Central America, El Salvador, general

Celiac in El Salvador: Celiacos El Salvador

ACELYSESOn Monday, you read about Candice of Embrace Gluten-Free’s trip to El Salvador. Today, I want to tell you about the Celiac Association of El Salvador officially known as Asociación de Celíacos y Sensibles al Gluten de El Salvador (ACELYSES). Started in 2010, ACELYSES “is a nonprofit organization created to help improve the living conditions of people with celiac disease and gluten-sensitive in the country.”

With an active Facebook page and an interesting (yet not so active) blog, the Asociación de Celíacos y Sensibles al Gluten de El Salvador is a great resource for those with Celiac Disease living or traveling to El Salvador.

For those of you that can read Spanish, there is a very comprehensive and FREE e-book that the ACELYSES made me aware of and contributed to available online now. This book is called “Enfermedad celíaca y sensibilidad al gluten no celíaca” or “Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.’ This is a great resource for those of you living with Celiac in a Spanish-speaking country.

According to ACELYSES and translated via Google translate:

In El Salvador celiac disease is still a little known entity. Between July and August 2012 we have studied the human leukocyte antigen HLA-DQ in 35 confirmed celiac patients, 30 relatives of celiacs and others who were in the process to rule whether or not suffering from celiac disease. The process of typing of HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 consisted extracting genomic DNA from peripheral blood in EDTA. By means of polymerase chain reaction amplified exon 2 to generate amplicons typing low to medium resolution. Tipando in a medium in combined single strand conformation polymorphism assay heteroduplex by a semiautomated gel electrophoresis and staining method the PhastSystem.

The series includes people between 19 and 77 years, of the 35 celiac (27 women and 8 men), are inhabitants of urban areas, 33 with biopsy compatible with CD and two who have not yet practiced them. Were 26 positive carriers risk heterodimers, with the following distribution: 15 HLA-DQ8 (12 women and 3 men), 9 HLA-DQ2 (5 women and 4 men), 2 women HLA-DQ2 and DQ8 and 9 cases of people No No DQ8 DQ2. Of the 21 relatives belonging to 7 groups confirmed celiac relatives: 17 were carriers of risk alleles.

The results of these studies on HLA-DQ are the first to be published in El Salvador and confirm the clinical diagnosis of celiac disease.

Please share this with your Spanish-speaking doctors to educate them about Celiac Disease! You can find the entire PDF here: Enfermedad celíaca y sensibilidad al gluten no celíaca

Central America, El Salvador

Guest Post: Gluten-Free Travel in El Salvador

I am thrilled to share today’s guest post with my readers. Today’s post comes from Candice of Embrace G-Free. I randomly “met” Candice through a giveaway on my Gluten-Free Fun blog a few years ago. We kept in touch after her win, finally met in person after many emails and Tweets, and she soon started her own blog: Embrace G-Free. Candice is a strong and encouraging young woman who recently took her first gluten-free trip outside of the United States. In her guest post, Candice shares her stores of a service trip to El Salvador.  I am so proud of Candice for overcoming her fears of gluten-free travel and thrilled that she shared her story with us today. I highly encourage you to follow Candice’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Her posts are very honest, emotional, and inspiring. Thank you Candice for today’s post! 

Embrace G-Free in El Salvador

 1st Day in El Salvador - Hiking at La Puerta del Diablo
1st Day in El Salvador – Hiking at La Puerta del Diablo

Since I was little I have always had aspirations of traveling and seeing the world. I am blessed to have parents who love to travel and have been fortunate to travel to many breathtaking destinations both domestically and internationally.

Traveling is one of my many passions, and I have a list of places I want to see. However, my ultimate dream is to travel to Italy, and I want to go on a cross-country adventure, since one of my goals in life is to see all 50 states.

Another passion of mine is to engage in service activities. Service became a huge part of my life in high school, but was then fostered by my Jesuit education at The University of Scranton. Throughout my undergraduate career I engaged in many domestic service activities which all have made an impression on my life. In engaging in many service opportunities, I have not only had the privilege to serve others, but they have taught me so much about life, myself, and have helped me develop an understanding about cultures that are different from my own.

