Tag Archives: living with food allergy

Are You Getting Correct Food Allergy Info From Social Media?

I have seen a lot of incorrect information out there on social media sites. I think a lot of users believe that because a board is by invitation only or a “closed” board, it somehow makes the information more reliable. Here’s a great example of a scenario that I see very often on food allergy boards:

Question: Have any of you found a specific product that is free from (insert your allergy here)?

Many members begin to comment, and some of them may be correct, but many are not. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did this person very recently call the manufacturer?
  • Did this person ask the right questions of the manufacturer?
  • Do you know that the person responding to the post has the same level of sensitivity as you do?
  • Is this person a legitimate food allergy sufferer or a company rep trying to push a product?
  • Do you trust someone you do not know to give you the OK to put a product on or in your body?

Chances are, the advice you are getting may not be as reliable as you had hoped. However, there are situations where asking this question in a social media group can be helpful. If you are planning to take the product list you are given on the board and call each manufacturer, then this information may be useful as a starting point to do your own research.

. It’s important to make sure that the phone calls you make give you the information you need to avoid an allergic reaction.

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Shopping Safely with Food Allergies

Minerals

To finish off my birthday week, my family and I visited North Carolina yesterday to get away from the heat and have some fun. We visited a beautiful waterfall and had a GREAT time at a gem mine. There was only one problem: While the actual gem mine was outdoors, the indoor store was running a machine that was pumping some kind of nice smelling aroma through the air.

When I arrived and spotted the machine, I immediately left the building and the clerk turned off the machine. Even though the clerk turned off the machine, I left because I knew there could still be allergenic particles in the air. After we finished gem mining, I briefly went inside to discuss a black star sapphire that I wanted for a necklace, but the machine had been turned back on again. I left as quickly as I could, but it was too late. A few minutes later, I was feeling itchy.

There are many types of stores that can pose issues for those with food allergies, because many foods are used in the making of air purifiers, cleaning products, and the actual merchandise. This can apply to any store, restaurant, your favorite fitness center, massage therapist, yoga class, or even your friends and family’s homes.

If you are entering a new area and you have someone with you, ask them to go scope it out for you first. Keep in mind the following things:

  • How does the air smell? While some allergens will not produce a smell, an aromatic shop or home could signal that it is time to ask more questions.
  • Be aware of any area that calls for a shop to spray cleaners on a surface. I have had employees spray cleaners right in front of me and accidentally on me. (And yes, I had a reaction.) This may be a jewelry store cleaning their counters, a restaurant cleaning their tables, or simply someone washing the windows.
  • Does the store sell candles, home fragrances, or potpourri? Remember that those products have likely been sitting there for quite some time in an enclosed space.
  • If the store sells food, do you see any bulk bin aisles that could have products like flour or other small items with your allergens that could easily get into the air?
  • Make sure you wash newly purchased clothing in your own safe laundry detergent before wearing.
  • For me, I have to carry toilet paper and soap with me wherever I go, so certain allergens may call for you to avoid using a store’s personal care products.

By being aware of our surroundings, we can better enjoy our shopping experiences. I have to admit the retail therapy is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress, so get out there and shop safely!

Calling All Soyvivors: Share your shopping advice in the comments below!

Travel Report: Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand

A little sand crab peeks out at me as I sit on the beach.
A little sand crab peeks out at me as I sit on the beach.

My husband and I recently vacationed at Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Pawley’s Island is below Myrtle Beach and part of South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Even if you have never visited South Carolina’s beaches, you probably know that these beaches are some of the most highly rated in the world.

What I love about the Myrtle Beach area is that there is something for everyone to do at any time of the day or night. There’s great shopping, family activities, and lots to do even if it’s raining. This means that for those of us who are looking for fun that doesn’t revolve around food, there is plenty to do! Among my favorite things to do are Brookgreen Gardens, Huntington Beach State Park, Myrtle Beach State Park, the two Tanger Outlets, and Murrell’s Inlet. Other attractions include Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing, two shopping, dining and entertainment centers.

The best thing about Myrtle Beach for a food allergy sufferer is that there are tons of restaurants and several different kinds of grocery stores. You will find Kroger, Fresh Market, Publix, Lowe’s Foods, Bi-Lo, and many other stores. All you need is room with a small kitchen, and you can easily make the meals that you need.

There are also many restaurants with allergen menus. Chains include Olive Garden, Red Robin,  Chipotle, McAlister’s Deli, Mellow Mushroom, Ruby Tuesday, and many, many others.

For those of you that do not have children in school, the lodging rates in the Myrtle Beach area are much lower in spring and fall when the weather is still lovely and not so crowded. That also means that grocery stores are more likely to have what you need in stock, and restaurants are less busy and able to give you more attention. Otherwise, there are many areas of the Grand Strand that are family friendly even in the summer. I highly recommended the Myrtle Beach area for a great time with the amenities you need for a fun and safe vacation!

Calling all Soyvivors: What is your favorite place to vacation?

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

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!

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?