Hello everyone!! I want to introdce you all to a very brave young lady, Andrea Maul!! Andrea has gone where no SCDer has gone before!!! And with great success took one giant step for her own health and a giant leap for all SCDers. Andrea, with the help of Jodi from the SCD list and me, successfully traveled to France with dehydrated foods. What is so amazing about her trip is that she was still in the beginning stages of the diet. Eating only pureed foods!! Yet she traveled in complete wellness and gained valuable information about traveling abroad. Well I guess I will let her tell you the story!!!
This last spring, I had been adhering to the SCD diet for almost two years, after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in May of 2011. At this point, most of my symptoms had been gone but I was still eating mostly foods that were baby food consistency. I’m a high school French teacher in my late 20s and I had been planning on traveling to France in the summer of 2013. We started planning for this trip two years prior to departure; consequently, I thought that two years would be more than enough time for me to figure-out my UC symptoms. Needless to say, I didn’t know back then what the process of healing looked like and what a lifestyle change it would entail.
So, in the spring, I had to start developing a game plan for my trip. I was amazed, at that point, that I would be able to go on the trip without any symptoms and feeling so much better. Yet, I needed to figure-out a way to experience France while eating the same foods that were healing me and making me feel so good. My first plan was to freeze my food for the ten days or ship food to my hotels in advance. After doing research, I found out that France wouldn’t let me bring in foods that were not pre-packaged, nor any meats/dairy products. Since SCD food isn’t pre-packaged, I knew I was going to have to do some more research on the matter. After voicing my thoughts on the SCD listserv, Jodi on the listserv recommended that I talk with Melanie about her experience with dehydrating foods for camping trips. Prior to this, I had come across Melanie’s blog but I wasn’t sure how I could dehydrate my food that was, essentially, baby food consistency. Around the same time, I found some ideas on blogs of mom’s dehydrating their baby’s food. At this point, I got pretty excited that this idea of dehydrating foods could work!
In April and May, Melanie helped me in experimenting with dehydrating the veggies/fruits that I planned on eating in France. It took some trial and error butwe eventually figured-out how much time was needed to dehydrate specific foods and how much boiling water was needed to reconstitute them. For example, the first couple of times that I dehydrated puréed cauliflower, I had it on too high of a temperature and so it had a slight burnt taste when reconstituted. Also, if I didn’t add the right amount of boiling water, I wouldn’t get the right consistency. Another factor was that I needed to have it sit in an enclosed container that was small, so that way it trapped the heat better. So, after getting that all squared away, with Melanie’s advise, I knew I would be able to eat SCD safe foods on the trip!! Melanie also advised me on buying dehydrated food bags from packitgourmet, and these worked really well for reconstituting my ‘baby food’.
Once school ended, I had a week to prepare my foods before our trip. So, I came up with a master plan of packing enough fruits and veggies for the entire trip (dehydrated). The tour company said that they would be able to provide me with food while I was there (which I was skeptical about), so I planned on eating SCD legal meats at the restaurants. I also planned on buying ripe bananas and avocados while there. Then, besides the dehydrated foods, I also brought SCD almond butter and cans of tuna. I was able to make all of my dehydrated foods in about 3-4 days. My dad made labels for the dehydrated packages so that way they looked ‘official’ and ‘pre-packaged’. In the end I had about 40 packages that really didn’t take much space because they were all dehydrated and flat.The biggest thing I was concerned about, at that point, was whether or not customs would search my bags and if they would say a) that they weren’t officially packaged or b) that I would have too much food (people are allowed to bring only a ‘minimal’ amount of foods into the country). When I arrived at my first hotel, I had a note saying that my bag was searched by the French embassy but all contents were left as they were!!After all of the preparation, my trip went very smoothly! I took packages with me on my carry-on, both ways, and I would simply ask restaurants or the flight crews for hot water, add it to my bags, let it sit, and then eat my meals! Once in France, I followed the same type of protocol. I wasn’t always able to have meat, but I had plenty of protein from tuna, almond butter, avocados, and my packaged meals. I thought that there would be more pure foods available but most of the restaurants that we went to were really into their French cuisine and could only prepare their meats a certain way. Most of the time, I was able to have meat or fish for dinner.Every day, I would pack enough of my packages (which were very light to be carrying around) for the day. I ate my breakfasts in my hotel, where I had brought a hot water kettle. I would sometimes pre-make my lunches and put into thermoses that I bought that kept food cold or hot for 5 hours. Then, I would bring packages for dinner and if the restaurant couldn’t provide me with foods, I would get hot water to reconstitute my foods. Since I got into a routine and everything was so easy, I wasn’t dwelling on my food issue all day. I was able to enjoy the excursions, the beautiful country, and my students….while feeling healthy! It was an absolute miracle that I was able to enjoy the trip, after having such bad symptoms and such a limited food diet.When I arrived back home, I felt so much more mobile and less constricted by my dietary needs! I felt and still feel like I can do all of the traveling that I have wanted to do by using the same exact tactic. In the future, I hope to be able to dehydrate more advanced meals like SCD lasagna or stews. Still, it’s encouraging to know that this type of traveling is possible even with puréed foods! The help and advise from Jodi and Melanie was amazing. They both encouraged me through the whole process and kept me motivated in figuring-out a solution. I thank God for bringing such people into my life, for allowing it to all work-out, and for giving me such healing that I was able to enjoy my trip.
And we thank you Adrea for taking such a brave step and clearing the way for all SCDers to travel with dehydrated foods no matter what stage they are in.
Andrea also has information on how to label your foods for travel abroad, menus and lables that were lovingly made by her awesome dad. This post is further proof that you don't have to be limited on the SCD diet from primative hiking/camping in the Mountains of New Mexico to traveling abroad, you can be secure that you will remain digestively well by dehydrating and planning ahead!! Happy Traveling... SCD style!!!!