Category Archives: Encouragement & Helpful Hints

Encouragement for soyvivors.

Holiday Parties: Safety vs. Social Expectations

I have served as a mentor for college students for many years. One of the hard questions that that comes up often is “Would you rather be right or would you rather get what you want and need?” There are many general situations in life when our egos can get in the way of getting what we want and need. For instance, I may argue way too long with someone just to prove I am right instead of working towards a solution that gives me what I needed in the first place.

Food allergies can complicate these situations even further. We all have a need for others to understand where we are coming from, not just because it makes us feel better, but because it also ensures our safety.

The holidays bring up all sorts of issues that we may not have to deal very often at other times of the year. For instance, if your holiday work party is coming up, do you stay silent and hope there will be something you can eat, or do you speak up and make sure your needs are met? Do you bring your own food to Aunt Sally’s party, even though she does not understand food allergies and will be hurt that you won’t try her great-grandmother’s stuffing recipe?

You may even have other allergies or family members that have other food allergies. For instance, I have a serious poinsettia allergy (those bright red flowers you see everywhere during the holidays) which makes it impossible for me to spend any length of time at a grocery store or many restaurants. When I attend a party, I struggle with whether to talk first to the host about my food allergies or my poinsettia allergy.

There are some tough decisions to make. For those with food allergies, “being right” is not necessarily about ego. It is about being safe and staying well. At the same time, when what you want most is to make a good impression at that work party or spend some quality time with Aunt Sally, how do you find the balance between being right AND getting what you want?

First, it is important to think about what you want to say before you pick up the phone, but it is also important to respond very quickly. You want to try to respond within a day or so of receiving the invitation so that you and host have plenty of time to prepare. The more time you both have, the more likely you will be safe and also have a great time.

For me, one way I have dealt with host conversations has been to start with the fact that I am struggling with balancing what I want with what I need AND show that I have already spent some time thinking about the solution. 

I will usually say something like, “What I want most is to spend time with you without causing any complications for you. I have some serious food allergies, but I have some ideas on some solutions that could be fairly simple and allows me to spend time with you.” In this scenario, I have stated twice that I really want to spend time with this person (which is the most important to me) and also reiterated that this situation is feasible for both me and for the host. At this point I usually suggest bringing my own food, bringing a dish that everyone can eat, or eating beforehand.

When it comes to allowing the host to cook something for you, I would say that this is a very individual decision. I only have a couple of people in my life that I trust to cook something for me, and that is only when I have approved the ingredients beforehand. However, that does not mean that there are situations that could work for someone to cook for you.

All of these situations are things that an AllerCoach could help you with, such as deciding what to say to the host, what to bring to the party, or deciding if the hostess can provide food.

I have had success in working with hosts so far, but there are situations when your suggestions can be met with rude comments or even dismissal of your needs. In this case, your need to be right (and safe) may be more important than getting what you want, because you don’t want to end up with an allergic event as a result. This is a great opportunity to reiterate what you want (“I want to spend time with you!”), state again that you have a serious medical condition, remind them that there are solutions, and perhaps give them some time to think about your request. In most cases, a little time can be what is needed to turn the situation around.

Calling All Soyvivors: What situations have you dealt with over the holidays?

Restaurants with Allergen Menus

It’s time for school to start, which means that life is about to get busy for a lot of us. My husband and I were accustomed to eating out a lot before my soy allergy, and there are days when I want so badly to grab takeout and forgo the cooking.

Many chain restaurants are now posting their allergen menus. However, there is one thing that I have found to be necessary:

No matter how much information is contained in an allergy menu, it is still important to notify your server and/or a manager that you have allergies.

The thing about soy is that there are some foods containing soy that the FDA does not require manufacturers or restaurants to report. Your meal could still contain soybean oil, soy lecithin, ingredients derived from soy, or “proprietary” ingredients like spices, natural flavorings, and artificial flavorings. There are also cross-contamination and food preparation issues to discuss. I have also had situations where allergen menus were wrong, and of course, we all know that ingredients can change at any time. 😦 The restaurant manager is your best resource for catching any recent changes or errors.

With that in mind, if you are still feeling adventurous, below is a list of restaurants I have found that either provide their allergen menu online or have one to review in their restaurant. This does not mean that I have eaten at these restaurants or endorse them. I highly recommend the Allergy Eats website and app if you want to find out how others rate restaurants in your area.

