Monday, November 26, 2007

remember those soy saga

they fucked me up.

as most of you know (and either know WAY too much or hear it WAY too often), i am allergic to soy in all forms. this makes anything processed or packaged a potential danger. apparently the canned sauce was to blame, although the ingredient label "passed" that doesn't always mean it's okay. it couldn't have been anything else--everything else that day was either a whole food or a tested and trusted product.

everyone asks "what does it do to you?" well. that is always an awkward question. let's put it this way: it inflicts ALL of the holes in my body EXCEPT for my mouth, ears and nose with pain and itching. broken tissue, burning, swelling...did i mention pain and itching? it totally sucks. this is why i avoid soy like the plague. it's not like "oh, it's cool, i'll just have a little bit..." or "oh, i'll just eat it and put up with a headache or gas..." it's more like "if it might have soy, NO THANK YOU!"

the symptoms began as general evening itching when Mayan was one-year-old. i had discovered around 5 months that she was highly intolerant to dairy, and as a breastfeeding mom, i dutifully cut it out of my diet--and of course replaced it with all of those new fangled soy-based dairy-free but dairy-like products. it took me forever to figure out what was causing it as i did not suspect food allergies at all. it just seemed like a constant annoyance--i dealt more with easing the symptoms than the cause for almost two years. by the time i has isadore it had become worse, and there were "flare-ups" that now involved skin issues. i spent so much time searching out Mayan's food allergies (she has a long list) and it FINALLY clicked that this was a food problem when one night we had guest and we ordered some Pizza Mondo--my fave b/c they had a great melty soy cheese...and i had my worse reaction ever. i knew then it was either wheat or soy. since Mayan is gluten-intolerant, i figured it was a good shot it was that, and i cut it out for a few weeks with no real dramatic change. so i got back on wheat and cut the soy. i did have less reactions and felt somewhat better but not "cured"--that is when i started to learn more about where soy hides....not just tofu or condiments and fried foods (soybean oil) but also lecithin which is found in chocolate, all cooking spray and most commercial bread products. those all had to go, too...but still i had a mild nagging itch that lurked on me felt like i was most of the way there, but i was missing something.

then i found it. where i didn't think to look: my prenatal vitamins. the fucking vitamins i had been taking for years as a pregnant and nursing mom had soy lecithin (probably as an emulsifier.) i immediately hucked them and began my first few days of a complete soy-free life.

everything cleared up. there was no question. i felt so much relief and power that i had made this discovery on my own about my own health and body. the challenge proved to be avoiding it--very hard to do especially when eating out which i LOVE to do. i took to calling restaurants before hand and talking to a member of the kitchen staff, quizzing them about what kind of oil they use, ingredient details, cooking practices.....then hopefully find a dish that was "safe." this was much easier than just going somewhere and asking the server questions--they are busy and have less knowledge of the food, and also potentially irritating for the others at the dinner table to sit through my zillion questions and a server going back and forth between me and the kitchen before putting in our order, and myself who inevitably gets asked "so what happens when you eat soy....?"

if i slipped and ate something accidentally containing soy, the reaction was dramatic. sometimes it was painful to even walk the first night, let alone go to the bathroom (ooooooooooh my god, many tears shed the next day) or be intimate with my husband. if i itched, dark red lines would spread down my legs and the urge to itch more would be unbearable--obviously an allergic reaction. it would finally fade off by three days. i tried to stick to salves (usually containing calendula) and nettle tea (an herb with natural anti-histamine properties) but in the worse cases neosporin or topical numbing agent for my skin, vicodin for the pain if i was lucky enough to have it, and benadryl for the itching. not a fan of being on so many drugs while breastfeeding.

i began searching soy in the internet and found some interesting findings. soy contains isoflavones which have been shown to interact with human estrogen receptors. I read a study showing that phytoestrogens are linked to mice and reproductive problems, and also rats and uterine growth.......

my brain: reproductive babies were thought to have intrauterine growth restriction...stopped growing at a certain allergy...hmmmmm...all of my symptoms are near that area..and they came about after i began having children and eating soy......

then i read about the concerns of soy formula. oh shit. i was given soy formula as an infant when it was discovered that i was allergic to milk. i mulled and mulled. and i could not shake the feeling that there had to be some connection--whether it was a big connection or small connection i didn't know but it's all too curious. i was afraid i might be laughed though, but i began with my midwife. she was intrigued and encouraged me to research further. she's in hte past few years, relayed storied to me of more and more women clients she gets with issues with soy. my gyn also agreed it was worth pursuing but also that this research is so new and that it might be a long time before there are more conclusive answers. a handful of health professionals have scoffed at my theory and interestingly enough they seem to be the ones who have for decades encouraged vegetarian diets and the health benefits of soy. finding the Weston A. Price foundation was a gift to me--they are very active in voicing the potential harm of soy products, especially soy formula. i felt like someone had my back.

now that i have been soy-free for over two years, it have become an expert at avoiding it--but that doesn't mean i don't slip up. one reason is that for the last 8 months or so i've been so good at avoiding it, i think i've fully "detoxed" and now when i do slip the reactions are much milder. in fact, quite bearable. so i have been more relaxed when eating out, or will go ahead and use a ketchup packet (i have found most condiments can set off a reaction even if they don't directly contain soy b/c of the way they are manufactured.) maybe i'll itch a little for a day but not the full blown drama i once had. that was until the enchiladas. wow. right back to the peak of the allergy. if i wasn't pregnant, i would have tried to get my hands on a vicodin. this could be for a few reasons:

1) i had had a mild reaction on tuesday from some jalapenos (probably canned with soy oil) on my meal at La Calaca and that pushed my threshold.

2) i am more sensitive right now b/c of the pregnancy.

3) i have just been too lazy and pushing the envelope on my soy exposure.

it's hard to say but now i am being diligent again. i mean this will be my first soy-free pregnancy, and in a weird way i feel like it's kind of like an experiment. will it make a difference? i don't know. but i have to try, not just to avoid the unpleasantness of the symptoms but to honor what unseen affects it could be having on my body and possibly my baby. most importantly, my gut says i should. and there is no trumping that.


Korin said...

smart smart mama. listen to your gut. and your butt. haha! couldn't help myself.

LA RN said...

Yeeouch! Smart idea about calling the restaurant first. Remember when you called out Jody Denton b/c he was saying, 'No soy anywhere in this restaurant' and you were like, 'Hello? Your pan spray!' That was funny. I guess I'm very lucky not to have any allergies..yet.. my face turns bright red when I eat really fresh arugala..

bred said...

rotflmao... good one, korin!

i'm so sorry you had another really bad reaction--god, that sounds so painfully irritating...and irritatingly painful. i could totally feel your pain when you were talking about trying to go to the bathroom and crying, and painful (or no) sex... i've so been there and it is SO horrible. :( i hope it passed quickly.

i think the soy/iugr connection makes SO much sense..i'm glad you have found and felt support in pursuing a soy-free lifestyle now.

Laura said...

I've been thinking about your soy findings a lot, and how it pertains food allergies in general. So... you ingest soy too early in life and your body can't handle it, but it isn't able to fight it either, so there is no apparent reaction. Then later on, you have it when your body can fight it and it's like "ok, soy, it's on!" fight fight fight. In this case, it's triggered by hormones because it has a hormonal link. Fascinating.

You are handling it so well!