Coeliac UK

Coeliac Disease – Travel challenges

I’ve just had a great week staying at the St Nicolas Bay Hotel in Crete who catered well for coeliacs with a wide range gluten free dishes available, and gluten free bread on offer as part of the breakfast buffet.


On the Thomas Cook flight I enjoyed their gluten free meals which I had ordered in advance. I had a tasty James Martin hot breakfast on the way out, and beef paprika on the way home. Images of both the regular and gluten free afternoon in flight meals are included to illustrate the difference. By the way, the gluten free chocolate chip muffin was delicious!

Gluten free in flight meal

Gluten free in flight meal

Regular in flight meal

Regular in flight meal










Although I had a good experience checking out gluten free options on my trip, problems experienced by those travelling with Coeliac Disease are highlighted in a 2013 Canadian study who found that:

  • 69% said travelling abroad was difficult because they could not tell from labels if food was gluten free.
  • 61% said they could not eat many local /national speciality dishes.
  • 54% said they had difficulty finding shops and restaurants selling gluten free food.
  • 53% said that restaurant personnel abroad were unaware of what gluten free means.
  • 46% reported difficulty carrying gluten free food when travelling.

Strategies used by those with Coeliac Disease to enhance their ability to follow the gluten free diet when travelling included:

  • 44% take translated information about gluten free diet when abroad.
  • 28% research restaurants on the Internet before leaving home.
  • 16% contact Coeliac organisations (e.g. Canadian Celiac Association) about sources of gluten free food.
  • 15% carry a doctors letter indicating that they require a gluten free diet.

The Canadian study concluded that it is essential for individuals with Coeliac Disease to receive accurate and comprehensive information about the disease and its dietary management.

Coeliac UK has some useful information leaflets to help prepare for world wide travel. The following link takes you to the one for Greece but there are over 30 other guides that you may find useful.  Coeliac UK Guide for Greece.

As for this week, well done St Nicolas Bay Hotel and Thomas Cook, you did great.


Zarkadas, M., Dubois, S., Maclsaac, K., Cantin, I., Rashid, M., Roberts, K.C., La Vieille, S., Godefroy, S. & Pulido, O.M. (2013) living with Coeliac Disease and a gluten-free diet: a Canadian perspective.

St Nicolas Bay, Crete


Coeliac Disease

I mentioned in an earlier post that my son has Coeliac Disease. I remember when he was first diagnosed that it all seemed so complicated, now we just take it in our stride. Over time the quality and quantity of gluten free products has increased and if I see something new we always have to give it a try.

From a nutritional perspective a diet without gluten is very healthy, the downside however is that many of the products such as gluten free bread and desserts are more expensive. 

In 2012 I attended the British Dietetic Association Research Symposium and one of the poster presentations outlining some primary research, highlighted that a basket of nutritionally balanced gluten free food cost on average £7.50 more than a standard basket of food. It was also said to costs more than the average weekly spend on food based of information from DEFRA. The presentation highlighted  that ‘own brand’ foods products were cheaper than branded gluten free foods and availability varies, especially in rural locations (Abernethy & Bannerman: 2011).

My son being diagnosed with Coeliac disease change both of our lives. My son got his health back and I changed my career path. Once I had seen first hand the massive impact diet had on my sons health and well being I was hooked, and decided to study for a degree in nutrition. My longer term goal is to become a dietitian and to help other families in similar situations to ours.

If you are not sure what Coeliac disease is – the facts from Coeliac UK are:

  • It is a lifelong autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten
  • 1 in 100 people have the condition
  • Symptoms include bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, wind, constipation, tiredness, headaches, sudden weight loss, hair loss, anaemia and osteoporosis
  • Once diagnosed, it is treated by following a gluten-free diet for life

When my sons diagnosis was confirmed we went to see a dietitian at our local hospital, who was really helpful and put it all into perspective. We also joined Coeliac UK whose website is brilliant and has everything you need to know about the condition:

I’m in my second your at University and I am enjoying every minutes. My son has come to terms with his condition, he’s full of energy and is the picture of health!