When eating out, I generally avoid salad dressings and substitute extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon for my salad dressing. It’s also best to check to make sure that your salad has not been coated with preservatives (a hidden source of soy.) Stay away from complex carbohydrates like bread, chips, and hamburger buns.  Always make sure that your hamburger is 100% pure beef.

I will also share one restaurant that many soy allergy survivors talk about, and that is Five Guys Burger and Fries. Many of us have tried their plain fries (cooked in peanut oil) along with a bunless burger.

Calling All Soyvivors: Are there other restaurants with which you have had good experiences?

 

Time Saving Tips for a Soy Free Lifestyle

Many Soyvivors were leading a busy life before they found out about their allergy. They may have been working full-time, raising children, caring for aging parents, or many other of life’s challenges that keep us moving constantly. A food allergy discovery can be devastating to those that have absolutely no time for the hours and hours of research, shopping, phone calls, cooking, medical appointments, emotional turmoil, and self care that all arrive simultaneously like a big slap in the face.

If you have just found out about your allergy, or you have been struggling with the enormous amount of work involved in dealing with your allergy, know that taking some time off from your busy schedule could be critical to the rest of your life. If there is any way that you can take some extensive time off, you definitely need to, and even if it’s a day off, do it NOW. You need time to learn to cook again, learn to shop again, memorize soy ingredients, call manufacturers about food, household, beauty, and medicinal products, and take time to connect with other soy survivors that can give you invaluable advice.

I have a few tips for all of us on our quest to live a happy, soy free life:

  • If you just discovered your soy allergy, you must seek help from a medical professional right away that can give you long-term care and advice.
  • Until you have time to research all of the products you need and test how you react to products, stick to this simple rule of cooking: Only cook whole foods that have not been fed any soy with 100% pure spices and non-soy oils (coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, etc.) This basically means cooking from scratch for now until you can research and connect.
  • Try to have at least 2-3 soy free items in your fridge or freezer at all times that can be eaten quickly and with little “fuss” that don’t require cooking from scratch. Here are some ideas:
  1. Soy-Free Bread (check Out Rudi’s options), Justin’s Almond Butter, and pure Honey for sandwiches
  2. A Soy-Free Pizza (Try Amy’s Soy Free Options)
  3. Salad Mix with Some Sliced Almonds
  4. A baked potato with toppings
  5. A high-quality frozen lunch option (Amy’s has some great soy-free options)
  6. Quesadillas (Udi’s has a soy free tortilla, but not all products are soy free)
  7. Applegate Natural Uncured Hot Dogs (Applegate has a lot of soy free options, but not all are soy free. They can provide you with a list of items with soy.)
  • Take 2-3 hours each week to cook a batch of something for your freezer that you can use on busy evenings when you do not feel like or have time to cook. Here are some ideas for this:
  1. If you can tolerate chicken, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (no clean-up!) and bake on 350 for 15 minutes. You can put individuals tenderloins in sandwich bags and then put all sandwich bags in a larger freezer bag. Freeze and reheat when needed.
  2. Bake some fish using the method above for 10 minutes. Freeze.
  3. If you can tolerate beans, cook a package of dried beans and freeze. You can try putting a cup of beans each in sandwich bags and freeze all in a large freezer bag.
  4. Cook a large package of rice and freeze using the method above.
  5. Cook a large batch of some of your favorite recipes. My lentils recipe, my slow cooker curry chicken, or my tomato-less spaghetti freezes well.

You will be surprised at how quickly you will fill your freezer with meals that you can use when you just don’t feel like or have the time to cook.

You may also find one or two restaurants in your area that can offer a soy free carry-out option. For me, I love plain wings and a tossed salad from Mellow Mushroom, or a baked potato and a garden salad from Wendy’s with some sliced almonds added for protein.

Planning your meals a week at a time can also be a huge time saver. I have four weeks worth of meals on a spreadsheet along with the shopping list for each meal. I copy and paste what I want for the week which creates my shopping list from there. It keeps me from having to spend precious time and energy during the week stressing about what I am going to cook and making unnecessary trips to the grocery. I will share my meal spreadsheet in upcoming blog posts.

