Hello new Food Allergy, my old friend

Cropped image of woman comparing products in shop
Double checking ingredient listings for your new (and old) food allergen is very important!

As many people who are at-risk for anaphylaxis may know, food allergies are something that can be both grown into and grown out of. In the best of cases people are able to effectively “grow out” of their food allergies, allowing them to be able to live with fewer dietary restrictions. However, sometimes people can attain new allergies throughout their lifetime causing them to go through the learning process of adapting to and becoming more aware of a new allergen.

I have been lucky enough to grow out of a few food allergies such as egg, shellfish, and seafood. About 8 years ago, when I was 16 years old, I had a mild allergic reaction to a hot dog I ate at a restaurant. I developed hives around my mouth part way through my meal. Knowing that none of my other allergens (peanuts and tree nuts) were in the food I was confused as to why I was reacting this way. I made an appointment with my allergist and explained what had happened. After thinking about it further I could remember times growing up where I would eat meatballs or chicken fingers and complain about the food being spicy because I had a strange feeling in my throat. Looking back, it was probably a mild allergic reaction because right away my allergist knew what I reacted to: soy protein isolate. This is a man-made manipulation of soy that is used as a filler in many reformed and frozen meat products. My allergist had found that many of his young patients with peanut allergies also had an allergy to soy protein isolate. He performed the skin testing and the hive was about two times the size of the one for peanuts!

At that time, I had a lot of difficulties adapting to this new allergy since soy protein isolate was a newer and less well known ingredient in many foods. I found new products popping up all the time that contained it: salad dressings, cake mixes, fruit juices, and sauces. It is coming up in more and more places as it is a cheap way to boost the protein content and help bind products together. This was very challenging for me as I had to look for new words when reading labels on everything I ate. At 16 years old I had a good idea of what foods were safe in regards to my nut allergies but soy protein isolate is so unpredictable that to this day I double check ingredients constantly on new foods because I never know where I will find it!

Growing into an allergy can be quite difficult as it presents new challenges with finding safe foods, eating out, and all the other difficulties one at risk for anaphylaxis finds in life, at a time when you thought you had things under control. Although it can be tough, it has also helped me to become even more careful with the allergies I have had my entire life and make me that much safer when it comes to managing my allergies.

Lindsay S.

3 thoughts on “Hello new Food Allergy, my old friend”

  1. I’m living this now; took a month and 8 major reactions before I was able to get re-tested… Pepper was one of the new culprits, and probably sulphites. Those are in everything, including salt, sometimes. I’m finally getting better at improv cooking, though?

    I’m hopeful that in a few months I can re-try some food that may (or may not) be allergens- we cut a LOT out quickly during that month (seeds, peanut, any vegetable related to birch) and I didn’t test positive for them… But I’ll wait until my system is a little less edgy (no reactions for a month, we’ve decided).

    One of my recent post-testing reactions was my own fault… I read the ingredients of a familiar brand of cream, but didn’t think through it very hard as I grew up using the brand. I’m guessing they put sulphites in their skim milk powder… It’s often used to prevent clumping. Or maybe I’m still missing a new allergen… Grr.

  2. I was diagnosed with a soy protein allergy after a few anaphylactic reactions as well! It’s SO hard for the exact reasons you listed. Labels that say “soy” are my new biggest pet peeve. Growing up with an allergy is so much different than suddenly becoming allergic to the foods I ate daily. Mine sounds really similar to yours – had “reactions” when I was little where mushroom soup wouldnt go all the way down my throat but never knew why. Fast forward to eating chicken fingers and having a reaction and my allergist was absolutely stunned when my soy tests came back positive but I’d only had one reaction and can eat soybeans without any issue (I dont dare eat them now though!). So far only soy protein causes issues. If the original poster sees this, can you eat other forms of soy (hydrolized protein, lecithin, flour etc) or no?

    1. Original poster here! Sorry to hear about your soy protein allergy but glad to know you could relate to this post. For me so far it seems to be soy protein and variants on the term including soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed soy protein, soy protein concentrate. Soy lecithin has been fine for me, not sure if I’ve ever encountered soy flour though. I also don’t have problems with products if they just contain soy like soya sauce for example. As I’m sure you have learned though it unfortunately does end up being a bit of a guessing game when reading labels!

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