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Category Archives: Eating Out

Living a Soy and Milk-Free Life: 4 Month Progress Report

I started this blog 3 months ago. It’s time for a progress report on my health and what I’ve learned. Here’s a “before” the discovery…and “after”.

The Before

4 months ago, I discovered I had an allergy to soy, one year prior to that, I discovered I had an allergy to milk. I am in my late thirties, and after seeing several doctors about this, I am able to confidently attribute my newfound allergies to enduring 4 years of intense chronic stress. When I ingest anything containing milk or soy (even the smallest amount), my skin will itch.

Throughout 2011, my skin felt like it was on fire. The only relief I could get came from an application of cortisone cream to my entire face and back.

I had already worked to eliminate milk from my diet that year, but I was still feeling intensely itchy. Once I discovered my allergy to soy, I made drastic changes in my diet and cosmetics, and I felt instant and major relief.

The Discovery

Products containing milk seemed to be far fewer than those containing soy. Soy is in everything. EVERYTHING. Well, almost everything. It was extremely frustrating to learn that all my favorite foods and restaurants are not good for me. So, label reading ensued. I threw away bags and bags of products in my pantry containing the pesky culprits. [Check out this fantastic summary about soy allergies (thank you to my newest reader, Dania), which includes a list of foods that contain soy: Living and Eating Well with Food Allergies – Soy Allergies]. I stopped eating fast food (except for a special order at In-N-Out). I discovered it was quite difficult to find any entree at any fast food joint that does not contain soy, and near impossible to find an entree without soy AND milk.

Then, I learned about my body’s reaction when soy touched my body. Hoping I was doing something healthy for my skin after scratching it raw, it seemed reasonable to apply pure vitamin E directly onto the problem areas to aid in the healing. After 4 days, my skin felt worse than before. “What is in this vitamin E anyway?” Pure soy. Yep. Vitamin E gels are derived from soy. Ohh! Then I discovered that my makeup, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razor blade, skin care products, and sunblock each contained soy (look for the ingredient tocopherol, which is the vitamin E ingredient, and is most often derived from soy). Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies…and my skin was absorbing a great deal of soy every day. See my post, “My Lipstick Contains Soy!” and Other Soy-Laced Beauty Discoveries”.

So. No touching soy. No eating soy. No eating milk products. Got it.
I soon discovered other foods caused my skin to itch. Almonds. Grapes (and all forms of it including wine…boo…). Some candies — I suspect it’s the food coloring, like red 40? Eliminating those foods have helped keep my skin happier. There are a few more foods that give me mild reactions, but I am in denial about them and someday I will have to pull up my big girl panties and admit I should cut them out of my diet too. Hmph.
Oh. I should also say…my chronic stress is gone and what’s left is a day-to-day normal level of stress. How? I’ve done my best to:
(a) eliminate the sources of stress (Actually, this part was largely out of my control, but I did make decisions to bring balance into my work/home life, and to make choices to not overbook my calendar)
(b) enjoy the people in my life (my son, my dear friends, my new sweet boyfriend (!))
(c) spend more time doing the things that give me peace (playing the piano, singing worship songs, praying, painting, doing photography, etc.)
(d) exercise whenever possible, and
(e) sleep more than 6 hours/night

The After

Relief. Sweet relief. I haven’t used cortisone cream in a couple of months. Woo hoo! My skin has healed from the intense scratching. My reactions are milder when I have an accidental bite of the no-no foods (OK, perhaps they’re not all accidental), and the reactions don’t last for days anymore. I suspect this is because my body isn’t being overloaded by the allergens anymore. Perhaps my liver needed some time to clean out. Today I ate an iced animal cookie (I couldn’t help myself) with full knowledge that it contained soy and dairy and that I would have a reaction. My skin itched instantly, but the itching went away after 30 minutes. So I ate another one. (OK, please. Stop laughing. I’m PMS-ing so I can’t be held responsible for my lack of self control.)

I’ve noticed I’ve been able to tolerate small doses of milk products again — like using butter in the pan for cooking eggs. It’s a good thing, because my 3-year old will not eat his eggs if I use any butter substitutes, like safflower oil or sunflower oil.