Also take some time to think about how others in your household can help you. They may be more than willing to help you when they find that it relieves a lot of stress and creates more harmony in the house. For instance, because of my reflux, I have to eat early before my husband arrives home from work. We have an agreement that I will cook and he will clean up. You may find that some of your children can help with the dishes or your older children may be able to help with soy product research. If your nearest health food store is a bit of a drive from your home, ask others to pick up items from you if they are visiting, and offer to do the same for them when you shop.

I would love to hear about your time saving tips for thriving with a soy free life! Please share in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating With a Food Allergy

Happy Independence Day to Everyone (a day early)! Shortly after Independence Day is my birthday, and it is another reminder of how drastically my life has changed. I was brought to tears this week by a simple question from my husband.

“Honey, what do you want for your birthday this year?”

In previous years, I would have asked for one of the following: a nice meal at a fancy restaurant, an overnight weekend trip, a pedicure, a gift card to buy beauty products or cosmetics, and the list goes on. The birthday celebration would have followed with a birthday party at my parents’ house with all kinds of delicious high-fat, high-carb celebratory foods and desserts along with several visits to restaurants offering birthday coupons over the course of the month.

When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year, I realized how quickly I had been stripped of my creature comforts and how much my life had truly changed. I had no idea what I wanted for my birthday, because all of my go-to habits of celebration and gifts were gone.

But that is when the word “habit” caused me to take a moment and think. Soy Allergy has a lot of downsides, but is it so bad that I have been challenged to rethink all of my old habits?

Perhaps this is actually one of the best things about being allergic to soy. You are forced to think about what you really want instead of relying on the old habits of what you thought you wanted.

My birthday celebration is becoming one of the best yet. First, I had a lovely meal of fresh tacos with my husband, parents, brother, sister-in-law, and precious nephews. My dear Mother made a to-die-for banana pudding with vanilla wafers made from scratch. In years’ past, we would have eaten ourselves silly to the point that we would all sit on the couch and do nothing afterwards. Instead, we all went outside and took a walk and played badminton. Our topic of conversation: the great new farmer’s market in town that we were all hoping to visit. It was much better than a meal at a fancy restaurant, where I would have been a nervous wreck wondering if the cook had made a mistake that could send me to the hospital. What kind of birthday would that be?

My husband and I are planning a day trip to the mountains to celebrate my birthday. I opted not to plan an overnight trip since I wanted my day to be as uncomplicated and care-free as possible. I know that we will have just as much fun as we did before my soy allergy discovery.

I have learned that I have something to be thankful for:

My soy allergy has forced me to get rid of many of the material things that I thought I needed to be happy, and it has made me realize even more that the things that really make me happy have no price tag and do not come in gift packages or food packages!

It sounds cliche, but once again, this very challenging situation has become one of the best things that has happened to me.

Just a side note: There is a great website that has provided a lot of inspiration for simplifying my life. It’s called Be More With Less, and I found it to be really helpful in my quest for finding what is really important in life.

Calling All Soyvivors: How has soy changed your life? Are there other ways that you have found to celebrate holidays and birthdays?

Book Review: Food Allergy Guide To Soy

UPDATE as of 4/29/17: Amy’s website no longer offers a search feature for soy free meals. It does offer allergen information for each product, but it does not offer customized search options for specific allergens.

I was really excited to see a new book dedicated to soy allergies on Amazon! It’s called Food Allergy Guide to Soy: How to Eat Safely and Well Soy-Free by Bill Bowling. It’s available in paperback as well as a Kindle edition. I immediately started reading so that I could pass along my thoughts, and I believe this is a “must read” book for anyone allergic to soy. Even if you have been dealing with your soy allergy for a while, I believe there will be something new for you in this book that makes it worth the purchase.

Bill Bowling’s wife has been allergic to soy for quite some time, so this book contains a lot of great information based on research. The author refrains from “bashing” soy, and gives you an unbiased view on the history of soy and its relationship to our food supply. His ingredient information is thorough, although as we all know, it is almost impossible to list all soy ingredients and their derivatives. Glycerin and Citric Acid are two that I have personally dealt with that were not included in the book, but the list is more comprehensive than most I have seen. I believe it will be helpful to everyone.

There is a great practice section where you are presented with a real product and its ingredients, and you have the opportunity to test your knowledge to see if you can tell if there is soy in the product or not. Then the author explains the ingredient list and explores whether or not the product contains soy. This is a great section for those that are new to soy.

