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Old 25-09-2017, 13:13   #1
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Food Allergies and world travels

Hello,

I've recently become captivated by the idea of sailing around the world with my wife and two kids. I'm working on learning sailing fundamentals but also trying to think about how we might manage health issues on longer voyages to unknown places. Both of my children have several food allergies (nuts, dairy, wheat, among others). I'm concerned that we might sail into a foreign port and have trouble finding enough provisions to keep them well fed. I'm interested to hear stories of others who have confronted similar challenges, how they adapt, and what limitations they have encountered. I may come to realize that we won't be able to venture too far from places where stores are always well stocked, but I'd love to hear what others have learned.

Thanks!
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Old 25-09-2017, 14:13   #2
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

Some kind words of advice from a healthcare professional.... you and your wife have some issues to sort out before you go world traveling with your children. Obtaining food in far off lands is not the problem.
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Old 25-09-2017, 14:33   #3
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

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Some kind words of advice from a healthcare professional.... you and your wife have some issues to sort out before you go world traveling with your children. Obtaining food in far off lands is not the problem.
Sheesh, Ken, that's not a very nice welcome to a new CFer...

For the OP: I am allergic to peanuts, and have been travelling through the South Pacific for years. Some care is required when encountering new cuisines and new food preparation methods. In SE Asia, it was a real challenge, and kinda scary at times. Your situation, with the multiple allergens is more of an issue, and I suspect that in some areas it could be pretty difficult for you and your kids. You don't mention where you would like to travel. If it is in more developed countries and areas, such food supplies are likely to be available. In the Chinese store in a village in the Solomon islands, more doubtful!

Obviously, consultation with the kids MD is indicated. If their allergies lead to anaphalaxis rather than discomfort or other minor symptoms, I'd be pretty worried... I had a couple of life threatening episodes as a youngster, and even as an adult there have been some close calls. Not a nice experience!

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Old 25-09-2017, 14:47   #4
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

a starch based diet,might go a long way to dealing with food allergies.

also 3/5ths of the world population lives on rice ,beans and veg with fish or meat occasionally,you should have no problem avoiding dairy etc as it is only western cultures have adopted dairy as a protein source ,and diabetes as a side effect of insulin intolerance .

eating a balanced controlled diet on board is very easy,as there is no other option but to comsume food prepared and sourced by yourselves,ie no fast food on boats!

IMHO probably easier to provision in a third world country for basic un adulterated foods than in a 1st world country

reccomended viewing .... .... ...
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Old 25-09-2017, 14:51   #5
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

I'm 69 and had food allergies since 30 when it was discovered. The usual dairy, wheat, chocolate, coffee, tea (less so), some beers, any processed bean, etc. I was told by a specialists that for people of my vintage it was from science telling mothers that baby formulas were superior to mother's milk.
My reaction varies from hay fever to head aches to really bad several day head aches and rarely to vomiting.
I've found that small amounts of forbidden food only creates a mild reaction or none if not eaten over several days or big quantities. I can't have tea, but daily green tea gives no reaction. Each food has a different reaction. Some very small. So variety has served me best. I can have a sandwich one day or cheese another w/o a problem. Chocolate for me is instantaneous. And it's in many supplements or vitamins but not listed. Now I can taste it in a pill.
I've been all over the world, but not recently. I've only rarely had light reactions from local food. In Vietnam I ate their food daily. Philippines, too. Especially balut. On military chow, I had constant hay fever. I think the USA's processed food is the real problem. Processors try to find a use for every food waste product.
I'm an old guy that never really adapted to the diet. I watch what I eat, but not too carefully. Occasionally I get a mild head ache and usually have mild hay fever, but live with it. At my age I have worse things to live with than hay fever.
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Old 25-09-2017, 15:36   #6
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

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Some kind words of advice from a healthcare professional.... you and your wife have some issues to sort out before you go world traveling with your children. Obtaining food in far off lands is not the problem.
Thanks, Ken. I'm not sure what you're alluding to. Maybe you can be more specific.

We have become pretty adept at identifying risks and keeping our kids safe so far. They do miss out on things because human societies all tend to be very food oriented and resistant to change. As a result we have tried to enrich their lives by focusing on other great experiences, especially travel. They have traveled all over the US. My four year-old knows more geography than most college students. I'm simply looking for ways to expand their horizons. We always do plenty of research to make sure we understand the risks of our environment and only take risks that are acceptable to us.
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Old 25-09-2017, 15:42   #7
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

Red Cross courses in first aid and CPR would not be wasted time, and you should definitely speak with the family doctor and get his or her help in putting together an emergency medical kit. It should contain some epi pens, antihistamines, and other medications geared to allergies. Remember, you don't always know all of the ingredients in a given dish, and you might encounter language difficulties that can obscure such information as well. Go prepared. Fair winds and following seas.
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Old 25-09-2017, 15:47   #8
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

I think that most people cook more of their meals when cruising than when land based. Using more simple, natural ingredients. The hiccups when it comes to food allergies is eating out, or dining with new friends on their boat. But even with that, it's more than possible. As for example, my dad was allergic to a list of things as long as Santa's naughty/nice list. Yet he wasn't much handicapped socially due to allergies. A pain at times, yes, but naught to stop one from living life well.

