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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!

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

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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