And here’s something unexpected: I’ve struggled with thinning hair since I was in my early 20’s. My hairdresser noticed last month that my hair is thicker than it was in December. Hmm…
I lost a lot of weight initially because I was afraid to eat and I hadn’t discovered many options for me yet. Now that I have plenty of options for meals and snacks, I’ve gained some of the weight back (and I’ve been told I look healthier now). I feel comfortable in this size, despite the fact that my new size 4 jeans I just bought in March don’t fit any more.
Hey people, I’m reaping the rewards of a soy and milk-free life! Tell me about your progress! Let’s encourage each other!

The Blog

I must mention something I find super cool: I started this blog in February, 2012. Since then, I have received over 2,300 hits from people in 42 countries. I haven’t written in 3 weeks (sorry about that), yet the blog now gets between 40-60 hits per day due to various Google searches and Pinterest re-pins. Wow. Just wow. I’m so happy that others are benefiting from what I’ve learned. I look forward to continuing this journey and learning from each other.

In Wellness!

A Handy Collection of Fast Food Allergen Statements

Sunset at the Pier

3 1/2 months ago, had someone asked me if I consumed soy, I would have said, “No. Except when I occasionally eat Japanese food…edamame and/or sushi with soy sauce.” I didn’t eat tofu and I didn’t drink soy milk or use soy-based products.

Yet, in January of this year, I figured out I was allergic to soy (after already dealing with an allergy to milk products for a year). Momentarily, I wasn’t too worried about eliminating soy from my diet, because I thought I didn’t eat very much of it. However, since then I’ve rapidly discovered soy is in nearly everything I used to eat regularly. I threw away bags and bags of items containing soy from my pantry. I am a very busy gal – single mom with a full time job – so cooking my meals at home was not always a convenient option…So…I guess you would have called me a fast foodie, even though I did my best to order the healthiest options at various fast food restaurants. Little did I know, I was allergic to ingredients in every meal I ordered at every fast food restaurant I frequented.

It turns out it is quite difficult to avoid soy and milk while eating at most of these joints. Soy is a common ingredient in the sauces, marinades, salad dressings, seasonings, frying oil, and breads. Plus, the meats are marinated in sauces with soy, and they likely come from animals that are soy-fed. I JUST learned that super-allergic-to-soy people can get anaphylactic and need an epi-pen from ingesting meat and eggs from soy-fed animals (Thank you, SprinklesandAllergies). Of course, most of the entrees also contain contain milk ingredients, making it even harder for many of us to order.

You will see, most fast food restaurants will not have a soy- and milk-free option for those of us who need it. However, someone pouring over the ingredients list and allergy statements at each of these restaurants (see below) might be able to get creative with what they order. You could really test the idea of them “Making it your way”, but beware of cross contamination with the grill and frying oil. I’ve only found one place to easily order a presumably soy- and milk-free entree: In-N-Out (see my blog about this: Hooray for In-N-Out! Soy- and Milk-Free Options).

Anyway, after spending WAY too much time figuring out how/if I could eat fast food anymore, I have collected nutritional and allergy statements for the major fast food joints I frequented. I thought I’d post these statements in one easy-to-access place in case someone else is on the same journey as I am. It turns out, after all my research,  I’ve found I really can’t eat at fast food joints anymore (save In-N-Out) and so I do my best to cook at home, bring my lunch to work, and order carefully at non-fast-food restaurants.

I hope this list is helpful to someone out there! This list will continue to grow as time goes on and I collect more nutrition and allergy statements (in pdf form – feel free to download and print these). I’ve learned that not all fast food restaurants have allergy statements on their websites…that really must change. Don’t you think?

For more detailed tips about eating allergy-free while dining out, I recommend the site, AllergyEats – Your Online Guide to Allergy Friendly Restaurants.

In Wellness!

Nutrition and Allergy Statements for Major Fast Food Restaurants

Arby’s Nutrition and Allergen Info – Also see my blog about Arby’s: Can’t Avoid Soy and Milk at Arby’s

Burger King Product List for those with Gluten Sensitivities

Burger King Menu and Ingredients List 

Carl’s Junior Menu. As of 4-29-12, Carl’s Junior has not posted a allergy statement, however, they do post “Alternative Options” which includes a gluten-free burger.

