Tag Archives: soy allergy

A Survivor Story

This week, I am turning over a new leaf.  I am getting back to the basics of why I started this blog and my commitment to help those with food allergies and intolerances. I would like to start with the story of Denton, a truly talented and inspiring individual that I have been blessed to know for over a year now. Those of us with food allergies or intolerances know that food issues can be related to a host of immune system and/or digestive issues. While many of us know someone with food allergies, there are many other immune system and digestive ailments that share a common thread: food. I know that many of you will relate to Denton’s story and my hope is that you will also find encouragement.
It all started my junior year in high school. At the time was playing 3 sports, led in numerous clubs and organizations, and somehow managed to keep a 4.0 GPA. One day, the school held it’s annual blood drive. I showed up eager to donate to the cause. When it was time to draw blood, The nurse pricked my finger to check my iron levels. With a look of motherly concern she eyed the screen, then me, then the screen again. She tells me not only am I iron deficient and anemic, but I have the lowest reading of all the students she tested today.
Then came the fatigue. I went from straight A’s to was now nodding off in class, grades slipping. Athleticism began to wane. Then came the stomach cramps from hell that kept me up many nights. This was much more than your average tummy ache and it was time visit a doctor.
Several colonoscopies and months later I was diagnosed with Chron’s disease – An incurable, unpredictable form of Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Not the best news for a kid one year away from attending college. A kid who is more than ready to fully experience the “college life”. This made hiding my Crohn’s from others seem like the most viable option.
Throughout the rest of high school and into my early college years, I longed to just be “normal” person. My remission periods provided a tantalizing glimpse of this normalcy making it very easy to forget I even have the disease. Crohn’s was knocking at the door and instead of answering, I waited for it to leave, Unfortunately, Crohn’s was not playing ‘ding-dong ditch’. Late in the fall of my junior year, the disease kicked down the door.
I woke up feeling extremely bloated and nauseous. I skipped class that day and decided to get rest. I made sure not to skip any meals because refusing to eat exacerbated issues in the past. Dinner rolled around and I was still feeling strange. I felt so full and started developing what some like to call a “food baby”. This was particularly strange because I didn’t eat much that day. It grew larger as time passed and with it, more pain. I ended up being rushed to the emergency room that night for a complete intestinal blockage. The doctor said it was so severe that if I had waited a few more hours the toxins would have caused my liver to fail and my heart to stop. As I lay there in the hospital bed I realized than in order to live a long and prosperous life, I must control Crohn’s and refuse to let it control me. The most useful tool in any fight is realization that you’re not alone in it. That is why it’s important to join a support system full of people that are going through your struggle. That is also why, even though I don’t necessarily have a food allergy, I fully support Alanna’s vision with AllerThrive.
I’m happy to admit my days of hiding are over. I keep a food diary now which helps me determine what foods cause my flare-ups. I also joined the Colitis and Crohn’s Foundation of America in hopes of starting a chapter at my college to spread awareness for IBD. I’m doing a better job of saying no to my trigger foods, even when tempted with warm, southern-fried cooking I was raised on. But this growth wouldn’t be possible without the influence of people like Alanna. She has this optimism about her food allergy that is infectious and inspiring. That kind of resilience is to be commended.
I hope you have enjoyed Denton’s story, and I look forward to reconnecting with many of you in the months to come. If you have a story to share, contact me at allerthrive@gmail.com.

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.

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!

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

Travel Report: Pigeon Forge, TN

My husband and I recently had the opportunity through my husband’s work to take a little winter vacation to Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN and also spend some time in Pigeon Forge. A year ago when I found out about my soy allergy, I honestly thought I would never be able to travel again, and especially not to somewhere like Pigeon Forge where there are very few grocery stores. Now, almost a year later, I am happy to report that we had a great time and a reaction-free vacation.

There are a few things that made our trip a success. First, my packing included my sheets and towels washed in my own detergent, my preferred toilet paper, snacks and non-perishable food. My food included dried apples, dried mangoes, chips, nuts, and Rudi’s soy free bread/almond butter/bananas to make sandwiches in a pinch. We stayed at Sunrise Ridge Resort, and they offer full kitchens and incredible views of the mountains.

SunriseRidge

Before we left, I did some research on the local Kroger grocery stores in the Pigeon Forge area. There is one in Sevierville, TN and one in Pigeon Forge, TN. The thing about Kroger is that they have a separate section of freezer and also non-perishable “natural” foods. They include a few of the brands that you would see at places like Whole Foods as well as some local foods. I picked up some Amy’s meals and some local, grass-fed yogurt. Another idea that I had was to defrost some cooked shrimp from the freezer section and add some celery and carrot sticks.

Pigeon Forge has also changed a lot over the years. If you haven’t been in the past 3-5 years, you will be surprised to see many more chain restaurants that you will recognize from your hometown, and of course the Sevierville Tanger Outlets are some of the best outlets in the Southeast.

If you do eat out, remember to always call ahead, talk to the manager, and eat at times when the restaurant is less likely to be busy. There were many restaurants that I spotted that have allergen friendly options such as Olive Garden, Mellow Mushroom, Applebee’s, Outback Steakhouse and Longhorn Steakhouse. TGI Friday’s also has an allergen menu, but there isn’t much on their published menu that doesn’t have soy in it.

We chose to eat at Olive Garden, a place where I have had good experiences at home and also in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I called ahead and spoke with the manager immediately before arriving, but unfortunately this experience was not as good as I had hoped. I ordered a plain salad with no dressing and no croutons, and the server brought my salad with dressing in the salad. Fortunately I realized it before it was too late. I also ordered the baked parmesan shrimp, which was listed on their menu as soy free. I asked for them to leave off the bread crumbs just to be sure. This is my go-to dish at Olive Garden, but unfortunately the regular pasta they use also had fettucini pasta mixed in. This made me a bit nervous since I did not know why and where the fettucini had been. I did not have an allergic reaction, but I would not necessarily recommend this restaurant as an option.

On the next part of our trip, we had the wonderful opportunity of staying for two nights at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN.

BBFRoom

This is something that we would not have otherwise have been able to do, and it was truly an incredible experience. If you are not familiar, Blackberry Farm is a beautiful hideaway resort with gorgeous rooms and cottages that boasts farm-to-table meals from some of the country’s top chefs. To top it all off, it snowed just enough to make everything beautiful and keep the roads safe for travel.

BBFarmDining

 

Not only was this a breathtakingly beautiful resort, but the chefs and servers were incredibly meticulous in providing me with safe meals. Usually when you visit a restaurant, you are given a couple of options to choose from on the menu. At Blackberry Farm, I was able to look at the same menu that my husband was using and pick what I wanted. The food was at a level at which I had never experienced before and may never experience again unless I have the opportunity to return. We all know as food allergy sufferers that we must cook almost everything we eat, and to be able to go somewhere and have someone cook for me that I could trust and make to-die-for food was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I am glad that I took the chance and traveled to Tennessee, because it will become one of our best vacations ever, and I can’t wait to return again soon.

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!

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?