Travelling with medical conditions such as gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease should not stop you from exploring the world and experiencing the fun that comes with it! Organisation and planning is the key to a successful ‘gluten-free’ trip. Check out our tips below on how you can travel with coeliac disease.
Do you want more travel medical tips? Head over to our medical blog section so you're in the know!
A gluten-free diet has various definitions depending on the country you're in. Here in Australia, the current definition of gluten-free is ‘no detectable gluten’ - using standard methods under the food standards administered by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. The gluten-free standard in Australia is less than 20 parts per million of gluten. The same gluten-free standard is adopted in the UK, Europe, Canada and the USA. Twenty parts per million is a tiny amount of gluten and is considered a safe threshold for those with live with coeliac disease.
If travelling by plane, make sure you contact the airline and arrange gluten-free meals ahead of time. If your travel includes touring via coach, train or cruise, contact them well in advance to arrange gluten-free meals for you. Like many things in life, it's always good to be prepared and plan in advance - especially when it comes to overseas travel!
Safe foods to eat include fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, fish and seafood, dairy foods (cheese, milk, yoghurt), nuts, beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas), rice, corn, soy, amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, tapioca and millet. Be aware that some foods such as dried beans and nuts are at risk of cross-contact with wheat, barley or rye. Try to buy foods labelled gluten-free to be on the safe side.
If you are going to a destination with less stringent food laws, pack some gluten-free food. In Australia, oats are not part of a gluten-free diet, unlike Europe and USA where oats are marketed as gluten-free. Pack some non-perishable foods like nuts, trail mix and gluten-free crackers, and avoid consuming oats, even if they are marketed as ‘gluten-free’
Take a letter from your doctor outlining your medical condition and that you require special dietary restrictions.
Check out this site for a list of possible restaurants and cafés around the world that cater to special diets. They also have many useful travel cards in different languages which may help you communicate your dietary needs.
List out ingredients you can't consume that contain gluten when travelling. This will help you when reading food labels and while dining in restaurants. It is best to try and stick to fresh foods without added sauces and seasonings.
Don't be afraid to enquire at your planned holiday destination. Do a bit of research to figure out where you can buy gluten-free breads, pasta, snacks and other treats when you're on the ground. In some places you should be able to purchase goodies at supermarkets, while other locations may require you to pick up gluten-free foods at health food stores or pharmacies. Keep in mind that not all countries have the same food labelling criteria as Australia so be aware!
Are you travelling to Asia? Make sure you know these handy tips to avoid getting sick while in Asia.
So, why wait! Get your bags packed and with proper planning, you should be on your way to a well-earned break…. gluten-free of course!
Want to find more medical tips for travel? Browse through our medical blogs here!
Dr Jane Read is a Sydney-based GP Registrar who also holds a Masters Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Deakin University in Melbourne. In addition to working in general practice, Jane works as a freelance nutrition and medical writer, and has been a nutrition consultant to various corporate clients.
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