Monday, November 10, 2014

Homework BEFORE the Holidays- avoiding ANAPHYLAXIS

Thanksgiving and Christmas are often the allergic person's most feared social events of the year. Unless you make everything yourself, you really never know how allergy- safe holiday food is.

In past years, I've discussed Surviving the Holidays with a Coconut Allergy.  But, I mainly focused on which coconutty foods to avoid.  This year, I want you to give yourself the gift of enlisting your family or friends in becoming your allergy advocate.  

Here is how you can train others to make your life less lame during social meals:

First, show your family or friends this interactive guide on Healthline:

This guide will help them know what life threatening symptoms could possibly be caused by your allergy.  

Second, dig out your PRACTICE EPI PEN and all of your other meds (Benadryl, Steroids, etc). And show them how to save your life if it ever happens to you.

Next, tell them how NOT FUN it is for you to always have to be the one defending yourself against potential allergens in food.  Give them lists of foods you are allergic to on paper, or keep a list on your iPhone that you can text them. 

Finally, when it's time to eat, put THEM to work.  It will now be their responsibility to make sure you easily find safe food.  Ideally, your loved ones should come up to you at the beginning of a shared meal or party, point out what they brought to eat,  and tell you whether or not it is something that you can safely eat.  Remind them that it's totally fine if they bring something you can't eat, as long as you know you can't eat it.

The icing on the cake comes when you go out to eat and your companions get the allergy menu for you, they remind the server of how serious your allergies are, or they call the restaurant ahead of time to make sure the chef can prepare something you can eat.  

Allergies are rough during the holidays.  Hopefully, once you enlist and train others who are willing to go to bat for you, it can be less lame.  Friends who stick up for friends with allergies are showing so much needed love during a holiday; and that is a gift money can't buy. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Coconut free soap fan mail from Melissa

Thank you again for your note, Melissa!  With her permission, I will share her email since it is pretty much how we all feel about slimy alternative soap (see below):

I wanted to thank you for your blog at  My husband has a coconut allergy, which seems to be somewhat uncommon as he’s not allergic to any other kind of nuts, only coconut.  His throat will swell if he eats whole coconut, he will get sick to his stomach if he eats movie theater popcorn that’s popped in coconut oil, his skin will break out on contact if he uses shampoos or other products that contain coconut oil.

I’ve gotten away from using most commercial or non-organic cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and soaps.  If my local health food store won’t carry it, I don’t want it on my skin.  My biggest stumbling block has been bar soap.  The vast majority contain coconut oil, because of its moisturizing properties and the thick, rich lather it creates.  My only alternative has been castille/olive oil soap, but my husband doesn’t like it because it’s ‘slimy’.

I’ve finally found a solution, and that’s soap made by One With Nature ( ).  I use the lemon sage and love it!  It has an amazing scent and is husband approved.  Much better than the ‘slimy’ Kiss My Face olive oil soap I was using before.

Just to be sure before I purchased the soap, I contacted the company to be sure that they were coconut free.  They confirmed that the formula for all their soaps (except for ‘Coconut Lime’) did not contain coconut.  Most use palm oil, and some also contain argan oil, but no coconut.  You can see the response below.

Hope this helps!



Good Morning Melissa, 


Our Bar soap products (4oz and 7oz size ) are both made in Jordan and then

shipped to the United States.  Our lotion, Hand Washes and Body Washes are

made in the United States with Dead Sea Salt brought in from Jordan.  The

same can be said for our Dead Sea mineral Bath Salts. 


We do have a line of our products that is called Coconut Lime.  As you are

aware, we recommend you to not use this line. 


We used to have a bar soap called Coconut Milk but this was discontinued 


All of our other bar soaps SHOULD be Coconut Free.  There SHOULD not be

cross-contamination.  But we do not guarantee the production line in the



We recommend that you test a small area on your body to double check for any

allergies that some people have to natural fragrances. 


If there is a particular scent which you prefer, I can provide the

ingredients list to you. 


If you would like more in depth information on the ingredients used, One

With Nature utilizes the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients

(INCI) I have provided the link for your reference.



Thank you for your inquiry. 


Stacie Swarner

One With Nature

Director of Business Operations 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to Substitute Out the Coconut in Recipes

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is the amount of coconut oil showing up in recipes.  I often joke with people that I totally wouldn't mind being a vegan, but I can't, because I'm allergic to coconut. Seriously, it's in everything these days because it's been marketed as the newest "healthy" fat.

I would like to provide some reassuring yin to the yang for all of us who are longingly wishing we could march along in the coconut oil parade.  I cook pretty much everything from the periodic table because of my allergies, so, not to brag, but my time in the kitchen has taught me many things about making good food that doesn't taste at all tropical.

