Category Archives: Feature Posts

Full-length blog entries related to soy allergies.

Lessons Learned From Vacation

AlannaClubhouse

Last month, my husband and I took our first week-long vacation as a couple. Sure, we have had family vacations and long weekends away, but this was the first time that he and I had embarked on a full week away from home just the two of us since my soy allergy diagnosis.

If you have read my previous vacation posts, you know that eating out has always been a huge part of our family tradition. Why cook, right? It’s vacation from everything including cooking! This year, I knew that had to change, but I also knew that I wasn’t about to spend any more precious vacation time in the kitchen than I had to.

Even though I have dealt with food allergies for years, soy was very different for me. It changed everything from what products I ate to what products I used in my house. At first, I honestly thought that I would never be able to travel again. I could not fathom how I would actually be able to relax with so much new responsibility and safety considerations.

As time passed, my confidence grew, and eventually I began to venture out. I wasn’t completely sure that I was ready for a long vacation, but it turned out that it was the most relaxing vacation that I have EVER had. Here’s what I learned:

  • Yes, there is a LOT more packing involved. Towels, sheets, detergent, soap, toilet paper, non-perishable food, and coolers were among the many things that I took with me. The upside is that I found myself surrounded by my own things, and that made me feel at home and relaxed. It was well worth the effort!
  • I really thought I would spend a good bit of time in the kitchen, but preparation in advance proved otherwise. I knew what grocery stores were in my area and I came prepared with a meal plan. I set out to cook dishes that would make great leftovers and dirty very few dishes. I never thought I could eat such great meals with such little effort.
  • Because I prepared my own meals, I did not send my mind and body into a frenzy wondering if this would be the meal where the restaurant would make a mistake and send me into an allergic reaction. The result was consistent peace throughout the week.
  • We found one restaurant that I was very comfortable with due to their relationship with local food sources, and we made it count. We ate an incredible meal, savored every bite, and made it a special event to celebrate rather than just another place to eat.
  • By eating at our condo, we eliminated the time driving to and from restaurants and waiting for elaborate dishes to be prepared. Instead, we spend more quiet time together, and we were able to eat our meals on a cozy screened-in porch. It was relaxing and romantic, and left us more time to spend gazing at the beauty of the ocean.

For the first time, I feel like I was able to truly rejuvenate during my vacation. The key for me was this: I had to let completely let go of my traditions and habits related to food. Giving up my previous relationship with food has allowed me to focus on what truly makes me happy, and I am quickly learning that my happiness has NOTHING to do with what I am eating!

Enjoying an Allergy Friendly Summer

Pawleys Island

Summertime will be here soon! For many of us, summer brings a lot of sun, fun, and travel. It also brings with it some allergy-related situations that we may not have to deal with as frequently at other times of the year. Below are some tips and tricks for a safe summer.

Packing Needs Preparation

Sometimes I long for the days when I could be packed and ready for a trip at a moment’s notice. However, when I arrive at my destination and relax on my own sheets and use my own towels and toiletries, I quickly realize that it’s really nice to have the comforts of home when you’re away from home. For those of you that are new to food allergies, be aware that foods are only the beginning of the products that may contain your allergen. Household products, personal care products, crafts, and many other items could contain your respective allergens and should be avoided. Below are some things to consider as you pack:

  • Toilet Paper (this is a big allergen for me!)
  • Dishwashing Liquid
  • Dishwasher Detergent
  • Hand Soap
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Sheets washed in your detergent
  • Towels washed in your detergent

If you are traveling for more than a day or two, it can be well worth the expense to upgrade to a room with a kitchen and washer/dryer. When I am using a vacation to de-stress, I am even more vigilant about avoiding allergens so that I can truly enjoy my time away. Having a kitchen and washer/dryer allows me to prepare the foods I need and keep my personal items free from allergens.

Enjoying the Outdoors

Sunscreen and insect repellent are also major concerns during the summer. Finding a sunscreen and insect repellent that actually works, is non-greasy, and does not contain your allergens can require a lot of research. For sunscreen, I find that California Baby has a soy-free suncreen option but is quite greasy. I am trying a soy-free, fragrance-free spray sunscreen called Kinesys this summer, and will post a review in a few weeks.

