Connecting the celiac disease and food allergy/intolerance community together by sharing our stories to food freedom. From our beginning struggles to striving after a diagnosis, we can all relate and help each other out by sharing what we’ve learned and our unique personal journeys.
I have a fantastic Freedom Feature to share with you today! Meet Carrie, the woman behind For Gluten Sake! We connected last year over Instagram, right as she was preparing to uproot and relocate to South Korea! From the looks of it, she’s navigating the unknown with celiac disease pretty well and bringing her knowledge and positivity to the community! Take it away, Carrie!
give us some background on who you are:
Hi! My name is Carrie Veatch and I recently moved to South Korea and am teaching English as a Foreign Language to grade schoolers. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in the summer of 2011 and am forever a changed person for the better! I am originally from St. Louis, but call Denver home as a homeowner there. I was living in Denver for the last 7 years prior to packing up my life into two huge suitcases and moving halfway across the world! I love traveling, cooking, fitness, and connecting with people over good food and wine. Small talk makes me want to poke my eyeballs out and love deep conversations about what makes you YOU.
what was life like before diagnosis?
Prior to diagnosis, I had extreme symptoms like so many others, but it didn’t completely debilitate my life. I was an intensely active kid, so I was still able to compete in my myriad of sports activities. However, I would spend HOURS in the bathroom. Since the age of 12 or so, I had intense gastrointestinal issues, horrendous migraines, exhaustion, uncontrollable acne in my teenage years, and mental health struggles I rarely discuss.
how did you finally find the right doctor and get your diagnosis?
The interesting thing looking back is the number of symptoms that I can now tie to celiac disease that I had no idea were related. Growing up and into my early 20s, I went to doctors on and off because of my GI issues but was often told I had IBS and given pills to take when I thought an episode was coming. How would I know this? I was never sure, which was frustrating to say the least. When I was 28, I had recently moved to Denver and got strep throat and mono. It was miserable. It was a few months after this experience that I finally found a new doctor that tested me for celiac disease after visiting her a few times. It was an incredibly emotional day being diagnosed and realizing how this would impact my life, but I am forever grateful for the diagnosis.
how did your life change after the diagnosis?
I feel like I have received the gift of life in a way I never had in my teenage years or in my 20s! The initial changes after diagnosis were very challenging. I had no idea what to eat/what not to eat and how to interact with others around meal times. But little by little it got easier and I got more confident. Now, as more than 6 years has passed since the diagnosis day, I feel like a new person and can navigate the GF life very easily.
One of the biggest changes has been looking back and discovering that my mental health struggles had so much to do with celiac disease. This is where my life truly has changed the most and something I want to give a voice to and be my legacy in this world. I struggled intensely in a way that I had no idea was related to celiac disease. During my Master’s program in counseling, I was still undiagnosed and now believe my time would have been so different had I known my body’s struggle with gluten. I lost a lot of relationships. I struggled in my core in a way that is hard to even put words to now, but in a way that I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not that person anymore. I come from a family that does not discuss deep issues and that taught me talking about things outside of the family was unacceptable. Much of this is generational, but everything in my DNA now knows that I will not and cannot live like that ever again. Being diagnosed with celiac disease and being mentally healthy the last several years has given me such excitement to live life each day and be an advocate for this disease!
what has been the biggest struggle for you? have you been able to over come it?
My current struggle is eating GF in Korea! It has been challenging because my Korean is very limited. I am extremely grateful for iherb.com and costco.com that are making it completely manageable! If soy sauce weren’t in everything in this country, it wouldn’t be so difficult! I am also thankful for my Western friends here that already in the short time I have been here are so conscious of my need to be gluten-free. I am very self-sufficient and capable of navigating food at this point in my celiac journey, but it’s always great when others take your needs into consideration!
is celiac disease common in South Korea?
No, not at all. It is extremely rare here in Korea. The only real way to explain to people is letting them know that you have a food allergy, which for me means Google translate on my phone tells them!
what does gluten-free “look like” in South Korea? how are products labeled for allergies?