The other thing is that allergies often come & go with time. Sometimes you'll later figure out why, others not. And there are ways to get rid of some of them. I did some work with an NAET practicioner at one point, & she helped me to clear out several allergies in but a few days. And I'm sure that there are other methods too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAET
https://www.naet.com/

I've found too, that a lot of people are averse to eating a particular food, often due to how it was cooked. Or what it was served with, etc. And that if you cook for & with them, showing them different ways of preparing things, then you'll likely meet with success.

For example, at times I've been around family who don't eat brown rice. A sad loss IMO. So from time to time when everyone gets together, I'll make brown rice, & use more water than is the norm, so that it's fluffier & lighter. Both in texture & in taste. Which, it gets lots of praise & is well liked. The irony being, I don't tell them it's brown rice until after the meal.
It's made a few converts. And the other dishes that I served it with helped with this.

Kids can be picky, sure. And if getting them to eat due to this is troubling, first just get them eating regularly. Only then do you start doing some adjust of what they're eating. Including by getting them involved in meal; planning, prep, & cooking. Perhaps even to the point of having them plan parties or a social night... under your watchful eyes.

It's another heap of ways of positively reinforcing quality food choices, & habits. Not to mention social skills. They'll (hopefully) enjoy cooking, expand their taste buds horizons, & take pride in what they make. Ergo they'll be much more apt to devour it vs. unusual things cooked by other people.
And when they're old enough to do meals solo, it gives you a break in kitchen duties.


PS: How old are they?
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Old 26-09-2017, 07:25   #9
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

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Red Cross courses in first aid and CPR would not be wasted time, and you should definitely speak with the family doctor and get his or her help in putting together an emergency medical kit. It should contain some epi pens, antihistamines, and other medications geared to allergies. Remember, you don't always know all of the ingredients in a given dish, and you might encounter language difficulties that can obscure such information as well. Go prepared. Fair winds and following seas.
Thanks for the suggestion, Daniel. My wife and I are CPR trained and we always carry antihistamines and EpiPens. We've never had to use the EpiPens (*knocking on wood) but we try to be prepared for anything that could happen.
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Old 26-09-2017, 07:53   #10
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

Food sensitivities or actual food allergies? There's a BIG difference between the two. Have the kids had actual anaphylaxis type reactions to the foods or something less like stomach aches?
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Old 26-09-2017, 17:12   #11
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

ben-
To a large extent, "eating out" creates the same problems with food allergies IN THE US as it does overseas. If you go into a busy restaurant in the US, sure, someone is supposed to be trained in food allergies and able to answer your questions. In practice? You don't eat in busy places, or places where the wait staff seems to grunt a lot but not grasp what you are saying.

As Jim said, there's a big difference between foods that will cause anaphylactic shock, and foods that will cause bloating or discomfort.

I'm assuming that your children have been medically tested, but many people who say they are allergic to milk and gluten are in fact medically unresponsive to them. You need medical workups to be sure of this, and to be sure of what the real risk is, bellyache or shock.

It can also help to do what folks in the US do, here at home. You make up business cards (and several allergy support groups preprint them) that may say something simple in six or eight languages, like "I am allergic to peanuts. If I eat them they may kill me. Can you be certain nothing I order has peanuts in it?" Even if it won't kill you...make it blunt and simple. "If my food has any milk, I will burst into flames and die. Please do not bring me anything with milk in it." Yes, you can have a little humor too.

In theory Google and others can give you translation on the fly, which is good when you don't know what the server speaks, but printed cards help. And the kids have to be old enough to understand that sometimes, they're going to get steamed rice and broccoli if they want to eat. You can't just be tourists, yeah, and that's just the way it is.

You CAN also keep a 20# bag of rice (there's all kinds besides white, way better) in the galley and staples that you know the kids CAN eat. This should not be a stopper. The same language barriers exist pretty much everywhere in the US, even in Peoria.
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Old 26-09-2017, 18:21   #12
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

What an exciting journey for your family! Sailing with allergies can be a bit of an obstacle, but absolutely doable with some advance planning. I do not have a ton of sailing experience, but I do travel quite a bit and have celiac disease (must avoid even the smallest trace of wheat, barley & rye.)