The author also includes discussions on soy in medications and non-food products, which are items that have been big issues for me. There is also a discussion on how it seems that once you find that you are allergic to soy, you start questioning the ingredients in all of your products. I have definitely found this to be the case for me, and it was reassuring to see that others were also shocked by the number of unknown and harmful substances in our food supply.

The final portion of the book contains a resource section on everything from helpful books to websites. I actually had an “Aha!” moment when the author mentioned the Amy’s website for food products. I had always loved Amy’s products, but had not had the time to research soy free options. Amy’s website allows you to search for a particular allergen and generates recommendations for you. I had one of my favorite Amy’s dishes for the first time today since my soy allergy diagnosis and it was a great feeling. I believe that the resource section alone makes it worth purchasing the book.

There are a couple of items that I would like to see in the next version of the book. In the Kindle version, there are some formatting and grammatical issues. I would also like to see more discussion about soy free non-food products and medications, and a mention that medications are not required to label for the top allergens (as I found out the hard way with more than one medication.)

Overall, this book was very informative, and yet it was a quick and easy read. If you would like to purchase, here’s the link to my Amazon Store.

Calling All Soyvivors: Are there other books about soy allergy that you would recommend?

Enjoying A Soy Free Summer

Enjoying a soy free summer can require a lot of planning, packing, and patience. My husband and I plan out-of-town day trips a few times a month, and it can be stressful but worth it. We are going to be taking a week’s vacation in August, and I am already planning! Below are some of the tips that I have learned that will hopefully save you some time and planning.

Items You Will Need

  • Coolers and ice packs are essential. You can even buy electric coolers that have an adaptor for electricity and your car, but I just use an old-fashioned cooler.
  • Storage containers
  • Silverware: I stash any unused plasticware that we get at fast food chains and keep it in my car’s glove compartment for emergencies.
  • Other soy-free summer traveling essentials: sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, travel soap; Note: most commercial products contain soy. See my reviews below for product recommendations
  • A good chain restaurant available at your destination just in case the food you have packed isn’t enough. For me, I eat a garden salad and baked potato at Wendy’s. Occasionally I will eat chili with my baked potato, but beware that the chili contains soybean oil for those that are allergic. And for those of you looking for dessert, the Frosty is soy free (and who doesn’t want dessert?!)

Food

Freezing complete meals is great, but I also try to cook and freeze some items that can be used in many different recipes.

  • Soak, cook, and freeze dried chickpeas to make hummus. Then, when you’re ready to travel, you can just throw the chickpeas in the blender, add a little olive oil and some spices (garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper) and you are ready to go. You can make hummus roll-ups with tortillas or add veggies and chips to hummus for a complete meal. (Just a reminder that some folks that are allergic to soy are also allergic to other legumes like chickpeas.)
  • Bake a cookie sheet of organic chicken tenderloins and freeze them. When you’re ready to travel, add defrosted chicken to a green salad or see my recipe for soy free curry chicken salad with yummy grapes, apples, and celery.
  • Another great on-the-go recipe: Mozzarella, tomato, fresh basil and olive oil. Slice the mozzarella and tomato, top with fresh basil, drizzle with olive oil, and serve with a side of soy-free chips. It makes a great snack or meal.
  • Another idea that I want to try: Cold soups like gazpacho. They would freeze well, pack well, and be a great addition to your cooler.
  • Fruit: It packs well and is a great snack with a protein like nuts, pumpkin seeds, or string cheese.

Other items that do not need a cooler:

  • LARABARS (Non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, and Soy Free)
  • Soy Free Nuts or Pumpkin Seeds (watch for “may contain” statements)
  • Travel Packets of Almond Butter
  • Rice Cakes or Rice Chips (Rice cakes and almond butter are great and filling!)
  • Corn Tortilla Chips or Popcorn

Sunscreen, Bug Spray, and Soy-Free Travel Kits

Sunscreen

My sunscreen of choice is California Baby’s sunscreen. It is highly rated through the Environmental Working Group and is free of peanuts, soy, and dairy. I also reconfirmed with CeraVe that their entire product line is free from gluten, wheat, milk, soy, nuts, and egg. Note as of 7/1/14: I no longer recommend CeraVe as a soy free product. I usually need to order my sunscreen, so it is good to know that there is a product in pharmacies and grocery stores that I can grab in a pinch.