Gluten-free is not really a thing here and not many people have celiac disease. However, Seoul does have a bit more of a health scene with some vegan places and Seoul now has 2 100% gluten-free spots! The Nilk Factory and Sunny Bread in Seoul are both 100% gluten free bakeries/cafes and are simply amazing! Sunny, the owner of Sunny Bread does have celiac disease and speaks both Korean and English. Both places cater to the gluten-free community, which is huge.
what compelled you to start writing about celiac disease online?
I started my blog after I quit my job at the end of 2016 and wanted to be a voice in the gluten-free community. I was taking off on a big trip to South America and wanted to dive deep into the world of gluten-free and travel. I’ve always had a heart to help people and be a voice for those that can’t stand up for themselves or don’t know how to. I also took a Ryan Robinson class that helped me narrow in on my strengths and focus on the ideas that I wanted to validate.
I’ve been focusing a lot of my attention on Instagram and gluten-free food to help those needing or wanting to live a gluten-free lifestyle. Where I am trying to focus more of my attention in the upcoming months is on the world of mental health and gluten-free living while traveling. Mental health awareness is still lacking in our world and although we are getting better with the stigma we attach to it, I believe there is a long way to go. I really want to turn my blog and my experience into a voice that can help those who have struggled or are struggling in the same fashion that I used to. I know that I have the training and the story to help so many and want to figure out the way to do so.
what do you hope to add to the community with your advocacy?
One of my main goals with my blog is to offer free gluten-free travel guides. I want to break down barriers that you can’t travel with celiac disease. I also want to start talking about mental health and how food can truly impact your mental state!
do you have a great celiac/food allergy tip to share?
Always have snacks! I cannot think of a time when I do not have a bar or almonds on me.
what are some tips a celiac should keep in mind while traveling abroad?
The biggest tips I would recommend when traveling abroad are: 1. Download a gluten-free travel card for whatever language of the country you will be traveling to. 2. Do some research ahead of time. There are so many amazing resources now on where to eat. Look on Instagram, Twitter, anywhere that you can search hashtags has been my new favorite way to find gluten-free food in cities. I’m also coming out with a 100% gluten-free guide at the end of this month, that will be a huge resource for places all over the world. 3. Do not fear traveling as a result of your celiac! Bring some snacks in your luggage. It is challenging, but it has gotten so much easier and there are resources to help you.I want to encourage people that travel is definitely possible!
what’s your celiac/food allergy pet peeve or myth you want to see gone for good?
I have many, but I’ll pick just two for now. One is that gluten-free food tastes bad. It has gotten so much better and now there are tons of options! The other is that celiac is an allergy. It is an autoimmune disease! (<—amen!)
what are some of your favorite allergy-friendly foods/brands?
do you have a favorite recipe to share?
I have too many favorite recipes, honestly! But I’m going to be working on developing more of my own recipes in the future.
This really isn’t much of a recipe, but it was one of the favorite things I made this year. GF cupcake cones I posted on Instagram that remind you of childhood! I simply used Jessica’s Gluten Free Cake Mix, Joy Cone’s GF Cones, Miss Jones Baking Co. Vanilla Frosting, & Sweetapolita’s Sprinkles, thanks to a collaboration I did with American Gluten Free.
any unique gluten-free meals or food you’ve had in South Korea that we should be jealous about?
My favorite food here is Samgyeopsal (aka Korean BBQ – pork and tons of side), which to me is better here than in the US, and much cheaper! If you live near any authentic Korean places, seriously go eat the BBQ! You will not be disappointed! My other new favorite is Korean dduk: rice cakes that are similar in texture to Japanese mochi. Some contain gluten, so reading labels and asking questions is essential. And kimchi for days upon days in this country, but I do not eat much of it.
what’s one food you wish you could eat “one last time”?
For me, it’s beer I miss most, not food. Most foods have a good GF substitute now! I am still waiting for a good GF Porter or Stout type beer. It may never happen, but that is what I really miss.
what do you hope to see in the future; for yourself and the community relating to celiac/food allergies?
I would also love to connect more with people’s personal stories (the good, the bad, and the ugly) within the gluten-free community. Authentic community over food is what I love most, so please reach out to me anytime!
So tell me:
+ Have You Ever Traveled/Lived Internationally With Celiac Or Food Allergies?
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