The Cheese Situation: allergy update

Buckle up folks, it’s going to be a wild ride.

And by wild ride, I mean an in depth look at a recent experience I had with my soy allergy.

Party. A hive-covered party.

So, as you may know, I have food allergies. A severe allergy to soy, and a bonus allergy to sesame. So obviously, that makes me super cool. Not. My body hates me. I was also diagnosed late in life, after a trip to the ER and my first experience (hopefully last) with Mr. Anaphalactic shock. After I was diagnosed, it was a lot of research, many trips to hospitals, stomach issues, and random break outs.

For the last five years, I have had a pretty great handle on my allergies. There have been hive situations here and there, but overall, nothing much to report.

UNTIL NOW. You guys, this is the DUMBEST story. I swear. It is also really crazy. About a month ago I noticed a lot of weird allergy related incidents. And it started with delicious, incredible, DECEIVING cheese.

It was a regular Thursday night; Jake and I were famished and completely out of food. I was bad at planning that week (I know even me), and we had to run to the store. I was feeling especially lazy, so I grabbed some cheese for some simple bean tostadas. We hadn’t had cheddar cheese in like five months, so I figured “what the hell”, and we headed home to feast.

One hour later, I was puttering around the house when it started. The heat started from the bottom of my knees and traveled up to my mid-thigh. I exploded in hives. I was shocked, I checked all the ingredients before I bought them, what the fudge was going on? I took my allergy medication, the hives began to dissipate, and I decided I would figure it out later. Hell-I dealt with on and off hives most of my life, it wasn’t shocking.

Cut to a few weeks later (this is last week), I was recipe testing (Superbowl recipes yeah baby), and I purchased some cheddar cheese from a different store. I was taste testing, and BOOM. Within minutes, again, FRIGGIN HIVES.

Well, it was clear as day at this point, it was the stupid cheese. Oh my god Allie, say it isn’t so, A DAIRY ALLERGY?!

No, thank everything that is holy. Nope, nope, and more nope. Not on my watch. I was eating other cheese earlier that week and I was fine.

But, this particular cheese had a very special ingredient, the same special ingredient the previous hive-inducing cheese contained: Vegetable Rennet.

I was intrigued. I am not inexperienced in the cheese making field, I know what rennet does.

But, seeing the word “vegetable” made my heart skip a beat. See, in the soy allergy world, anything plainly labeled “vegetable” can mean that the primary ingredient is soy based. After some deep diving on the internet, I quickly discovered a lot of commercial vegetable rennet has soy in it.

Le sigh. Yes. Now I had to read the packages of the cheese I was buying. I buy really good cheese (because we eat it so sparingly), so I rarely looked at the package because all it would ever contain was milk and (sometimes) regular rennet.

The cheese incident hasn’t been the only issue…lately I have had some problems with dizzy spells, sinus problems, and skin issues. Just random itching, hair problems. Just within the last two months.

Super sexy right?

Well, I switched some beauty products recently, and my dumb ass didn’t even think twice about it. For someone with a severe soy allergy, I had broken out prior to soy based ingredients (topically applied). But it was always random, so I thought a percentage was higher or something. Not like I was rubbing soy beans all over my head. Or taking raw tofu and using it as hand cream.

Gross.

I seemed to be getting worse the last month or so. I knew something was wrong, but for some reason, it wasn’t clicking. I was popping Benadryl every few weeks, breakouts were becoming not so random anymore. I had to do something.

After the great cheese breakout of 2018, I went Google diving once again. THEY CHANGED THE GAME ON ME AGAIN GUYS.

When I was first diagnosed, I had to memorize all the different names of soy, even the ones that sounded stupid (Textured Vegetable Protein is one I can think of off the top of my head). I had a little soy binder I would have to take to the store for the first few months because I couldn’t remember all the names. At that time in 2010, there were about 25 different names, and strains that were found in products (both food-based and beauty-based).

Thursday night, I found out that there are now were over 56 items that are soy based.

YEAH, 56 ITEMS. What. The. Fork.

I am not going to lie to you guys, I cried a little. I felt like that 21-year-old all over again, thrown into an unknown world I thought I was comfortable in. I downloaded the list of items (I knew most of the items in food, but now I had to tackle beauty products because of the break outs).

Jake, the absolute love of my life, sweetest man in the world, spent Saturday morning with me searching through beauty products with me. Four different stores, two hours later, I had three products.

Yes, three products. Shampoo, conditioner, and a bar soap. There were only three individual items that didn’t contain soy. I needed to replace these immediately, as I was constantly itching right after showering, I checked my body wash (soy ingredients), shampoo (soy ingredients), and conditioner, YOU GUESSED IT. SOY.

Also, disclaimer before I go on, I figured I should clarify my allergy symptoms. I am typically only in danger of hives, upset stomach, headaches, skin issues, itchy mouth and throat when I have allergic reactions. Most of the stuff I come into contact with are strains of soy (lecithin, vitamin e, the ingredients listed below). But, if I ingested full blown soy, edamame, soy oil, etc. my throat would close, and I would have respiratory issues. My allergy is deadly.

BUM BUM BUM. But, I always make sure to steer clear of the hardcore stuff.

That sounds hilarious. HARDCORE SOY. ALBUM COMING SOON.

Maybe you are thinking, well, you have an allergy, don’t buy stuff with soy. AHEM. Tell me if you would think the names below are soy-based ingredients:

  1. Gum arabic
  2. Bulking agent
  3. Emulsifier
  4. Guar gum
  5. Stabilizer
  6. Starch
  7. Glycerin

P.s. These are just a fraction.

One of the BIGGEST ingredients I found was Vitamin E. Or Tocopherol Acetate, this is the most common beauty ingredient that is more than likely soy. But included in the beauty list were things like:

  1. Hydorolyzed Plant Protein
  2. Isolates
  3. Linseed oil (may be used with soy)
  4. Magnesium Stearate
  5. Emulsifier
  6. “Thickener”
  7. Artificial or natural scent

If you are interested in the full list, click here.

I was floored. I felt like an absolute jack ass. Me, the girl who thought she knew everything about her allergy. This is what I have been dealing with the last few days, so I felt the need to tell everyone about it. That is why I have been slower on the recipes than I have been this week. I have spent since Thursday frantically researching and healing (I still have welts from my allergic reaction).

I have spent the weekend clearing out all my beauty products and researching replacements. I am heartbroken, and a little lost right now, but I am healing. For the first time in a couple weeks, I am not itching after a shower!

I am not sure that this will help anyone, but I really wanted to keep everyone updated, and maybe someone with a soy allergy will read this and know they are not alone. I have read a lot of great blog posts the last couple of days, and know there are a lot of people like me that are feeling just as lost!

This is straight bananas, but honestly, I am taking it as a positive (the best I can)! I found a couple of amazing companies, I have sent out some e-mails to them to make sure they are soy-free, so fingers crossed! I hate having to contact companies, but there are some very tricky laws that prohibit them from labeling all products with “contains soy”.

Items that are derived from soy are not required to be labeled as “soy”. But, people with severe allergies still have reactions. Hence the cheese situation and my backstabbing shampoo!

I have been exhausted over this the past few days, as I now have a new list, and an entirely new journey to begin. But, health is constantly a work in progress! My allergies just make that journey a tad bit more difficult!

El oh el. HIVE LIFE.