Green Burrito Allergen Info

In-N-Out Food Quality Statement – Also see my blog about In-N-Out: Hooray for In-N-Out! Soy- and Milk-Free Options

Jack In The Box Ingredients List – Also see my blog about Jack in the Box: “Welcome to Jack in the Box. May I take your order?”

McDonalds Ingredients List – Also see my blog about McDonald’s: McDonald’s Soyland

Popeye’s Nutrition and Allergens List

Taco Bell Allergens List

Wendy’s Allergens List


I’ve Been Cheating (A Little)

Yes, that’s right. I’ve been eating foods that I should not be eating. Allergic-reaction free. How?! My doc gave me some pretty heavy duty meds (prednisone, if you must know) for my laryngitis last week. This medication is often prescribed to those with serious allergies…and I discovered after about half the bottle was consumed all my allergies went away.

It was like being given permission to cheat.

Before you get carried away with assumptions about the way I ate, you must know, I didn’t cheat THAT big. I didn’t outright order anything milky, cheesy, or soy-filled. Truly! One would expect that I would binge on all my favorites: vanilla bean ice cream, Burrito Supreme, edamame, sushi with soy sauce, sausage supreme pizza, and chocolate milk. I actually had plenty of opportunities…I was traveling on business and eating out on the company dime provided me with plenty of temptation.

Instead, I cheated on things that would normally give me milder reactions, like bread, salad dressings, or chocolate (each made with soy/dairy). No, please, I’m not fishing for a medal for making such unnecessary sacrifices. In fact, I’m writing about this today a little perplexed why I didn’t cheat bigger and more often during those 5 symptom-free days. Three months ago when I discovered my allergy to soy I would have done anything to go back to eating the way I was without the consequences. And here I was, with a free ticket to do so, and I didn’t really take it.

So…why? My brain is newly wired! I can’t help but read labels, ask questions, and find alternatives to the foods I’m offered. I am challenged to find a soy and dairy free meal and am satisfied when I do. I have a new respect for my body and I want to take care of it. Plus, to be symptom free for several days in a row was GLORIOUS and I didn’t want to risk messing it up with a big bowl of fettucini Alfredo.

One might think…maybe Rena should go on those meds more often. NO WAY! That stuff messed up my stomach and I gained about 5 pounds in water retention and bloat. No thank you. The meds are leaving my system now and I see I need to go back to being extra careful.

What’s the moral of the story? I guess it was just nice to discover about myself that my cravings for what I’ve been missing weren’t as strong as I thought they were. Given the opportunity to cheat in a big way, I chose to cheat relatively small. There’s something powerful knowing this about myself. It might even help get me through when I’m offered a cream puff or a cheesy hors d’oeuvre.

Oh who am I kidding?!

In Wellness!

Blogs and Websites I Love

I just created a new page: Blogs and Websites I Love.

I will be storing all my favorite links to blogs and websites about allergies, living soy-free, living dairy-free, and other relevant topics at this new page. Visit the “Blogs and Websites I Love” tab regularly to check out the new resources.

In Wellness!

 

Can’t Avoid Soy and Milk at Arby’s

I’m starting this blog while watching my brother devour his Arby’s Roast Beef sandwich.

When I arrived here I hadn’t done any research about the ingredients in the menu and planned to take a few moments to search for the allergen statement online. However, before this, I asked the clerk if he had an allergy statement…he wasn’t sure but tore off a piece of paper from a large pad and asked if that was it. Yes! Good for you, Arby’s! All allergens are highlighted in an easy to read format. See pic:

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20120314-122938.jpg

Trouble is, now I know that we soy and milk free folk can’t eat anything at this restaurant except a few condiments. Boo. Not surprising, I suppose, after all the research I’ve done so far about fast food restaurants (see my other blogs over the last two weeks). Fast food eating is apparently a thing of the past for us…with the exception of In N Out protein burger (without sauce) and fries. God bless In N Out.

So here I sit, drinking my Diet Coke (with a shot of Dr Pepper) which will have to do for now until I get home within the hour. Hmph.

Avoiding Soy at the Spa

(video blog above)

So, what was my experience?