Bug Spray

A great bug spray is also made by California Baby, and it has a great, light citrus smell. I haven’t tested it in mosquito-infested areas yet, but the reviews are very good.

Soap and Hand Sanitizer

Sometimes I think that I react just as badly to the soy in bath and body products as I do to foods. Commercial hand soap can be the worst for me. I carry a small squeeze bottle of soy free soap in my purse when I travel and go to work. My favorite soap is made by Sun & Earth. I also recently discovered that Hugo Naturals makes soy free hand sanitizer. I ordered two varieties and like them both, but if you are like me and are sensitive to fragrances, I would recommend the Lavender. The scent is a little milder than the Vanilla Peppermint.

Soy-Free Travel Kits

Gone are the days when I can run into a store and grab travel size products for my trip. Two companies to try: Hugo Naturals and California Baby.

I hope you all have a safe and soy free summer!

Calling All Soyvivors: Do you have other great travel foods or products? Please share in the comments below!

 

 

Which Ingredients and Products Require Soy Labels?

Label reading can come with so much confusion and frustration, and calling a manufacturer about a product can be even more frustrating. I cannot tell you how many times a company has told me to go read the ingredients and actually thought they were being helpful.

For many products, reading a label will not tell you everything you need to know.

I have read a lot of differing opinions on what legislation covers when it comes to soy allergy. I am no lawyer, but I am going to tell you what I believe it does and does not cover based on my own experiences with calling companies. Click here for tips on how to call companies about their products.

Label Reading

Whether legislation covers a label or not, you will need to read every single ingredient as well as watching for the “Contains: Soy” label. Sometimes you will see soy in the ingredient list, and other times you will see it listed underneath as a warning, but there isn’t a method to how soy is listed. Also look for long, technical words that contain “soy” somewhere in the middle of the word.

Packaged foods

Packaged foods are covered if they directly contain soy, but NOT if they contain soybean oil or soy lecithin, and not if the ingredients are “derived” from soy. For example, if your spaghetti sauce has the words “spices,” “natural flavors,” or “artificial flavors,” then that could be a red flag. Where did these ingredients come from? Soy could be included in the processing.

This is where my one-page soy ingredient list is helpful when label reading. If you aren’t familiar with an ingredient, do not buy it, and if the ingredient is on the soy ingredient list, you will need to call and verify that the ingredient is not derived from soy.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruits and vegetables are not covered and can contain coatings with soy and other chemicals. Buy organic whenever possible, but know that soy can be organic too, and therefore could still be on your fresh fruits and vegetables. If you find that you are sensitive to fruits and vegetables, try thoroughly washing them or peeling them. I use a spray bottle with one cup of water to 1 tbsp of white vinegar to wash my fruits and veggies.

Medications

Medications are NOT COVERED, and I know this because I have had reactions from undeclared soy in both prescription and non-prescription drugs. I think that this is one of the biggest food allergy atrocities that I am aware of to date. I spent a lot of time calling over-the-counter antihistamines a couple of weeks ago to find that some of them are including soy without labeling. If an allergy manufacturer is doing this, you can bet others are too.

I also had an experience with my pharmacist in which he told me that most prescriptions do not contain soy and I had nothing to worry about. WRONG. I had an allergic reaction a few days later only to find that my prescription acid reflux medication contained soy.  No wonder I had acid reflux. 🙂 I have now been able to completely eliminate the prescription acid reflux medicine and rely solely on over-the-counter remedies. It all goes back to the fact that you can read an ingredient label all day long, but that will not tell you if the glycerin, the magnesium stearate, the glycols, the cellulose, etc. is derived from soy.

Below are just a few medication categories that you should be aware of, but there are many more:

  • Antihistamines (even dye free)
  • Acid Reflux Medications
  • Hormonal medications, such as birth control (soy is a phytoestrogen)                                
  • Pain Relievers
  • Any type of liquid medication or inhalant
  • Decongestants and Expectorants
  • Cough Medications and Throat/Cough Lozenges

I would also recommend researching heat patches or general bandages. I put a antibacterial bandage on my finger for a cut a couple of days ago, and I received a tell-tale rash.

