Can a family with severe food allergies become full-time missionaries? My spouse and two children under two years have a severe allergy to gluten (celiac disease).

“Our doctor thought food allergies would disappear overseas, and they did.”

Yes, you can serve. My wife suffered with food allergies for years in the US, but when consulting an allergist about how our overseas missions plans might be affected by food allergies, the answer caught us by surprise. We were told the food source would be different and most likely the food allergies would disappear. And she was right. The foods my wife could not eat in the US do not affect her overseas. 

Check with ImmunoLabs to address your condition.

Answer from Darrell, who has served with Pioneers in Peru for one year.

“Know before you go.”

Food differences can be a major factor in a family’s adjustment to a new culture. Our family does not have food allergies but we do have a child with a very restricted diet due to texture sensitivities and more overall anxiety than your average picky eater. The food struggles we faced while living in Asia were not insurmountable, but there was a lot of stress related to how we were going to keep our child well nourished when the local food was so different. 

One major factor was costs. In our city it wasn’t that difficult to find certain American foods (or Asian copy cats), but they were extremely expensive, often 2-3 times what they would be in the US. Even items like apples, grapes, and other produce had to be imported and were very costly; cheese was almost out of the question! 

Knowing what foods are common in the local culture you will be moving into would be helpful to you. In Asia, for instance, rice, rather than wheat, is a staple. This might make a gluten-free diet more easy to accommodate. On the other hand, getting nutrition information to clarify if an item has gluten may be very difficult. Certain other countries may have staple foods more similar to your current diet. Finding them or making your own food from scratch may be a viable option.

Above all, the Lord will use us in spite of all our limitations and weaknesses! He will provide for you and all your needs.

Answer from Rikki, in Colorado, who served in Southeast Asia for one year.

“Celiac disease is not an allergy.”

Just a point of clarification: Celiac disease is not an allergy that may disappear with a different diet or environment. It is a lifelong auto-immune disease that requires a strict gluten-free diet in ALL environments.

I’m currently researching the challenges of maintaining a gluten-free diet in a non-Western country (Cambodia) in anticipation of a move there mid-year (2017). I just thought it important to make the above clarification in case anyone else finds this page, as I did, through the good graces of Mr Google!

Answer from Owen in Australia.

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