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Going Gluten-Free in the UAE

Our daughter was diagnosed as a strong possible Celiac (Coeliac) in the beginning of April. Going gluten free is not an easy thing, no matter where you are in the world. For us here in Dubai it was a bit harder due to the way the health system works. If you are not with a good doctor you may find yourself – like us – without being given vital information. We were simply just given our diagnosis and sent on our merry way. I say we, because even though it’s our daughter who is the Celiac, as she is just two it’s really not up to her to deal with any of it. We had to take it on as a family! As a stay-at-home-mum, it has been mainly me doing the research, the shopping and the searching etc. Our lives have changed 100% since the diagnosis, and yet I can’t even remember what it was like before. Being gluten free has become a way of life.

I spend a huge part of my week, thinking about food, researching food, looking for food and making food. It’s been a huge wakeup call as to what is actually in some of the meals we eat. I have had to learn about starch, E-numbers, food coloring, flavoring and so on. Who would have thought that cooking cream and chicken stock cubes contained gluten?

Takeaways when Mummy is too tired to cook has become a thing of the past, I make all food from scratch. I bake my own bread – even though I always hated baking. Gluten free products in Dubai are few and far between and usually very very expensive. I once saw a small packet of gluten free crackers for over 40 dirham’s. Needless to say we didn’t buy them. We try to eat as much fresh unprocessed food as we can, but we do buy some gluten free alternatives as well off course.

We now have a good doctor who knows his stuff and we are learning more and more every day. I do still remember that very first day though, we were given our diagnosis and two hours later we gave our daughter French fries thinking it was fine as its potatoes. We were not really aware of the implications of gluten contamination like we are now. This doesn’t mean we don’t eat fries, it just means we eat them at home, made on our own cooker where we know what’s been in the oil!

I set up a Facebook group to try to help. That very first day when I Googled Celiac and U.A.E / Dubai, Middle East etc, I found next to nothing. I am hoping that we can change that. Information and education is key. To have people to question, people who know, who live it, is invaluable. To be able to meet other celiacs, share a meal, have a playdate etc, its priceless!

If you, a member of your family or a friend has Celiac disease or if you are avoiding Gluten for other reasons, please visit our Gluten Free – U.A.E. website, join our Facebook group or come to one of our Gluten Free events!

By: Linda Forster

Celiac disease statistics: UK – about 1 in 100 people, North-America – about 1 in 133 people, and an estimated 24.3 million people worldwide.

Recent studies have shown that it may be more common in Africa, South America, and Asia than previously believed.



4 Responses to “Going Gluten-Free in the UAE”

  1. Widad says:

    Hi! I totally understand what you are going through, my niece who is 2 years old is allergic to dairy food and gluten. Although she is my niece I think of her like a daughter so I spend nights Googling to find good recipes for her – I didn’t mention that she hates eating, literally. It ends with us eating almost everything I made, till now we don’t know a good Doctor but someone told us about one in Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. I would really appreciate if you could contact me to advise me of what to do. Thanks!

  2. Linda says:

    Hi Widad, did you join us on our facebook page? Lots of advice there. http://www.facebook.com/glutenfree.uae
    I believe one of the ladies on our page uses the doctor you mentioned in Abu Dhabi, there are a few that are good in Dubai also. :)

  3. Darin says:

    Hi there, can you suggest a good doctor in Dubai please?
    I suffer from this too and would love to consult someone in the know.
    Btw I love your facebook page.
    Thanks a lot!

  4. paula says:

    Celiac is ever increasing around the globe. I was diagnosed 3 years ago and adjusting well to living the gluten-free lifestyle. I have a website & Facebook page called CeliacCorner for any of your visitors wishing to travel to the US and may be in need of useful information. Let’s share awareness together!
    All the best to you and your daughter. Paula


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