I was excited to be able to interview Claudia from Germany. Claudia was 52 years old when she found out she had celiac disease. She has had stomach pain since she was 18 years old. Her mother passed away from stomach cancer a few years ago, prompting Claudia to investigate her symptoms.
Since she has stopped eating gluten, casein, and lactose she no longer has stomach issues. Claudia has two daughters and a sister that also has celiac disease.
What do you find to be the most challenging part of living with celiac disease?
"So far the social life." Claudia goes on to explain that many people don't really understand celiac disease.
Are there any positives that you feel came from your diagnosis?
"Yes, now I eat healthier." With her diagnosis, Claudia has been able to encourage "other relatives and friends to be diagnosed."
Eating out in Germany
How knowledgeable is the food industry in regard to Celiac disease?
"From 1 to 10 (10 is the best) Germany has a 2, there is no information, the restaurants don't know, and the products are not well labeled. It is important to say Germany has a higher tolerance of gluten than other countries. If one celiac person comes to Germany and only eats GF products in a few weeks they will be sick...from the gluten."
Claudia explains that the menus are not clearly marked for gluten-free food. It's hard to find 100% gluten-free food in restaurants. She explains "If they (restaurants) have something GF it has cross-contamination." She explains that it is frustrating because restaurants will say to her the lettuce is gluten-free, but it is all cross-contaminated.
Buying gluten-free food
Is it easy for you to find gluten-free options at the grocery store?
"Now is better, every day is better compared to 3 years ago. But compared with Latinoamerica or with Spain, Germany is still late."
Claudia explains that her biggest struggle with eating gluten-free in Germany is "unclear labeling." She also explains that many are not educated about gluten-free. They think they understand it but they really don't. Claudia says that eating gluten-free is more expensive which is similar to other countries. Similar to the United States the German government does not help with the expense of gluten-free food.
Do you have to worry about gluten in your medicine?
"Yes, in my vitamins, and when I need some antibiotics, I must warn (about celiac)."
Travel in Germany
If someone was coming to Germany for the first time, what places you would recommend?
Claudia says that this is a difficult question as "there are only a few 100 percent GF (restaurants), there many restaurants with “alternatives” but that is only good when you are intolerant not when you are celiac."
A few places Claudia recommends visiting in Germany are:
Frankfurt-she recommends Isabella
Würzburg-she recommends Vrohstoff
Erfurt-she recommends Cognito
Kassel-she recommends Ginko
Thank you Claudia for some locations to visit in Germany as well as restaurants!
Claudia, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. I hope eating out as a celiac gets easier for all of us. It is difficult and can be quite frustrating. My hope is that if we all continue to educate others and advocate for better labeling and training in the restaurant industry we will be able to eat out without such difficulty.