Cooking and Eating Out

It’s also helpful to do some research before your trip on things like grocery stores and restaurants. Using apps like Allergy Eats can give you some ideas on allergy-friendly restaurants, and many of your favorite chain restaurants will also have store locators and allergy menus online.

Packing some non-perishable products and easy meal plans will also help you keep your vacation hassle-free.

I will have more tips and tricks on vacation meal-planning in future posts. Here’s to safe and allergy-friendly travels!

My One Year “Soyversary” Is Here!

To kick off the celebration of my “soyversary,” I am publishing before and after photos and more about my story throughout the coming weeks. I have had food allergies for years, but the discovery of my soy allergy on February 23, 2014 changed my life in ways that are nothing short of a miracle. I want to publish photos and information so that you can also be encouraged in your food allergic journey.

The photo comparison below is an important one for me, and both of these photos are from Cade’s Cove in Tennessee. The first photo is taken in March 2009, one year after my husband and I were married. The reason why this photo is so important is because it was taken before my six miscarriages and during a time when I thought of myself as reasonably healthy. This photo shows that even though I thought everything was OK, I look back now and see a very tired and low-energy gal.

Now, take a look at the photo I took last month. I not only see an energetic, vibrant person, but I see pure joy, and that is something that I cherish more than anything. I see hope for a healthy future and the energy to enjoy life.

If you are just beginning your food allergic journey, you should know that it took me years to get to this place, but that does not mean it has to take years for you. Your miracle could be right around the corner with a team of qualified and educated friends, family, and professionals that can help you get there. An AllerCoach should be one of those people.

Cades Cove Collage

Website Review: Well Amy

WEllAmy

As an AllerCoach, I am continually on the lookout for new products and sites that could help my clients. I heard about Well Amy during an online food allergy conference last fall, and they have some really great items. Just one word of caution that I always like to use before reviewing any product: ALWAYS read all of your labels and cross contact statements regardless of any other information that you have received and regardless of how many times you have eaten the product. I have seen the same product have different ingredient labels on the same store shelf, so it’s best to always be vigilant.

Well Amy has a search feature that collects all foods based on the allergies you select. You can choose separate US Top 8 Allergens plus sesame, sulfites, yeast, corn, potato, rice, and gluten free. You can also choose from special diets such as Feingold, no refined sugar, vegan, vegetarian, and kosher. There also options for non-GMO or organic products.

After I “checked” my allergies, I received pages and pages of all kinds of products from baked goods, snacks, pastas,  and meals. I ordered several things, and they were all delicious. I also started to notice that some of the items were available in my local stores that I had never noticed before, so it helped me get ideas to expand my kitchen pantry.

The main weakness of the site is that you will need to scan through each page to see everything there is to offer. There are some ways to sort the pages, but there are not many food categories to search from. I was also unable to find a way to search for a particular brand or food.

However, if you don’t have time to browse through the pages, you can purchase a “Right Start Box” that contains items based on allergy categories.

I would definitely recommend this site for anyone who is looking for new and different ideas for their respective allergies from a site that has many products to offer. Just make sure you have enough time to browse.

(As always, I do not receive any goods or services from my reviews.)

 

Smoothies: A Great Way To Use Your Leftover Fruits and Veggies

smoothie

Before my soy allergy, I had never really tried smoothies at home. I started having smoothies on Saturday mornings as a way to use any produce and leafy greens that were going to need to be thrown away before my weekly trip to the grocery.

There are lots of smoothie mixes and protein powders and other bells and whistles, but you guessed it…many contain soy and other common allergens. I simply use the whole foods I have on hand, and they really taste delicious no matter what I try.

There are few things that I use regularly in smoothies:

  • Alternative Milk (Try Coconut, Almond, Oat, Rice, or Flax depending on your allergies)
  • Frozen Bananas
  • Frozen Mangoes
  • Frozen Blueberries
  • Leafy Greens (fresh or frozen spinach, kale, bok choy, etc.)
  • Some kind of protein (soy free seeds like pumpkin or flax, almonds, raw almond butter, etc.)