1) Glen Ivy mud is red clay. No soy. Don’t laugh. Yes, I actually considered there might be soy in the mud bath…I’ve been finding it EVERYWHERE (makeup, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, shaving gel, moisturizer, cleansers, etc.), so who could blame me for not being sure! According to the Glen Ivy website, “Red clay has been used as a purifying agent since ancient times. It draws from the pores, absorbs impurities, and releases waste and dead skin cells while tightening and revitalizing the skin.” I don’t know if it actually did all that…but it sure felt great to bake in the sun. Fortunately, my skin was not irritated by it in the least.

Mud Bathing

Mud Bathing at Glen Ivy

2) The massage therapist originally would have used her default massage oil containing vitamin E (soy based). She and another therapist consulted and found a 100% pure sesame seed oil instead. It was a heavenly 50-minute Swedish massage, by the way. Ahhhh.

3) The several brands of sunscreen that the spa store sold each contained soy. Actually, I am presuming they each contained soy. Recall that most products that claim to contain vitamin E use an ingredient called “tochopherol”. Tochopherol is most often derived from soy and the cosmetic companies are not required to share the source of the tochopherol. The only sure way to know if the tochopherol is truly derived from soy is to contact the company directly. I have just done this for all my makeup products and I will report on this soon. Anyway, the sales clerk sent me on a trip to a different spa salon where I found ridiculously expensive tochopherol-free SPF. Surely, there must be cheaper options somewhere?! Sigh. My lack of planning that I would need such a thing at the spa combined with having sunburn-prone skin meant I had no choice but to buy the costly sunscreen. I wore it and had no skin reactions…and I didn’t burn…so it did it’s job.

Coola Moisturizing Face Sunscreen - SPF 30

Coola Moisturizing Face Sunscreen - SPF 30 - is tochopherol-free.

4) Lunch. I ordered a salmon salad, which was yummy. Most of the salad dressings contain soy, but fortunately they had a soy-free balsamic vinaigrette.

Man-oh-man. Have I become high maintenance or what? I’m checking labels and asking questions everywhere I go. Most people are quite nice about the questions and are happy to help as much as they can. It’s a good thing, else this whole process would be rather depressing.

Seven hours at the spa went by very quickly! Massaging, sauna lounging, mud bathing, sulfur soaking, pedicuring, and Facebooking by the pool left me no time to read any of the four books I brought (yes, I brought 4 books — I wasn’t sure which one I’d be in the mood to read). The best part, of course, was enjoying lots of girly time with my friend. What a blessed day!

Hooray for In N Out! Soy-free and milk-free options

Image

Thank God for In N Out.

A few days ago, my brother and I went to lunch. We were both craving a burger and fries and after my recent research about the menus of McDonald’s and Jack in the Box (see last week’s blogs), I was afraid to go to ANY fast food joint. I am learning that most fast food menu items are universally made with soy. I plan to write a blog soon with a comprehensive summary of how to order soy and milk free at most Southern California fast food joints. Until I finish my research, I will worry about eating out anywhere, else my body revolt against me after partaking in the quietly soy-laced food.

Last week, I mourned the loss of french fries in my diet after having an allergic reaction to the fries at Jack in the Box. Those things are usually made with soy and/or fried in soybean oil. However, In N Out has come to the rescue. The fries are freshly cut from potatoes, right at the store, and fried in COTTONSEED OIL. The frier is only used for the fries, so you don’t need to worry about cross-contamination. The french fries are safe! Whew.

You’ll need to order the hamburger protein style (using lettuce in place of a bun). The bun contains soy, but no dairy. But read on. The hamburger patties themselves are safe too. But, when you order, tell them you have allergies. They will clean a dedicated grill for you as well as the spatula to avoid cross-contamination. Beware that the spread is mayo-based, so it contains soy, and it contains a dairy ingredient. You may request ketchup instead.

So, this was my order: “I have an allergy to dairy and soy. I need a protein burger (no cheese) with no spread, but added ketchup, and an order of fries. And a diet coke.” They are pretty serious about the allergy burgers and the staff seemed happy to accommodate my request. The burger was tasty. I’m so glad! In N Out has always been my favorite, anyway.

My brother’s order was a completely different story…as a former In N Out employee, he knew to order a 2 X 4 (two patties and four slices of cheese). Fortunately, we don’t share the allergic-to-soy-and-milk gene.

Happy eating, fast foodies!

Rena