These are the tips I have learned along the way. I hope they prove helpful to you and your family:
* Know a little bit about the type of cuisine of the area you are travelling, including key ingredients. Picking up a cook-book or researching popular regional recipes online will help you avoid some hidden dangers. For instance, soy sauce can be in a lot of prepared foods and typically contains wheat.
* Download or make your own "Allergy Cards" in the language of the area you are travelling which specifies which allergens need to be avoided.
* Yelp and TripAdvisor (usually in the US) can be used, along with specialty apps such as GlutenFree NearMe, that allows you to filter for restaurants which are allergy friendly.
* Locate travel bloggers that have been to the area you are visiting.
* If there are any allergy support groups in the area you are headed, reach out to them. There are many gluten free groups around the world (many of those members have multiple allergies), and they can give you plenty of advice on places that will be safe for your children to eat when exploring on land.
* Think about investing in a food dehydrator (there are several out there that are non-electric, if that is a concern) so that you can load up on safe, fresh foods for the family when trekking on land or during longer voyages.
* When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Everyone will be happier in the end.
* Keep well-rotated snacks and your allergy cards in your go-pack and enjoy everything about the fantastic journey you're taking.
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Old 28-09-2017, 12:13   #13
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

In this day of self-diagnosis and boutique diets have your children been formally diagnosed? Is this just picky eating objectified? If so they'll eat when the get hungry.

If not, as others have noted, managing just isn't that hard.
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Old 28-09-2017, 13:44   #14
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

"managing just isn't that hard."
Yes and no. A lot of "managing" isn't hard if you are doing your own shopping, in the US, or someplace with similar ingredient labels. Which even in the US sometimes seem to omit variations on allergins, despite federal laws.

But it you are traveling and eating out...all bets are off. Even in the US, there are often language barriers, and hurried/overloaded wait staff who just have no training and even less idea of what is in each dish. Even when they are required to have that training for at least one person in the establishment at all times.

If you stick to the same generic bland foods, yes, those can still often be safe. But even then--I've seen an allegedly kosher deli (which should mean stringent food safety and cleanliness) where the "safe" cucumber salad cam complete with a macaroni elbow, enough to make a gluten problem that could leave someone with cramps and runs for an entire day. That's typical of cross-contamination, often impossible to manage unless you see it happening.

And a wedding, where the person next to me had serious nut allergies, and the wait staff KNEW IT, but they still brought out the slices of wedding cake and made sure everyone had one. Complete with what looked like crumbled nuts on the topping.

And even when there's a "corporate" that is supposed to have allergy information for the franchisee's ? Sometimes you can ask them for that information, and no one even replies to the email. Even here in the US.

You know kids, like the rest of us, are going to want to try all sorts of stuff, and not really have the awareness to know how to make sure it is safe. Like the rest of us.

Allergic to milk? Or maybe just cow's milk? How would you ask someone what kind of milk their cheese was made with? In Greek, or Czech, or Haitian?

It can be very subtle and outright tricky trying to manage food allergies--unless you take broad steps with anything that has been processed or handled by others. Traveling with your own "dog food" is easy (if you bypass the TSA) but traveling without sampling the local foods...not so much fun.

How serious the allergies actually are, that's a whole other question.
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Old 28-09-2017, 16:21   #15
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Re: Food Allergies and world travels

While I don't have experience traveling with food allergies I will share my experience with my childrens food allergies.

My daughter at 2 had reactions to tomatoes. Now in her 20s, tomatoes are fine but lettuce is not.

My son at age 2 allergic to everything you'd give a todler. Milk, wheat, oats, and peanuts. Now in his 30s, everthing is fine except hazelnuts.

In both cases they were diagnosed by a blood test. In both cases there were never anaphylactic symtoms. In both cases the offending food was avoided for 2 years and then slowly reintroduced. Alergies tend to switch off, change as you age.

What hasn't been suggested yet? Talking to a dietitian that specializes in food allergies. It wasn't always easy to manage but we tended to not eat at restuaraunts. Back in the 80s and 90s there weren't a plethora of alternative foods on the grocery shelves as there are today. No Amazon food orders either.

I believe with good planning, Dr.s and a dietitians advice, it won't be an insurmountable problem. Many people in many countries have to deal with the same problems. Also remember many countries have banned and are more strick about food ingredients than in the US. Study the availability of food sources for countries you'd like to visit. If there's a need, can you order special foods delivered to that location? Stock up and provision ahead? My family simply adapted our eating habits and lifestyle around our disabilities. To this day my children follow a healthier diet than most.

Remember, for every ingredient not allowed there are many more that are allowed. A lesson learned from my parents, never force, or demand, or starve a child in an effort to make them eat. Expose and offer new foods with the cavette that if you take a bite and don't like it, then simply don't eat any more of that, just try it. If they don't like it, or won't try it, make this 1 simple statement, "That's ok, when you get older you might like it." That leaves their minds open to trying something new in the future. I'm not suggesting cooking 2-3 different meals either. Cook 1 meal that covers the bases. If you encounter a holdout? Have a simple alternative at hand to offer and don't stress yourself or the children about it.
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