Thailand Gluten Free information blog
Thailand Gluten Free
How to Survive being Celiac

Many years ago, when i still lived in Holland, my health was its lowest point. My doctor advised a blood test and endoscopy, which I did without knowing what to expect from it. The results of the tests came in and I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. The doctor told me to never eat gluten again.

I had never heard of the terms "Celiac" and "Gluten" before so I had no idea what he was talking about. Back then it was not that well known as now, so I didn't really have a clue how big the impact would be on my life. It took me a month to realize what kind of limitations there were and of how much I still didn't know yet. There was so much to learn and I felt overwhelmed. Only after 2 years of struggling with the diet, I felt confident enough to know what I was doing. Now after living a gluten-free life for 8 years, I would like to pass on some of the things that I have learned.

It all starts with training your mindset. You might think that you can cheat once and a while, but you have to make it clear to yourself that you can't. If you allow to cheat on yourself, it will only make it harder to resist gluten, and your health will be at risk also. You have to know that even if you don't get sick after eating a slice of pizza, you are still damaging your body from inside. It will take some time to gain the discipline, but have patience and take some time to improve as long as you move onwards. If you can hold on and overcome this, it will be great for your overall self-confidence, and gluten will become something that you don't want instead of cannot have.

Educate yourself. Start with the basics and learn what you cannot eat. Memorize all the grains you have to avoid: all types of wheat, barley, brewer’s Yeast, durum, emmer, farina, farro, graham, kamut, malt, rye, semolina, spelt, and triticale.

The obvious things to avoid are bread, pastas, pizza, beer, cookies and many other items. However, there are also many hidden sources of gluten. Sausages and meatballs usually have some sort of flour added to make it thicker. The same goes for all kinds of sauces, gravies and soup. The thicker the sauce, gravie or soup, the more likely it has some sort of flour in it. Here in Thailand, you especially have to be careful of soy sauce, which has become one of the main ingredients of modern Thai food.

Learn all the hidden dangers: If no gluten containing ingredients are mentioned on the label, it does not necessarily mean it's gluten free. Cross-contamination in factories and packaging facilities is a possibility. This can happen when gluten-free products are handled next to gluten-containing products. Cross-contamination can also happen when farmers grow gluten-free grains such as corn and oat, right next to gluten grains. Some of the gluten grain can wind up in the harvest of the gluten-free grain.

In Thailand, the chance of a farmer growing rice AND a gluten grain is almost nihil, so products like Thai rice noodles are most likely gluten free. Still read the lable before you buy it in the supermarket.

Wheat-free is not the same as gluten-free. The product could still have other forms of gluten, so always check the label.

Some ingredients can be derived from grain and could possibly have gluten. Be careful when you see the following items on labels: vinegar, caramel coloring, syrup, soy sauce. If you are not sure if those are the gluten-free versions, then better be cautious and avoid it.

Cosmetic products could have gluten too, but they don't have to label it as such because it's not food. Shampoo and lipstick are examples of cosmetic products that could have gluten.

Manage your kitchen. That is kinda easy when you live alone, but becomes harder with each extra person you share the kitchen with. Here you have to make some rules that you have to share with your roommates or family.

Get your own space at the kitchen with utensils that only you are allowed to use. Have you own gluten free section and keep your utensils separated from the other utensils. It might sound a bit selfish to them to want your own stuff that you don't share, so you have to inform them it is for the sake of your health and you will respect their space also. Inform them about the dangers of cross-contamination and how serious the situation is. For the best situation, you will have to teach them everything you learn about Celiac disease.

You will then have to clean up the kitchen and keep it spotless. The cleaner the kitchen, the less chance of cross-contamination. In the beginning, this task will mainly fall on you. Don't give up.

Going out. I almost never go out to a restaurant which is not encouraging to you. Sorry. When I think of going out to a restaurant I just want to enjoy myself and relax. As a Celiac however, I know that it will be a hassle and I don't like the uncertainty when I don't know the restaurant if I could eat something there or not. I hate choosing a meal based on what is safe instead of what I like to taste. I rather choose my own ingredients at the market and make my own meal at home. That will be my advice, to learn and enjoy cooking.

If you insist on going out, then you better know the menu of the restaurant before going there and possibly waste your time. Perhaps you can call them and ask if they are capable of making gluten free meals. You will also have to learn how to read the menu and eliminate all the meals that could have gluten. Be careful of meals that describe it as fried, deep-fried, crunchy, and marinated. Ask the waitress or even better, the chef, what the ingredients are and explain your situation.

The biggest danger in restaurant for us Celiacs is cross-contamination. If the cook uses the same utensils for your meal as he or she uses for other meals without proper cleaning, then you are at risk. Some cooking material cannot be cleaned between meals, such as deep-fryers which is why it's better to avoid all deep-fried meals. You will have to make the cook your greatest ally of the day. If you feel he or she completely understands the situation, then you might have a good time. If there is any doubt, well then it's up to you.

This article is getting really long, and does not touch everything there is to tell about Celiac disease. You have to learn much more and unfortunately this will be an ongoing process as food and culture changes. It might become boring (it has for me) but you have to stay strong and healthy. There is actually a lot of gluten free fun out there. More shops and restaurant are becoming aware of gluten free but the happiness has to come mainly from yourself.

Find out which gluten free food you like the best, explore new gluten free options, share your stories with other Celiacs. It's not all bad. We Celiacs can have a great live.

Thailand Gluten Free