Bath, Body and Household Products

I have spent countless hours researching this area, and I would estimate that 98% or more of the bath, body, cosmetic, and household products that you will find in a mainstream grocery or pharmacy contain soy and are NOT labeled. In fact, because soy has a lot of benefits (to those not allergic), many cosmetic companies specifically add and even market soy as an ingredient. Most of the products that I use are ordered online through my Allergy Friendy Store although you may be able to find some soy free products in health food stores.

Below is a list of products that you should beware of:

  • makeup
  • shampoo/conditioner/hair styling products
  • soaps and body wash
  • moisturizers and lip balms
  • laundry/dishwasher detergents and dishwashing liquids (including fabric softeners and scent crystals)
  • toothpaste
  • contact solution
  • household cleaning products
  • razor blades with moisturizing strips
  • Some toilet paper and baby wipes
  • Fragrances
  • Hand Soap (I carry soap with me in public because of bad reactions.)

Other Surprise Sources

Below are a few other items that you should look for that may not be labeled for soy:

  • Pesticides
  • Liquid Smoke (Does eating barbecue make you sick?)
  • New Cast Iron Pans (Can be seasoned with soybean oil).
  • Plastic Bags and Bottles
  • The actual cans and plastics in which foods are stored
  • Pet Food
  • Craft Materials (glue, paints, candle making kits, etc.)
  • Soy ink (found in magazines, newspapers, packaging, wrapping paper, fabrics, desk calendars, etc.)
  • Cardboard boxes (includes those file folders at work!)
  • Carpets, Upholstery, Mattresses, and Cars
  • Clothing
  • Biodiesel fuels
  • Soy dust from bakeries, the bulk bin aisle at the health food store, or shipyards.

Calling All Soyvivors: What have your experiences been with soy labeling? Leave your stories in the comments below!

How To Call Companies About Food Allergy Ingredients

Calling companies about soy ingredients can be tough. Most of the folks that you will contact do not understand soy allergies and will need some help from you to get the answer you need.

First, mentally prepare yourself for a positive interaction. Try to see this as an opportunity to educate others about food allergies, and harness the power of your inner charm and kindness.

There are horror stories out there of companies that refuse to speak to anyone but a professional, but I have not had this experience after making dozens of phone calls. Be prepared that the answer you receive may not be the answer you were hoping for, but by calling, you have reminded another company that they need consider those of us with food allergies.

Your phone call could have a much greater impact than you could possibly know.

Next, find the company phone number along with the active and inactive ingredients for the product. Be prepared to mention specific ingredients that are of concern. I would recommend calling, because many companies do not want to provide written statements about allergens.

A note about prescription medications: you will need to get the name of the manufacturer from your prescription bottle or pharmacy. Your pharmacy or doctor may not be able to give you an accurate answer as to whether prescriptions contain soy, because many soy ingredients are not labeled. A pharmacist once told me that I had nothing to worry about, and I had a reaction days later.

You may also want to Google the product, but only review product information directly from the company. I have had many blogs and independent websites to recommend soy free products that were not actually soy free when contacting the company directly.

Think about how you want to introduce your situation clearly and concisely before you pick up the phone. You are welcome to borrow my statement:

“Hi, I am Alanna, and I have a serious allergy to soy. I see your ingredients here for _____ product, but many times soy isn’t listed even when the product contains soy. I need to know if your product contains ingredients that are derived from soy.”

For me, the word “derived” seems to be the magic word, especially when it comes to items like medications and beauty products.

DO NOT initially tell them about any reactions you have had to the product. You can do this after you get the information you need. If you tell them about reactions in the beginning, they may not give you any information because for fear of a lawsuit.

When you call, you may be presented with a few “phone tree” options. Do not choose the option to report an allergic reaction, but use the option that allows you to ask about ingredients or product information. If you are actually having a serious allergic reaction, seek medical treatment first and then call the company.

When you get someone on the phone, you need go ahead and tell them that you have already reviewed the ingredients. Otherwise, they are likely to give you a customer-friendly statement that basically says, “go read the ingredients…you don’t need me for that.” It’s not that they are trying to be rude, it’s that they really don’t understand why you can’t just go read the ingredients. You may also get a vague answer at first (“I don’t see anything in the ingredients”), and you may need to explain again that many soy ingredients are not going to be obvious, and reaffirm that you need to know if the ingredients were derived from soy. Feel free to mention specific ingredients at this point in the conversation.

