Tag Archives: living with soy allergy

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!

Soy Free Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken With Cream of Mushroom

chickenpeas

I love to use the slow cooker in cooler months. I can make meals in bulk that freeze well for days when I am too busy to cook. I usually cook an whole container of brown rice and freeze in 1 cup servings for later use as well. As always, read your labels carefully as they can change at any time, and note that some folks report issues with eating chickens that have been fed soy.

Many people swear by browning your meat before placing it in the crock pot, but I think that defeats the purpose of a quick and easy meal with little clean-up. Also, make sure that once you start the crock pot, you do not take off the lid until it is done. I have read that every time you take off the lid, it adds 20-30 minutes of cooking time to the slow cooker.

It’s also super easy to make your own cream of mushroom if you have an extra couple of minutes. You really just need some milk or heavy cream, sliced mushrooms, some spices, and a little soy free flour in case you need to thicken the sauce. Just add it to the crock pot, and voila!

Slow Cooker Chicken With Mushroom Gravy

16 pieces chicken tenderloins

1 cup mushrooms (you can use any mushroom here, but I use shiitake)

2 containers 12 oz. Pacific Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup and 12 oz. milk

Onion Flakes, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper to Taste

I also add: Penzey’s Old World Seasoning (1 tsp) and a pinch of Penzey’s Berbere

2 cups Brown Rice (pasta is also great)

Green peas and carrots also make great additions to this recipe.

Place all ingredients except rice in crock pot and cook on high for four hours. Cook brown rice according to package directions. Serve or freezer in individual servings.

Makes 6-8 servings. Great side dishes include spinach or english peas (be careful of other legumes if you haven’t tested them.)

Enjoy!

 

 

Soy Free Halloween Candy

My first blog on candy was at Easter, and you can read more about that candy list by click here. Since then, I have become much pickier about what I eat and have had several instances where companies were not as transparent about their ingredients as they should have been.

As always, keep in mind that everyone is different in their reactions to the same product, and product ingredients can change at any time.

HalloweenCandy2014

Surf Sweets

Surf Sweets declares on their website that they are soy free and also free of several other allergens which they list on their website. They make gummies, jelly beans, sour gummies, and fruit rings. Their peach rings and jelly beans are my favorite! I find them most often at Whole Foods.

YumEarth Organics

YumEarth Organics was the first brand of soy free candy that I found, and I actually found it at TJ Maxx. (side note: If you have a TJ Maxx in your area, take a look a their food section! I have found a lot of soy free products and health foods there.) I have also seen the candy at Whole Foods, and there are likely others as well.  They make pops, fruit snacks, gummy bears, sour beans, and candy drops. You can find an allergen chart on their website that lists common allergens and which ones are found in their products. Soy is included in this chart, and none of their products contain soy.

Enjoy Life

Enjoy Life is free from the top 8 allergens and makes chocolate chips, cookies, bars, seed & fruit mixes and more. I especially love their Gingerbread Spice cookies. I have seen Enjoy Life products in many grocery stores, and this is a great brand not only for Halloween but for every day use.

Theo Chocolate

Some folks with soy allergy given the OK by their doctors to eat soy lecithin, but for those of us that are not, it is very difficult to find chocolate. While I am uncertain as to whether every Theo Chocolate product is soy free, the bars that I have eaten did not contain soy ingredients. Their products are also organic. I LOVE their chocolate, but it is very rich chocolate, so some kids (and adults) may not prefer it. I buy my Theo Chocolate at Whole Foods, but I have seen their products in other stores as well. I have seen some folks use Erewhon graham crackers (soy free), soy free marshmallows (not sure of what brand), and Theo Chocolate to make smores.

Calling all Soyvivors: What other soy free candies have you found? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Soy Free Body Wash Reviews

Body Wash Soy Free Body Wash Reviews

The day after my soy reaction, I took a day to discard everything in my house that contained soy, including bath & body products, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and hand soap. Because those with soy allergy know that soy is really in everything, I basically threw out everything in my house. I noticed that the rash (Keritosis Pilaris aka “chicken skin”) that had plagued me for years despite interventions from my dermatologist was gradually disappearing.

I think it is well worth getting rid of all soy in your home, especially with the dramatic improvements that I found soon after eliminating soy. (I always like to begin a review article with my usual disclaimer: product ingredients can change at any time and may even vary by distributor. When in doubt, always call the manufacturer, and also test a small area of skin before fully using a product.)

I like to switch body washes from time to time, especially since there is some research out there that suggests that some allergies could stem from using the same products or foods too frequently.

Below are my go-to products and when I use them. Note: These reviews are my personal opinions and I do not have any current relationships or agreements with any of these brands.

California Baby Super Sensitive Shampoo & Body Wash

California Baby makes lots of great products from sunscreens to body wash to diaper cream. It’s not just for babies, and it’s great for those of us with sensitive skin. Since I also have seasonal allergies, I use California Baby in the heat of Spring and Fall allergy season when I want to be extra careful of fragrance exposure. It’s also great when you are going to be outdoors and don’t want fragrance to attract insects. I have heard that Target carries this brand, although I am not sure if they carry  the fragrance free version. You can also order directly from California Baby’s website or from Amazon.

