide a reasonable alternative at least.

My favorite moment from the delivery last spring was when Mary was making lunch the first day, chicken salad IIRC. Unbeknowst to John, we had bought some gluten free sandwich wraps. She offered him a wrap for lunch, and he tried explaining he couldn't eat it... then we explained, that he was wrong... it was safe for him to eat—since we had bought him some gluten free wraps, so that he wouldn't be forced into making his own meals when we were having sandwiches or wraps... I think that if he had had to make his own separate meals, it would have created some distance between all of us on that delivery. :)
 

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Quinoa ("kee-noir") looks and tastes a lot like birdseed (millet) to a lot of us. the red quinoa tastes somewhat better, but...like tofu, you'd never really rush out to buy it unless you planned to add some other flavor.

Kasha, aka "buckwheat", which is not related to wheat at all, provides another good alternative. A lot of the "gluten free" products are sold to the yuppy audience that has imaginary allergies and priced accordingly.
For instance, gluten free noodles, $4/lb. But if you buy Thai rice noodles in an oriental supermarket, they are at most $2/2lbs, 1/4 of the price.

But thank god for the hypochondriacs, they've made a market large enough to allow mainstream gluten-free foods for those of us who really physically need them.

The trick to rice noodles of any kind is NEVER TO BOIL THEM. Boil the water, kill the flame, let the noodles steep in it until they are soft. And once they are soft, they rapidly go to mush, so you have to keep an eye on them. Boiling water mushes them way too quickly, and on a boat you also save a significant amount of fuel by letting them steep in the boiled water, instead of keeping them on a boil.
 

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Gluten

I have Celiac disease. It took over ten years of testing for everything fom MS, Cancer, Crohnes disease and many others before they figured it out. I have traveled to many places in the islands. It seems most places know more about Celiac than the USA. Fresh chicken , fish and fruits and veggies are always available. I was surprised the first time I went to Bermuda the grocery stores had more Gluten free items , than I have ever seen in the Washington DC metro area. With Trader Joes and other places opening up it has become much easier. Check out Celiac Disease Foundation for more info. We hope to be leaving in several year to go cruising and I don't worry about where to get food. Canned Tuna is alway available in a pinch.
 

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Watch out for the canned tuna, most of it is canned in some kind of "broth" and often chicken or vegetable broth is made with gluten (to thicken the feel of it) or with SOY SAUCE that has been made with wheat.
Trader Joes can be a wonderful place, they even have a gluten free "menu" list for the products in the store. Highlighting the gluten-free orange juice and apple juice...a sure sign that someone is catering to that larger market.<G>
But I give 'em credit, their gluten-free buns and breads are fresher and taste better than the ones in Whole Foods. Which has it's own gf bakery, after their corporate baker discovered his own celiac problem!
 
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