Sometimes this will be enough to get the answer you need, but if not, every manufacturer has a chemist or a researcher that the rep will need to contact to get the answer. Tell them that you are willing to provide your contact information for a well-researched answer if they need more time.

Once I had someone that kept telling me that she did not have any information about the medication and would not forward my message to a researcher. I went straight to the company Facebook page and told them about the unwillingness of the rep to be helpful. I had a direct answer within minutes and found out that the product was soy free.

The final answer you get may be a clear “yes, this is soy free,” but it may be much more vague. I get two common answers. The first is:

“While we do not intentionally add soy to this product, we do not test the final product to see if it is soy free.”

You will need to make an informed decision based on advice from your doctor if you are willing to take a chance on the product.

The other statement I get is much more troubling.

“While we will be happy to provide you with an ingredient list, there is no way to determine where our ingredients are derived from, because we have many distributors that use differing sources.”

When I hear this statement, it basically says to me that they have no idea what is in their product and I steer clear of anything they make. You will unfortunately get this statement a lot with beauty and household products.

The reason why this is so troubling to me is that we are turning our bodies over to folks that are filling our bodies full of unknown substances that could be harmful. No thank you!

I hope you find this to be helpful, and I hope that you will be successful in finding soy free products for your needs. Just remember that even if you get an answer that is difficult to hear, you have raised awareness for your allergy and are making the world a safer, better place by being a food allergy advocate. Visit my Allergy Friendly Store for product ideas, but again, I always encourage everyone to do independent research to find the product that is right for them.

Calling All Soyvivors: What Other Tips Do You Have for Successful Phone Calls? Please leave tips in the comments below!

 

 

Courage For The Climb

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This is a photo of me taken two years ago. I thought life was good. Yes, I had a few health issues, but things were looking up, right? I had made it through a tough spot in my life, I had just climbed a mountain, and at 6200 feet in elevation, things were looking good.

I have always tried to be an optimist, but the woman in this picture didn’t know how bad she really felt, because she didn’t know what “feeling good” really felt like.

Last December, I had been dealing with a chronic sinus infection. One night, I awoke realizing that I was choking. I don’t mean I was having trouble getting my breath. I wasn’t breathing AT ALL. I waited for what seemed like an eternity, and just as I thought I would surely faint, I started to find a small gasp of air. At the doctor’s office the next day, they told me I was perfectly healthy. No problems with my throat or lungs. They also told me if it happened again that the best thing I could do was to try not to panic. It was probably just some weird thing that would eventually go away.

A few days later, I awoke to find that I was choking again. Same tests but a different doctor telling me that everything was fine. After seeing several more doctors, I was told that the acid reflux that I had been dealing with for years could have caused my choking, could happen again, and would require a very serious surgery to fix. After surgery, I would have to learn to eat and swallow all over again.

I was determined that I was going to figure out what was going on. Sure, I had acid reflux, but I had always been able to manage it successfully in the past. I was determined that this was my body, and I was going to figure this out on my own and fix it.

I started an elimination diet. For several days, I ate fruits, vegetables, rice, and proteins that were considered to be at low risk for a reaction. The thought behind this elimination diet was that, if my body became less inflamed, it would be more likely to show signs of an allergy when an allergic food was reintroduced.

The day came to reintroduce soy. February 23, 2014 to be exact. I smashed some edamame for chips and dip, and my husband and I began a day trip to the mountains with packed food in tow. As we approached our destination, I started to eat the dip. I remembered saying to my husband, “This elimination diet sure can make you paranoid, because I would almost think that I was starting to itch.” Within a couple of minutes I am indeed itching all over, my lips are burning and swelling, and I look like I am about 4 months pregnant. My acid reflux also flared. Knowing what I know now, I should have immediately sought medication attention, but I was so shocked that I was allergic that I went on about my day, trying to work through the shock and disbelief that I was feeling. The itching continued for over 24 hours, and little did I know that I had taken a trusted antihistamine that contained soy. I did go to the doctor a day later, and I was glad that I did.

What happened after that changed my life forever. At first, I thought that my life was over. I felt betrayed by my body, scared to even take a shower because every single product in my house contained soy, and completely unprepared to cook a soy free meal. I didn’t even like to cook, not less cook almost every single meal for the rest of my life! I suddenly found myself working 60-80 hours a week researching recipes, researching soy allergies, calling companies about their products, calling doctors, and cooking. To say that my life was consumed by my soy allergy was an understatement, but I had no choice.

