Living with dairy and soya allergies

Living with dairy and soya allergies; Kirsty and Joshua’s story

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The Allergy Mums Club stories are a chance for allergy parents to share all that they have learned with other parents. Here Kirsty is discussing her family’s experiences of living with her son Joshua’s dairy and soya allergies. She talks about how they initially identified a dairy allergy, and the challenge of later realising that the soya alternatives they had swapped to were also causing a reaction. She shares her top tips for others in the same situation, and reflects on how Joshua’s undiagnosed allergies affected the early months of his life.

Kirsty and Joshua’s story

I’m Kirsty, and I have two children, Rachel and Joshua. Joshua (aged 2) has allergies to dairy and soya.

Can you tell us about your journey to getting a diagnosis for Joshua?

We discovered that Joshua suffered from food allergies before he turned one, and he was first diagnosed with a dairy allergy. He was general unwell, mainly vomiting, and spent lots of time being upset. We weren’t aware that he had allergies for some time, and then following a few visits to the doctor, managed to identify dairy as the cause of his discomfort.

Following this we changed his milk to a soya alternative, and after a couple of months, the same problems occurred. As we had seen the symptoms develop previously, we quickly identified soya as the cause of his pain.

The week that we discovered he had a soya allergy was quite challenging. He stopped eating, and we were unsure exactly why. When we looked at the food and milk alternatives that he was taking, most food types contained soya. He was in lots of pain, and was losing weight through refusing to eat. 

Eliminating both soya and dairy from his diet was initially very tricky, as most foods contain either dairy or soya, or come with a ‘May contain’. We eventually identified a number of suitable products, however sourcing these has been challenging.

The weeks and months after having a baby are such a vulnerable time for new mums, and allergies can make this especially challenging. How did Joshua’s allergies affect this period for you, and what would you say to help other mums in the same position?

I felt quite confused by why my son was so unsettled, and looking back, he probably had allergies from a very young age. He never seemed to be content, and was often crying lots, and we didn’t know why. Having a young family can be emotionally exhausting, and at the time, I just assumed that this was part of life. I wish now that I had thought more seriously about why he was so unsettled, and identified the problem sooner.

Often it’s the little things we learn day to day as parents that are most helpful for others who are new to living with allergies. Can you share 5 things you have learned which might help to make life easier for other parents?      

  1. Now that my son is almost three, we try to remove food products that he can’t have out of sight. He’s too young to understand, we can’t reason with him. If he sees a dairy chocolate bar and wants it, it can be tricky trying to resolve the situation. We typically ensure to have suitable snacks in the cupboards that he can enjoy with his sister.
  2. We’re fortunate as our local nursery take Joshua’s allergies seriously, and we have communicated with them at the outset. When joining a nursery, make sure that you get to know the team and communicate your child’s allergies from the outset.
  3. When dining out, we always take snacks just in case there is limited choice. It’s always helpful to look at the menu of a restaurant before you go!
  4. Educate siblings, and make sure they understand the allergies of their brother or sister. It’s very important to have the support of family living in the household. They can help to keep your child with allergies safe by understanding what foods they can, or cannot have.
  5. If your child is a fussy eater, try not to worry too much about their nutrient intake. Be patient and work through the situation, and speak with a nutritionist for support. Focus on the small steps of progress, it will get easier as they grow older.

It can be really hard to think up meal and snack ideas when you are dealing with allergies, and I’m always interested in what other people are cooking to give me inspiration! What is Joshua’s favourite thing to eat?

I like to vary meals, and find that fish and vegetables can be a good healthy option. Chickpeas often make an appearance in many dishes, such as vegetable stews and curries. When making curry dishes, I tend to use coconut milk as this provides lots of flavour and is allergen free. We also have wraps with coconut yogurt and use dairy free cheese alternatives. My son is a big fan of violife cheese alternative spread at the moment, and this often makes it way onto toast as an afternoon snack. With more choice in the market, living with allergies is becoming easier which is great for families!

Thank you so much to Kirsty for sharing her family’s experiences of living with dairy and soya allergies 💛

As well as being an amazing allergy mum, Kirsty is the founder of Angelic, a range of cookies and crackers free from all top 14 allergens. When I was breastfeeding and excluding so much from my diet all I wanted was a decent sweet treat that I didn’t have to bake myself. If you’re in that boat now, I can highly recommend that you treat yourself to some of their cookies! I absolutely love the ginger chocolate chip cookies and, predictably, both of my kids favourite flavour is the double chocolate!

You can find them in Holland & Barrett, Selfridges, Amazon and many independents throughout the UK. You can also buy direct from the Angelic website.

Is your family also living with dairy and soya allergies? If so, you may find these posts helpful:

Make sure to check out the other Allergy Mums Club Stories for more helpful advice and tips. And if you are looking for support with managing your own child’s allergies, have a look at my post all about the free support resources available to help parents and carers

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