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Coeliac on Vacation – How to Eat Gluten Free In Jamaica

by Jenny

I would love some advice on local cuisine in Jamaica. I am a coeliac and because of this, I have to follow a gluten-free diet. If I don't I am really really ill. I wish it were just a diet choice, but it is not.
Would it be best for me to find a hotel that can accommodate my dietary needs, or would you recommend self-catering? Your knowledge on this is very much appreciated.

RESPONSE: by Deon Clarke

Hi Jenny,

Thanks so much for visiting the website and for your question. Very interesting indeed! I will be more than happy to address this for you. Just looking at your question, it just brings into focus what so many persons including myself take for granted – the ability to eat just about anything without worrying about any serious consequences.

For the benefit of those who are not aware of what celiac is let us look at this briefly.

What is Celiac or Coeliac Disease?

Celiac or coeliac disease is a chronic disorder of the immune system that is caused by an intolerance to gluten. When ingested, it causes damage to the lining of the small intestines and causes aftereffects such as weight loss, fatigue, diarrhoea, anaemia, and even bloating. A person who suffers from this disease is called a celiac or coeliac. The difference between the two is really just in the region it is used. In the UK, coeliac is the term normally used and in the U.S. celiac is generally used.

What is Gluten?

And, what is gluten you may ask? This is actually a protein that is found in barley, wheat, and rye. So yes, your favourites – flour, bread, buns, biscuits, malt beverages, stouts, you name it. These all naturally contain gluten. So you get the picture now!

Although there is no cure for coeliac disease, by consuming gluten-free products or by following a strict gluten-free diet, the many symptoms of this disease can be alleviated. There is also an increasing number of gluten-free products now available on the market.

Coeliac in Jamaica

Now that we have these bases covered, let’s look at it from a Jamaican perspective. This disease is not known to be prevalent in Jamaica but is of more European descent and is mostly found among Caucasian persons. Regardless of this fact, gluten-free products can still be found in Jamaica. There are restaurants that provide gluten-free menus and you will certainly be able to find gluten-free menus at most hotels. There are also persons who just want to practice healthier eating habits and so gluten-free products are always an alternative.

Regarding your question, I would certainly suggest you check with the hotel or hotels you intend to stay at and find out about their gluten-free menu options. Most hotels offer gluten-free alternatives for many staple dishes in Jamaica’s cuisine. You might also be able to make special arrangements with them where necessary.

If this is not an option for you, you might just have to self-cater. Don’t worry! Self-catering shouldn’t be too difficult either as gluten-free products, both locally made and imported are available in most, if not all supermarkets in Jamaica. Health Food stores can also be found in and around the major towns across the island. In recent years, many restaurants have opened that only serve gluten-free dishes. So Jenny, coeliac or not, you can still come to Jamaica and enjoy your stay. You certainly have options but the final decision is yours.

I’m happy I was able to provide you with some answers as well as provide some insight to others who have similar concerns or who would just like to be more informed on the matter. I wish you all the best in your search and I trust that as more awareness is shed on this illness, manufacturers will see the need to have an even wider variety of gluten-free products available on the market to make it easier for you and others that have to live a gluten-free lifestyle.

Do let us know how this works out for you. I wish you all the best and hope you have a great vacation!

I also recommend you read Can Diabetics Eat Jamaican Food?


  • “Celiac Disease”,
  • “Exploring celiac disease’”, Jamaica Gleaner,
  • “Miss Birdie Makes Healthy Investment in Gluten Free Line”, Loop News,

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