As I reflect on my journey to determine my personal food intolerances, I recognise how lucky I am to be living in Australia.
We have two of the world’s leading organisations working with food intolerance here: The Food Intolerance Network and the Food Intolerance Unit at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. In addition, there is a strong network of health practitioners that support this work, from GPs and paediatricians to dieticians and nutritionists. Supportive health practitioners are key to helping people understand and legitimise food intolerance as an issue; supporting themselves, their families and their broader communities.
Whilst I was on the strict elimination diet in Australia, I wanted to occasionally eat at restaurants. My request for grilled plain chicken or fish with plain rice was always met easily. When I eat out now and feel the need to know the ingredients, my request is supported in most places (always better to call the restaurant to discuss ingredients during a quiet time before the reservation). There is also a greater level of awareness for the importance of real food. The café in the building I work at makes their food from scratch, even though it would be cheaper and easier to use commercial sauces (which I avoid due to the additives). The small Turkish restaurant I frequent also proudly uses no artificial colours or flavours. Gluten free meals are available on every menu that I’ve seen for years, and requests for substitutions are easily accommodated.
When I travel overseas, it is a different story. Many restaurants are less flexible and open minded – I have been scoffed at far more often in Europe than Australia when I politely request ingredient information due to reactions. Gluten/dairy free meal options are also less plentiful or interesting, though this is changing rapidly.
As food intolerance awareness moves (far too slowly) to the mainstream, it becomes easier to share information and not fear ridicule or ostracism. I am glad that living in Australia has made my journey easier.
Image credit: Rodney Haywood