The photo below was taken two weeks ago. While I will always have phone calls to make, and I will always cook most of my meals, there is something going on in this picture that is way more important than the difference in my weight and hair color. I am happy, I am healthy, and I am standing on the same mountain as I was two years ago with a hundred times more energy and vitality than I could have ever thought possible. I am now taking half of the acid reflux medicine that I was taking 6 weeks ago, and I am confident that I will eventually be able to manage my reflux solely through my diet.

AlannaonMountaintop

The purpose of writing this story is simple: If you are beginning your food allergy journey, you should know that grief is part of the process, but you will one day stand on the mountaintop and know that the climb was worth it! It may be difficult at times, and you will need to give yourself time to adjust, but you will emerge stronger, wiser, and healthier than you ever thought possible. During the dark times, connect with other food allergy survivors and soyvivors and know that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is just around the corner!

Helpful Websites and Apps for Food Allergies

When I first found out that I had a soy allergy, I was completely clueless, but these websites and apps have helped tremendously with my learning curve. I plan to update this website periodically based on your recommendations and on new apps I find.

I am also including some websites and apps that are important for ANYONE that is looking to buy healthy products and foods.

Environmental Working Group (and Skin Deep app)

EWG’s website is full of good resources. They have a searchable database (and app!) called Skin Deep that has all kinds of great information on which cosmetics are better for your body. They also have helpful guides on topics such as pesticides in produce, GMO foods, and healthy cleaning products. They also advocate for healthier products and will send you updates on the latest political happenings in regards to food and product safety.

Food Facts
The Food Facts website is a great resource that gives you information on allergies, nutrition, and ingredients of many products. A grade is assigned to each product to help you decide what to purchase. You can set up a free profile and choose which allergies should be considered in your searches.

AllergyEats (Also apps for iPhone and Android)

AllergyEats is the best place to go to find out if other food allergy diners have eaten at a particular restaurant, the level of accommodation they received for their allergy, and any comments they have about the restaurant. The diner making the recommendation has the option of listing which allergy they have, and that is helpful since someone with one food allergy may have a completely different experience from someone with another food allergy. This is a must-have app for traveling or trying new restaurants, and it’s free!

FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education)

FARE is a great website for anyone dealing with food allergies. They provide the latest news and research on food allergies, provide food allergy advocacy, and recently launched a new site dedicated to eating out. SafeFARE is a site produced by FARE to assist diners with tips and resources on how to eat out with a food allergy and even provides resources to restaurants. My favorite resource is the “Food Allergy Chef Card” which you can hand to your restaurant server or manager to assist you in having an allergy-free experience.

FAACT (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team)

FAACT has a lot of great educational tools, provides advocacy assistance with government, civil rights and disability (ADA) laws. They also provide current news and information related to food allergies and product recalls.

Apps for iPhone

iAvoid

iAvoid is a simple app that allows you to program your allergies (peanuts, soy, fish, tree nuts, shellfish, milk, egg, wheat), and it will give you a list of the most common ingredients and other ingredients that may contain your allergy. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it does list a lot of common ingredients.

iCanEat (costs $$)

This is a great app, especially for traveling and meals on the go. Many common fast food chains are listed on this app, and it will give you allergen information based on your preferences. Just beware that because the FDA does not require anyone to list soybean oil or soy lecithin, you could still be getting some of those ingredients.

Other Apps

There are also a few other good apps listed on Healthline’s article called “The 12 Best Allergy iPhone & Android Apps of 2013.” Some of these are paid apps, so I have not purchased them, but let me know if you have found success with any of them.

A word on one app that may not be that helpful for soyvivors:

iEatOut (costs $$) is an app that helps you determine which items at ethnic restaurants are suitable for your particular allergy. It even tells you what ingredients to avoid in a particular type of food. The problem is that so much of ethnic food can contain soy that is basically rules out almost everything in the app. It’s certainly not the fault of the app, and I am sure it is great for other food allergies, but unfortunately as many of us will attest, it seems that soy is in almost EVERYTHING.

Calling all Soyvivors: Do you have any great sites or apps that I should add to the list? Keep checking back for updates!