How do you travel Gluten-Free?

travel

Ah… the joy of travel. But only until your cravings kick in and your stomach rumbles.

If you are visiting a place for vacation, things commonly enjoyed are the sights, the fun activities,  and of course, the endless array of new delicious things to try. Even if you’re just taking a business trip, eating local food would be one of the ways you can savor the experience.

But with having celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance, or just having food allergies of any kind, you already know how frustrating it is to try to relax when you don’t know where your next safe food will be coming from.

So, what to do?

Preparation is key. Take the attitude that with just a bit of time and effort, maximizing your vacation is in  your hands, and it will be well worth the effort.

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1 – Visit online forums, especially for gluten-free dining,  and find out which local places serve food that fits your gluten-free diet. Luckily, you’re not alone in your quest for a hassle-free vacation. You’ll be surprised at just how many people are willing to make suggestions and give useful information on where to eat and which food items to avoid at your destination. Post your questions in forums at least 2 weeks in advance so that you have time get substantial replies from fellow planners like yourself. Your trusty Facebook account is a portal to dozens of gluten-free philippines tagged groups. You may also find dedicated forums on Celiac.com.

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2 –  However, if you would like to give the planning to someone else, there are resources that organize vacations and travel around the world that are especially gluten free. They reduce the worrying about the nitty gritties to a minimum. Since they specialize in gluten-free travel, they will have more options for you to choose from, and can make travel a treat, and especially if you’re travelling with your friends or family. One such company is, The Gluten Free Travel Site.

3 – Have a list of things you know are absolutely gluten-free, including food items and brands. If you are unsure of fastfood places, restaurants or even the food available at your hotel, visiting your nearest grocery store will be the next best thing. Especially, where the language barrier poses additional challenge, googling which familiar gluten-free brands are available locally will save you a lot of worry.

 

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4 – Be armed from the moment you walk out your door. Pack your own airport food.  It would make things so much easier if every bit of food with allergens is correctly labeled, but especially in the Philippines, this not the case. Airport dining is limited to only a few restaurants and gluten-free dining is not a priority. No frills flights like Cebu Pacific, only have snacks that typically contain gluten, and so it is best to come prepared. However, some flights, like international flights of Philippine Airlines do offer some comfort. PAL provides gluten-free meals in all classes, and gluten-free snacks may also be available. All special meals on airplanes must be ordered no less than 24 hours in advance. Take time to call.

 Want a first hand account of the experience? Checkout our review on an inflight gluten-free meal we have tried, on this blogpost.

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5- When you can, pack some food items that will last a few days. Order gluten-free in advance from your go-to gluten-free shops. Online shops like Gerald.ph will deliver to your home so you don’t have to go out to buy these things especially. Crackers, cookies that can last a few days in your travel pack may just save you a day of staying indoors dealing with unpleasant symptoms. Dry gluten-free pasta that is convenient enough to cook in a hotel suite or a BnB will come handy, and will save you a few bucks, as well.

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6- Take gluten inhibiting supplements in your luggage. Let us rejoice as there are multiple supplements available in the market now that may protect you from the effects of accidentally ingested gluten. Though gluten-free labels in food packaging and restaurants, the experience may still feel like a game of Russian roulette.  Brands such as GlutenEase, GluteGuard and GutenDigest can be your new best friends. Though none of these are available yet in Manila, you can have these shipped via HealthPost site and get them in under 10 days. Most of these are meant to be taken with a strict adherence to a gluten-free diet, and take care of those thoughts of  pizza and pasta splurge. Take caution though as some destinations have stricter rules for supplements than others.

So? Do you think you can hack your next gluten-free vacation? We’re here with you. With these handy tips, you’ll soon find each trip less focused on where and what you can eat, and more on enjoying the experience.

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Did you know MSG is Actually Gluten-Free?

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The impact of MSG on health has been debated in more than a couple medical journals and health related publications. There may be sound evidence supporting the adverse effects of MSG that may be enough reason for you to stay away from it, but having gluten is not one of them.

Why is this fact important for the gluten-free intolerant?

Recognize that especially in the Philippines, MSG is everywhere. The fact that flavor enhancers like Maggi Savor and Ajinomoto are pantry staples is just one of the signs. Typical restaurants that put flavor first will use some form of flavor enhancer that contains MSG. We really have to ask if we’re putting ourselves at risk if we need to stay away from gluten, but find MSG stealthily appearing in most food items we buy.

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Photo credit: Ajimoto.com.ph

If the absence of umami is driving you crazy (well, not crazy, just that it’s not exactly convenient to be paranoid about all food items), know this: MSG is actually gluten-free.

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Aside from sounding similar, glutamate and gluten are actually two different substances. First, monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid that is present in all protein containing food like cheese, and meat. It occurs naturally in some food, and is commonly used as a flavor enhancer, and responsible for the umami that can more descriptively termed as a savory, brothy or meaty taste.  Gluten, on the other hand, is a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye.

MSG is  made primarily through fermentation using various sugars and starches, such as sugar cane, beet sugar, corn starch and tapioca starch as starting materials (http://www.glutamate.org), wheat and rye actually not being on the list.

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Sinigang, a Filipino dish typically MSG flavored. Photo credit: Knorr.com.ph

Why the talk first and foremost of MSG (monosodium glutamate) being linked to gluten?

A source of controversy is that glutamic acid was first isolated in the year 1866 from wheat promain gliadin, and in 1909 MSG was isolated from wheat flour. This was the primary source of MSG until the 1960s when other methods of deriving MSG were developed, including chemical synthesis and fermentation process.

Other sources since then have been used, which no longer use wheat.

So, if you are staying away from gluten, it can be a big burden off your chest to know that MSG is one less thing you have to worry when you have gluten sensitivity. 

Looking for gluten-free food? Visit: http://shop.gerald.ph/gluten-free

Sources:

Celiac.org https://celiac.org/blog/faq/what-is-gluten/

Sano, Chiaki. History of Glutamate Production. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2009;90:728S-732S. Available at: http://www.ajcn.org/content/90/3/728S.full

Thompson, Tricia, MS, RD. Monosodium Glutamate! . Gluten Free Dietitian. 2011. Available at http://www.glutenfreedietitian.com/monosodium-glutamate/