  • Virtually ALL oils contain less saturated fat than coconut oil.  It's considered a SOLID fat even though it is liquid at room temperature.
  • One tablespoon has 11.8 g of saturated fat, .8g monounsaturated fat, and .2 grams of polyunsaturated fat.  It has only trace amounts of nutrients.  It also has 117 calories.  Genuine butter has 102 calories, and 7g of saturated fat, .4 polyunsaturated, 3g of monounsaturated, and .5 g of trans fat. 
  • Coconut oil has a neutral, not beneficial effect on cholesterol.  It raises both good and bad cholesterol.
Now that we are less sad that we are allergic to it, what do we do with it in recipes that we want to try?  Well, it depends entirely on the recipe!  
  • Coconut Oil-  substitute butter, shortening, or other vegetable, canola, etc oils.
  • Coconut Milk- substitute whole milk, or non-dairy milks (paying attention to the flavor of the milk)
  • Shredded coconut- this one really depends on what you are making!  For example, if you want to alter the frosting on a german chocolate cake, just add extra nuts to the frosting instead (try slivered almonds), OR sunflower seeds, dried shredded fruit (like thinly sliced apricots), or rolled oats.
  • Coconut flour- regular wheat flour, or a combination of gluten free flours (let me know if you need help with this because you'll need to keep it high in protein and fiber, so adding flax seed and soy flour will help any rice flour mix)
For stand alone cake forms, look for a pound cake type recipe with real butter. 

When subbing coconut oil in baked goods, look at the end result and the amount of fat in the finished product, for example:
MOST FAT= like brownies  - use butter or margarine
HIGH FAT= like cookies or biscuits- use less butter or margarine
MODERATE FAT= like muffins - use oil
LOWER FAT= cakelike - use oil or cream
NON FAT= like cardboard if you leave it out

Usually, you can make baked goods hold together and have a slightly more cakelike texture if you substitute applesauce.

In baked goods, depending on the item, you can use melted butter, shortening, cream, yogurt, applesauce, milk, or milk substitutes.  It all depends on what you are making and how much fat you want to eat.  The end texture will be more like cake as you remove the saturated fats.  

What is killing me recently is the amount of recipes that call for butter AND coconut oil.  That gets kind of confusing.  I usually just add milk or cream and end up with something slightly more (and delightfully) fluffy than it is probably supposed to be.

 If you have a recipe you want to send me, I can give you advice on what to sub out. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Scoop on Coconut-free Shampoos

Almost every day.  That is how often I get emails from readers about coconut free shampoos.  I want to answer your questions about all the coconut-derived ingredients in shampoos, but I honestly don't know. My excellent allergists honestly don't know.  The people who make the shampoos also don't really know.

So, here is what I will tell all of you about shampoos.  I have been using some that ::: probably ::: contain a tiny bit of coconut molecules.  GASP!  I know, I know!  Shocking.

But guess what?  It's okay.  Unless you go into anaphylactic shock if you are in the same county as a coconut tree, many of these coconut-derived ingredients probably won't bother you if they are low on the ingredient list.  I'm not saying, go out and start eating macaroons, but I am saying that we can all chill out a little bit.  Everyone's level of sensitivity is different.  That is why you need to go to the effort of testing each product we use before dumping it on our heads in the shower.  If you haven't already, please read this "Am I Going to Have an Allergic Reaction to this Shampoo?" post about doing a little self-allergy test.

With that said, I am going to tell you about the shampoos that I have been using for a long time that give me absolutely no reaction at all.  And, I don't need to talk about conditioners, because most of them don't have any coconutty stuff in them.


  • Healthy Sexy Hair Soy Moisture Shampoo (Soy, Cocoa, and Argan Oil)- I found at my salon in the mall.  This one is my favorite.

  • Trader Joes Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo

  • Trader Joes Nourish SPA Shampoo

  • Neutrogena Triple Moisture Cream Lather Shampoo – can buy anywhere.  This one isn't really my favorite as they used to make a different version which was much, much better.  Of course, they discontinued the one I really liked.  And yes, it has tons of alleged allergens.

  • There are shampoos out there that will cost a fortune, and there are ones that are made by monks, or wind power, organic, vegan, etc, etc.  Forget it.  All you need is one that you don't react to.  Just because you have allergies doesn't mean you have to change your religion or become more political or co-sleep with all of your children.  You just have to not get hives or have your face swell up.  

    Thursday, August 15, 2013

    More Shampoos!

    I was traveling and visited my parents in Tucson, AZ.  Of course, I saw they had a new shampoo that I wasn't allergic to and I tried it.  It was called TATANKA SHAMPOO.  I loved it! They have really hard water there and it did really well with it.   It is made locally by a guy who sells it at the swap meet.  He just barely got an online site going, too.  It is made with buffalo tallow and palm oil, etc.  I wasn't allergic to it at all and it made my hair very happy.  In fact, I need to buy some more now that I'm home.