There are also a few things that I usually have on hand that I add to the smoothie to make it more tasty.  I usually pick one or two (or more) from this list. Those things are:

  • Fresh Ginger
  • Organic Vanilla Flavoring
  • Spices (cinnamon, apple pie spices, garam masala, etc.)
  • Soy free cookies or coconut macaroons — if you don’t mind the calories 🙂
  • Chocolate (Try Enjoy Life–Theo is also soy free, but may not be free of other top allergens)
  • Lime or Lemon Juice
  • Apples
  • Avocado

I do try to choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever I can since soy can be contained in pesticides. However, keep in mind that organic fruits and vegetables can be coated in soy to make them look shiny. I recommended washing in a spray bottle of one cup of water to 1 tbsp of vinegar, and you can also peel them depending on your comfort level.

Just a note about peaches and cherries: Frozen peaches often contain citric acid which can be soy derived, so it is best to use fresh. Even if your cherries are frozen and pitted, check each one first to make sure that the pits are really gone, because there’s controversy over whether the cherry pits can be poisonous when blended.

It’s really a fun experiment to get creative and see what kind of concoction my ingredients produce. You can keep tasting your creation and adding ingredients until you like what you taste. Plus, I feel like I have a lot of energy and am ensuring that I start the day with good nutrition.

You don’t need a super expensive blender to make a delicious smoothie. Just do some research on a brand that has good user reviews and a price point that is feasible for you.

Calling All Soyvivors: What other ingredients do you like in your smoothies?

 

Vibrant Health = Eliminating Allergic Foods

Alannaswing

Almost every year at New Year’s, I think over the past year and take stock of the good and the bad. Last December, I was so sick that I had just quit my job, had choking spells in my sleep that made me think that I was going to die, had suffered my sixth miscarriage, and thought that I would never beat the sinus infection that I had been battling for over a year.

Fortunately this story has a very happy ending, because in February, I discovered a new food allergy (soy.) Now, I can say that this year has been the best year of my life!

  • I have lost 50 pounds since June 2013, and 30 of those pounds happened after eliminating soy in February.
  • I have incredible energy levels. I never feel the exhaustion that I previously felt every single day, and I generally work way more than 40 hours per week.
  • I have not been on antibiotics in almost a year, and I previously took several rounds per year for sinus infections.
  • For the first time in my life, I sleep through the night without needing to go to the bathroom.
  • My acid reflux has gone from my doctor recommending extensive surgery to completely eliminating one of my reflux medications.
  • I have stopped taking 3 other medications/supplements.
  • The “chicken skin” that I had on my upper arms is gone.
  • It feels great to have people tell me that not only look thinner, but I look years younger.
  • I actually know what it feels like to just go to the doctor to check in and ask questions instead of constant “sick visits.”
  • My doctor no longer feels the need to check my cholesterol, which needed regular monitoring before.
  • Instead of eating out several times a week like I previously did, I can now cook easy, delicious meals that are just as good as any restaurant.
  • I have learned to work around my demanding and ever-changing work schedule and still have a home cooked meal at every meal.
  • I have found a handful of restaurants that can cook for me.
  • I am able to travel again.
  • I have an incredibly supportive family that has rallied behind me, cooked for me, and listened to me go on and on about food allergies.
  • I always listened to other people talk about their “calling,” and this year I finally found it through food allergy coaching!

In this new year, my wish for you is that your food allergies will become one of your greatest blessings, and you will look back next December and have your own list of miracles and transformations!

I Salute You!

I would like to send a SALUTE to all of you that are dealing with food allergies and are committed to making it work this holiday season!

I Salute You…

If you have already spent countless hours preparing, shopping, and prepping for more hours of cooking that would have been so much easier had it not been for food allergies.

If you have been lying awake at night thinking of how to prepare a delicious meal that will keep you and your family safe.

If you have made some really hard decisions this week related to your safety that aren’t popular with your friends and family.

If you have had an allergic reaction this week and aren’t even sure if you will be able to participate in your holiday traditions.

If you are worried that despite your best efforts, you could have an allergic reaction anyway.

If you have been dealing with your food allergies for a while now and are looking forward to enjoying the holidays more than last year when you were still trying to figure it all out.

If you are incredibly thankful for the friends and family that have rallied behind you and worked hard to help you get what you need this holiday season.

I especially salute those that have made the decision that, no matter what happens, the most important things are your family and friends sitting at your table!

THANK YOU to every one of you that are making our world a safer place one meal at a time! I salute you!