Allergens, like soy, can hide in the sneakiest of places. I never thought that by taking nutritional supplements that I would slowly be worsening my health, but that is exactly what happened.

I spent Christmas 2019 to Christmas 2020 sick. 

My daughter and I love sushi.

I woke up on Christmas of 2019 throwing up. I had really bad cramps and couldn’t keep anything down. It took me 3 days to recuperate. 

In January 2020, we went to see family for my twins’ 2nd birthday. The day we left to go home, I became violently ill again. We had to stop several times on the long drive home. We thought it was food poisoning because my husband was also a little sick, but not as bad as I was. 

At least twice a month, this illness would creep up. It would start with cramps, a severe build up of gas, and sulfur like burps. I would vomit for several hours and not be able to keep anything down. Sometimes it would come with really bad diarrhea. My weight fluctuated so much that year. I would get better and then after a week or two the cycle would start all over again. 

I went to a doctor, but they just thought I had a recurring stomach bug. I was fairly certain that was not the case, since the pain had been lasting for so long. So when I protested, the only thing the doctor suggested was to start eliminating foods just to see if that helped anything. 

I began with taking out gluten, dairy, sugar, and red meat from my diet. Eliminating food was not a new concept to me. I had already eliminated soy from my diet after having been diagnosed with an intolerance in college. 

After eliminating those ingredients, I did not expect change immediately. But as the weeks turned into months without any change in sickness levels, I was extremely disheartened. I feared this was to become my new normal. 

The vitamins I was taking contained soy.
The vitamins I was taking contained soy.

After almost a whole year of living like this, sick and on a limited diet, one November day, my husband had a thought that changed everything for me. He looked at the ingredients of my daily vitamins which I had been taking for the past several years. He thought, just maybe, there was something in there that we were trying to eliminate from my diet. Sure enough, there in bold letters he read: “CONTAINS SOYBEANS.” He turned to me and said, “babe, these have soy in them.” 

My head exploded. That made so much sense! When I was sick, I was unable to eat nor take any vitamins for a week. Once my body got rid of everything and my system cleared, I felt better. Then I would take those silly vitamins again! The cycle repeated after a week or so once back on them. Needless to say, I IMMEDIATELY threw them out. 

After this revelation, I added the other eliminated foods back into my diet, minus soy of course, and I felt wonderful! The moral of my story is to check labels on EVERYTHING – food, vitamins, supplements, and personal hygiene products – when you are trying to eliminate items from your diet. Allergens can be found almost anywhere. 

According to the Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004, the top 9 allergens must be listed on all food products. Food also includes dietary supplements, as defined in section 201(ff) of the FD&C Act (21 U.S.C. 321(ff)).

My Life Post-Soy

Without having soy in my diet, my body was feeling better, but somehow I was still craving dishes that are traditionally heavy in the soy-department. For example, my 4-year-old daughter and I LOVE sushi with eel sauce. 

With this in mind, I researched sauces that were good replacements for soy sauce and found coconut aminos. It is a 1 to 1 substitution, and I use it for anything that calls for soy sauce. I can make teriyaki sauce, Chinese BBQ, and, my favorite, eel sauce using coconut aminos! It is not quite as rich of a flavor but it does the job when you mix it with other ingredients like garlic, chili oils, ginger, or sriracha. 

Check out my recipe for Soy-Free Teriyaki Sushi Bowl.

Here are some brands that offer allergen-free sauce options for traditional Asian dishes:

  • Sky Valley
  • Ocean’s Halo
  • Primal Kitchen
  • San-J Sauce
  • Coconut Secret

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