This is my story on how I am dealing with my food allergies in hopes that it will be helpful to you as well.
I was first diagnosed with food allergies as a child at a Christmas party when the red dye in some jello made me itch all over. Seasonal and indoor allergies were a part of my everyday life. When I attended college, I discovered that sulfites created an unsightly red, scaly rash all over my eyelids, and soon after, I was diagnosed with tuna, cod, and salmon allergies. Reproductive issues that had kept me at home for much of my high school years continued to plague me as I carried hot water bottles to class every day to help withstand the pain. My parents carried me from specialist to specialist at the top hospitals trying to figure out what was wrong with me so that I could someday function as a normal adult.
As I was finishing my last semester of my master’s degree in voice, I found myself unable to sing. Medical experts told me that I had something called spasmodic dysphonia, could not find the cause of my condition, and told me I might never sing again. How I ever graduated with either one of my degrees is a miracle. I was also diagnosed with IBS, acid reflux, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, had mystery skin rashes that would not go away, and later suffered six miscarriages in my mid 30s.
In November 2013, I quit my job because I was so incredibly exhausted and sick from the toll that my health had taken on my life. The next month, I awoke twice to find that I was literally choking. I don’t mean that I was having trouble getting my breath. I could not breath at all. I thought I was going to die before anyone could figure out what was wrong with me.
In February 2014, after multiple sinus infections and being told that I would need to have a serious acid reflux surgery that would likely require me to learn to swallow and eat all over again, I knew I had to do something. My doctors had never been able to find or treat my problem and I knew I had to take charge. I decided to begin an elimination diet which quickly unveiled a serious allergy to soy. At the advice of my doctor, I completely eliminated soy from every household, beauty, and food product. I threw out everything in my house, replaced everything with soy free products, and started carrying my own hand soap, toilet paper, food, and antihistamines wherever I went. I also discovered that the very acid reflux medicine that was prescribed to help the reflux contained soy, which was only making the reflux worse.
The health issues that had plagued me for years began to disappear, significant weight loss occurred, and I finally felt like a healthy, energetic human being. People who saw me regularly no longer recognized me, and I began to notice that I not only felt better, but I felt like a different and much more vibrant person. I was able to return to work in the same department and thrive in my job. Here’s a photo before my diagnosis and a photo of me that I took yesterday:
If you are new to a food allergy diagnosis or other life-changing dietary change, you are likely working the hours of a full-time job trying to eliminate foods from your diet, learning to cook all over again, developing meal plans, researching, and calling manufacturers to inquire about product ingredients. I quickly realized how incredibly overwhelming it is for the average working adult or parent of a food allergic child to manage their life while staying healthy and safe.
If I could give someone three pieces of advice in dealing with food allergies or health issues, it would be this:
1. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, GIVE UP, STOP GOING TO THE DOCTOR, OR STOP FIGHTING FOR YOUR HEALTH. It may have taken me 37 years to figure out that I had a soy allergy, but think about all the doctors I saw that could not find it either. If the doctor tells you there is nothing that can be done, don’t believe them. Find another doctor and keep going until your find a doctor that is willing to fight with you. I just had to keep searching and praying for answers until it was time for my miracle to present itself.
2. YOU MUST LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND DO WHATEVER IT TAKES. Your doctor cannot tune in and listen to your body for you. You have to recognize the signs of a problem which is much, much more difficult than you may think. When your body gives you the signal that something is wrong, it is your responsibility to take that information to you doctor and do what needs to be done to restore your health. Your doctor will not be able to eliminate your food allergy for you, and “cheating” and adding a little bit of the food here and there will only make matters worse. You must commit 100% to taking charge of your health.
3. GIVE YOUR BODY WHAT IT NEEDS TO HEAL ITSELF. While that may mean following your doctor’s advice and medication regimen, that also means feeding your body the healthiest food, providing the healthiest lifestyle, and giving your body rest and relaxation so that it can repair itself. Your body is smart and your body has the capacity to heal.
Calling All Soyvivors: Have some of your health issues disappeared as a result of eliminating your soy (or other food) allergy?