Where to find gluten-free products in the city 4 Comments
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For most of us Dubai is a foodies’ playground, offering lavish brunches, high-end restaurants, gourmet grocers and more. But for some, the city can be a difficult place to grab a bite to eat – not through lack of choice, but because of adverse reactions to certain foods.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder in the small intestine caused by a reaction to a protein called ‘gliadin’ which is part of the gluten found in wheat. Symptoms vary from person to person – some suffer from weight loss and diarrhoea, while others have little or no symptoms (although they are still doing harm to their bodies every time they consume foods containing gluten).
The disease affects more of us than you might think: studies suggest that one in 33 people suffer from some form of gluten intolerance, while one in 56 people have related symptoms. More startlingly, 95 per cent of coeliacs are undiagnosed. Yet in spite of the condition’s prevalence, little has been done in Dubai to address the condition.
It was this lack of information for coeliacs that inspired Linda Forster (pictured) to set up Gluten Free UAE, an online resource for coeliacs such as herself and her two-year-old daughter, Aili, diagnosed in April 2011.
‘Before I founded the group, I’d Google “Gluten UAE”, “Gluten Dubai”, “Gluten Abu Dhabi” and I’d get really old posts on forums asking the same questions as me,’ remembers Linda. ‘Some of my Google searches came up with posts from 2004 and even further back, which goes to show just how long it’s been an issue in the UAE. I didn’t want someone else to feel how I felt when I did these searches, so I set up Gluten Free UAE.’
According to Linda, the difficulties of living gluten-free in Dubai are more to do with availability and inflated prices of gluten-free products. ‘A loaf of gluten-free bread is often Dhs20 or Dhs30,’ says Linda. ‘Other foods often cost four or five times as much in Dubai as they would back home – some brands of pasta can set you back Dhs30 for 500g.’
While many shops in Dubai stock some gluten-free products, Linda explains that doing a full weekly shop for her and her daughter involves visiting numerous supermarkets across town. There’s also the problem of inconsistency from shop to shop – while one supermarket outlet stocks a certain gluten-free product, another one on the other side of town might not. Linda says she knows of some people who travel from Abu Dhabi just to buy a certain product. ‘If we see something we like, we don’t just buy one packet – we buy as much as we can carry!’ she jokes.
Of course, coeliacs can live happily and healthily on the abundance of naturally gluten-free foods (such as meat and fruit, while rice and potatoes are good sources of gluten-free carbohydrates), but Linda says this is rather difficult to explain to a two year old demanding pasta.
For tips, pointers and support for gluten-free living in Dubai, see www.glutenfreeuae.com or search for Gluten Free UAE on Facebook.
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