Sunday, March 31, 2013

My Teen has a Soy Allergy. Or Intolerance. Or Something. Oy.

Ever since he was little, Kevin has had sensitivities to certain kinds of food, but we weren't always sure what. The very first culprit appeared to be milk ; weaning him resulted in angry red rashes and an angry little person, so we switched to goat's milk, which seemed to help for a little while. There was speculation about a milk allergy, but as he grew the symptoms subsided and seemed to then go away.

Then there was the hot dog incident.

At five years old, Kev went to a birthday party. He swam at the pool and enjoyed a hot dog, package of cheezies, and a glass of cream soda.  I'll spare you the details but let's just say he was so incredibly sick within just a few hours that I thought I'd have to take him to the ER for food poisoning. In fact, that's what we thought it was. He cleared up by the next day and ever since, nobody in the family ever touched any of those foods again. It was THAT BAD.

When he was around 11, I finally put together some symptoms that he was having (bloating, gas, stomach aches) and the issues that he had with milk when he was small, so I convinced him to give up milk for 2 weeks and see how he felt. The difference was astounding.  The awful eczema he had since he was a tiny baby cleared right up, and the asthma he had developed improved so much he barely needed his puffer.

The real result was when the challenge was over and he ate a piece of pizza, which made him so sick he declared he was never eating cheese again.

Well. Not so much.

He called allergy testing a form of medieval torture.
Somewhere in there, I did get him to an allergist, and he was tested because I wanted to be diligent and make sure he didn't have an actual allergy. The result was even more confusing; Kevin didn't test positive for milk, but he DID test positive for corn and soy.


Since then we've always been a little more careful about what Kevin eats but we never did pinpoint why sometimes he still had symptoms. With a little more attention to his diet, Kevin began revealing that he never ate anything dyed red or with MSG  because it made him throw up. This is why he never liked fast food or anything really processed, and always gravitated to things that were more natural. We didn't worry about corn or soy that much-besides, without milk the symptoms seemed to get a lot better, and when I began to be involved with Food Revolution and cooking more from scratch,  he was doing really well. I also have always had an irrational hatred for soy products, and we rarely eat corn anyway, so it couldn't be that.

No biggie, right? We've got this.

Um... *cough* maybe not.

Since we moved to Chilliwack, I began to buy a little more processed food. Oh nothing like Fruit Loops or processed cheese, but a few more convenience foods because now we live in the city and I have more access to things. I'm also doing the single parent at home thing with John working in Sechelt, and some nights I'm too tired to cook.

Oh. My. God.

Over the last 4 months, Kev began having bad reactions. First, it was to some canned icing I bought to take photos of these. Then, a peanut butter sandwich. Tortilla chips.  A burger at a restaurant. Finally, one day he had to call me to come get him from school because he was so sick that he couldn't stay. There were times we thought he had a nasty stomach flu. Slowly, we began connecting the dots and realized, with horror, that they all had one thing in common: processed soy and/or corn.

With a little prodding, Kevin began to reveal what makes him feel queasy, gassy, and bloated. All of those items contained soy and corn as well. The more soy/corn the item contains, the worse the reaction-although now, it takes far less than it used to and things that he used to eat, like Kraft peanut butter (which contains soybean oil), now make him violently ill. Suddenly it all made sense-why he can drink a local brand of milk and not a big name brand one, why certain local cheeses are fine but others are not, why red licorice makes him so sick but natural brands don't. Then he let me know one more thing that really got my attention and prompted me to scour the cupboards with a garbage bag, ready to ditch any item that contained soybean oil.

"By the way Mom, when I eat raw corn or occasionally when I've had something with soybean oil, my lips/mouth burns." After some research, we discovered that he has all the symptoms of a soy allergy except his face/mouth swelling. Soy is also considered one of the big allergies that can go anaphylaxic, and considering that his half sister is already anaphylaxic to peanuts and shellfish, it was no longer something we could ignore.

We haven't been able to get him into a doctor again yet, but that's next on the list. In the meantime, we've cut every bit of soy and corn from his diet, which is a little ironic now that we live in Chilliwack and are surrounded by, you guessed it, CORN FIELDS.

Also, if you haven't noticed, EVERYTHING has soy or corn in it. Nut mixes, dried fruit, cereal, cookies, crackers, sauces, tortillas, peanut butter, bread, candy, chocolate, even some drinks. Grocery shopping is taking forever. We've realized we can only buy certain products and had to say goodbye to others. With access to farms, we're very lucky to get a lot of food without soy filler in it. Restaurants are going to be interesting but we rarely eat out, so that's okay. Thankfully, a friend of mine has a son with a dairy allergy and she's given us some great advice. (she has a food blog too, you should check it out!)

For Kevin, the results of taking soy and corn out of his diet have been tremendous. Any residual asthma symptoms? Gone. No more of the fatigue, bloating, gas, upset stomach, or other gastro-intestinal issues that he's lived with for years.

So, a summary of things we need to avoid now?
-red food dye
-MSG (which actually can be derived from corn or soy)
-processed soy, especially soybean oil. Edamame/a tiny bit of soy sauce is okay, which is weird but we never eat those things anyhow.
-dairy (not sure about this but dairy still gives him issues-whether that is soy/corn related, we don't know. He can tolerate a little, but now drinks almond milk)

This place isn't going to turn into an allergy blog, but you are going to hear me talking about food products that I've found that work for us, mostly because I'm excited and want to share, or recipes that we use instead of buying the packaged version.

Besides, nothing is better than home made, anyway.

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