Hugo Naturals Shower Gel (Vanilla & Sweet Orange or Lavendar)

Hugo Naturals is my go-to brand for reasonably priced soy free bath and body products. They make lip balm, shower gel, hand sanitizer, shampoo/conditioner/gel, deodorant, lotions, and more. I love their vanilla & sweet orange shower gel for morning showers, and their lavender shower gel is great for a relaxing evening shower. If you haven’t tried Hugo Naturals, I highly recommend it!

Acure Unscented Sensitive Skin Body Wash

While Hugo Naturals is my go-to brand for everyday bath & body, Acure is my go-to brand for keeping my face in tip-top shape. Acure is also widely available in specialty and health food stores, so you don’t have to wait on a shipment for their products. While there are soy free makeup brands out there, I have made the decision to go without makeup for the most part as a personal choice for my body. Acure helps my skin look great so that I can skip the makeup. Their unscented body wash is another great choice for pampering your skin.

Calling all Soyvivors: Do you have other favorite soy free brands for body wash? Share in the comments below!

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?

 

Soy Free Dishwasher Detergent

Guess what most dishwasher detergents contain? You guessed it…soy. Some of you may find that this is not an issue for you, but I do not want to take any chances. I have actually heard of folks becoming sick after changing their dishwasher detergent to one containing soy.

I believe that any time you can get rid of soy from any product, it is worth it.

Many brands that you would think are soy free may not be. If you are using anything you can find in a store, including Method, Seventh Generation, or Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, do yourself a favor and call them. You may be surprised at what they tell you. In fact, many “green” or “natural” products contain more soy since the company is going for plant-based ingredients.  Click here for tips on how to call companies about their products. As always, I strongly encourage everyone to call the manufacturer before using any product including the ones mentioned on this site, since product ingredients can change at any time.

There are two brands of dishwasher detergent that I will review here.

Earth Friendly Products Wave Auto Dishwasher Gel

This product is a liquid, and I would not recommend. The directions say “Fill just one detergent cup. If excess sudsing occurs, use less.” Unfortunately I learned the hard way what “excess sudsing” meant. Granted, I do not have hard water, but I used about half of a detergent cup, and my dishwasher overflowed with suds. It was a mess. After several loads of trial and error and more excess sudsing, I finally realized that I would have to use as little as a teaspoon (yes, really!) to keep my dishwasher from overflowing.

Earth Friendly Products has new Wave Automatic Dishwasher Packs that could be worth a try, but I will not be purchasing any more of the gel.

Sun & Earth Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Pacs

I have mentioned before that I use Sun & Earth for everything from hand soap, laundry detergent, cleaning wipes, carpet cleaner, and everything related to the kitchen. They were also rated as Best All Natural All-Purpose Cleaner by Good Housekeeping.

Sun & Earth’s “dishwasher pacs” clean my dishes far better than any of the store-bought products that I have used. The packs are convenient and leave no mess, although I would recommend keeping the package away from moisture or heat since they are “quick dissolving.” I would recommend buying several packages at a time, because sometimes you will find that some of Sun & Earth’s products become temporarily out of stock for a few weeks at a time, and I like them enough that I do not want to run out.

Calling all Soyvivors: Are there other soy free dishwasher detergents that you use? Please leave your favorites in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Soy Free Pimiento Cheese

I am a true southern girl, and I am literally sitting here eating a bowl of shrimp and grits and as I blog about my family’s pimiento cheese recipe. For those of you that have never tried pimiento cheese, it is not only a true southern staple, but it is a time-saver for anyone on the go, and especially someone with soy allergies.

There are many ways to use pimiento cheese. It can be used anywhere cheese is used, such as a topping for burgers or as its own sandwich spread, but it can be its own dip for vegetables or potato chips. Pimiento cheese with raw carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower makes a great lunch for work. The best part is that it is incredibly easy to make and can go anywhere in a little cooler with some ice.

There are many variations on pimiento cheese, but it is SO much tastier to make your own than to buy the store-bought variety, and it is almost as easy to make as it is to open a store-bought container.

My parents have perfected this recipe over the years, and it really uses very little mayonnaise. In fact, I plan to try making my own avocado spread in place of mayonnaise to see if it will work. I will keep you posted on that venture. 🙂

A couple of Soyvivor notes for this recipe: Definitely make sure you use soy free mayonnaise, and you should be aware of reading labels for the pimientos. I recommend Lindsay pimientos, not just because their citric acid is not derived from soy (derived from corn), but it is also a far superior product for making pimiento cheese compared to some of the other pimientos my family has tried.

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Pimiento Cheese

Makes 4 servings:

2 cups finely grated sharp cheese

1/4 cup grated Jalapeno Jack cheese (more if you like it spicy)

1-4 oz. jar Lindsay diced pimientos, undrained (chop if you buy the sliced ones)

1-3 tbs. soy free mayonnaise (may need more)

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients  with a spoon. You will also use the juices in the jar of pimientos, which will help reduce the amount of mayonnaise needed. Mix well and add more mayonnaise until desired consistency is reached.

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Are you surprised that there are no spices? Some recipes call for garlic, salt, pepper, etc. The truth is, using the jalapeno jack cheese and the juices from the pimientos give this recipe enough “kick” to avoid using lots of ingredients.

Enjoy!

 

 

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?