Last Group Shot Before we headed on the plane to USA
Last Group Shot Before we headed on the plane to USA

Since I step foot on Scranton’s campus I knew I wanted to be apart of Campus Ministries’ International Service Program. However, after being diagnosed with gluten-sensitivity during my sophomore year, this dream seemed unreachable.

How could I safely follow a gluten-free diet, while being immersed in another culture?

Not only did going on an international service trip seem daunting, but traveling in general seemed like a stressful task when I first received the news that I had to be gluten-free. However, as time moved on and I began to gain more confidence I began to realize that just because I had to be on a gluten-free diet, did not mean I had to stop chasing my dreams.

Active Volcano - On Bus during Guatemala Day Trip
Active Volcano – On Bus during Guatemala Day Trip

It took a lot of support and encouragement, but four years later, during my first year of graduate school at The University of Scranton, I succeeded in my dream of participating in Scranton’s International Service Program (ISP) and traveled to El Salvador this past May. To say this was a trip of a lifetime is an understatement, and I can’t fully express how wonderful this trip was.

Traveling to El Sal was different then any other trip I had taken. Unlike many of the travel posts you read on Erin’s blog, I can’t provide recommendations on the best gluten-free/ accommodating restaurants to eat at when traveling to El Salvador, because as part of ISP we were immersed in the culture and lived at Casa Voluntariado Santa Rafaela Maria (Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus).

One of the painting at our host site.
One of the painting at our host site.

That being said, I was able to enjoy many authentic Salvadorian foods which was made by the outstanding cooks each night. My favorite meal which the cooks made were Pupusa, which is a traditional Salvadoran dish; tortillas are stuffed with pork, beans, and cheese – when made this way they are called “Crazy Pupusa”. However, the cooks only made theirs with beans and cheese. This was a naturally gluten-free meal, however, they made me a special Pupusa with just beans, since I can’t have dairy. Although I was not able to eat all the same meals as my group I was thrilled I could have a Pupusa, plus the rice was amazing! My host site was more then accommodating and Sr. Gloria (our host) was always making sure I had enough to eat!

When going on a trip like this, preparation was key! I worked well in advance with the ISP program director to select a host site which would best accommodate my needs. Everyday we were at work sites during lunch so we all made PB & J in the morning. This made it easy because all I needed to do was make sure I traveled down with plenty of gluten-free bread, almond butter, and many gluten-free snacks. Schar Deli Style bread traveled well in my suitcase and is great because it has a longer shelf life. Additionally it was helpful to travel down with individual almond butter packets from Barney’s Butter. I also made sure I brought down my Triumph Dining card and made an allergy card on Allergy Translation, which was a great suggestion by Erin for my additional food allergies. This helped tremendously with the language barrier!

This is part of the memorial they have for all those who died or who went missing during El Salvadorian Civil War
This is part of the memorial they have for all those who died or who went missing during El Salvadorian Civil War

Overall, the biggest message I want you to hear from this post is just because you have celiac or gluten-sensitivity doesn’t mean you can’t travel or go on an immersion trip like I did. Although food is central in so many of our experiences, it doesn’t always have to be the center of your attention. To me traveling down to El Sal (and taking a day trip to Guatemala) was so much more then the food I ate. It has only been 2 months since I took this trip and honestly the memories of the food I ate are not as clear, but the memories of the people who I met grow stronger everyday. I saw more beauty in a week; in a place which is so impoverished, then I have ever seen in my lifetime.

After traveling to El Salvador, I can honestly say that although nothing will compare to my first international service trip, seeing a country in this way is something I want to do again. This trip and overall planning experience was a blessing in so many ways. Not only did I get to combine my love for travel and service, but overcoming my worries to pursue this dream made me truly believe that my traveling aspirations don’t have revolve around my dietary restrictions. I promise you, with a little extra planning and preparation it all works out!