    Here is a link to the site:

    Nora, one of our readers, also sent me the names of a couple shampoo suggestions:

    Alaffa Coffee & Shea revitalizing shampoo citrus mint

    And maybe another conditioner: Aubrey White Camelia Ultra-Smoothing Conditioner

    Good luck coconut free shampoo hunters.

    Wednesday, May 29, 2013

    Coconut-free Makeup?

    A question I often discuss with many of you offline via email is MAKEUP!

    Most make-up companies usually don't list the ingredients for the world to see. So, if you want to go to the drug store to shop for make-up, you will probably find it to be a frustrating and mysterious experience.
    However, I have had great success and patience from workers at Origins stores, since they have their own storefront for just their brand.  However, don't try to get much from their online representatives.  All of my requests for ingredients have been redirected to the point of being completely ignored if I try to get them emailed to me.  Also, a good Mary Kay representative will be able to go into their personal computer system and search for ingredients that you are allergic to and see which products use them.  This has been how I get the only makeup I have found to work for me.  But, believe me, I really don't use much makeup anymore.

    MASCARA= No, thank you.
    I remember the first allergic reaction I had to some mascara (all mascara that I have found has SLS in it or something coconut related to make it slippery).  About a half hour after I put it on, it made me feel like my eyelids were being peeled back over the top of my head.  It burned!  This was, most likely, a sign as a teenager that I had a coconut allergy.  Mascara is just so risky if you're allergic to coconut.  If you MUST glam it up in the eyelash realm and aren't sensitive to adhesives, try some falsies.  They really are fun, can look pretty natural, and actually in fashion right now (well, depending on where you live in the country).  If you live in a big city you can even find salons who will glue them on for you!

    Another makeup item to watch out for is cover-up or foundation.  In its liquid form, it contains SLS as well.  A good alternative is pure mineral makeup.

    LIPSTICK= Take time to sort through them.
    I find that about half of lipsticks have coconut ingredients.  Look for lipstick that you can sharpen with the big pencil sharpener, rather than the extra creamy stuff in the regular lipstick tubes.  Many of the pencil lipsticks still have Coco-something or rather.

    EYELINER= Maybe, maybe not.
    Liquid eyeliners, like lipsticks, tend to have more allergenic ingredients.  So, stick with the ones that are in pencil form, and research labels carefully.

    EYE SHADOW= Yes, please!  But only if powder.  Still double check, but I haven't ever found a powdered eye shadow that had anything coconutty in it.  Cream eye shadows would be more iffy.

    FACE POWDER- Safe :-).  This may be your go-to makeup item.  Powders usually have very few ingredients, mostly talcum, minerals, and tints.  Not usually anything coconut-related.

    BLUSH- Usually safe, if powder

    As you can see, most of the purely powdery makeup is safe.  You can make it work better if you skin is dry by applying a moisturizer that you aren't allergic to (nutrogena seems to work well) right before you put on the powder to help it stick.  You can even mix your powder with your moisturizer.

    Experiment, and let me know what you've been able to come up with!  Let us all know what your favorites are.

    Wednesday, February 27, 2013

    LEAP MRT testing

    I recently had a test that my new allergy doctor suggested to try and figure out some of my more serious, delayed reactions to foods.  It was really cosmic to see how accurate it was in finding the foods that bothered me, when the other common blood tests didn't show anything.  However, it didn't show a big reaction to coconut.  It is called LEAP MRT, which stands for Lifestyle, Eating, and Performance Mediator Release Testing.  It tests your blood over time to see whether it reacts by releasing mediators like histamine, cytokines, and/or prostaglandins when it contacts the food.  It doesn't say which kind of mediator is released, just that it happened.

    My doctor has said this test has helped a lot of people, so I thought, why not go for it even though I had to pay for it all out of pocket.  The test alone cost me $295!  Not cool that even my slick PPO insurance doesn't cover it, but I was so intrigued, I had to spring for it.

    It shows your reactions to more than a hundred foods and chemicals in green, yellow, or red, depending how your blood reacts to the trigger.  Here are some of my results for an example.  This is just for fun, because everyone's reactions will be vastly different, so my results will  not be anything like yours if you had the test.

    This was the only test out there that shows chemical sensitivities, which I wasn't really worried about, but now I know that I have probably issues with some artificial colors.

    Although coconut is on there and not considered really reactive as far as these mediators (even though if I eat or touch it I will have a textbook allergic reaction), maybe I should start worrying about sesame!
    Here the section that shows my nemesis, wheat.   The only other things I was in the red zone for were peanut and tapioca.  I didn't realize I was having trouble with tapioca, since it's in all my gluten free bread. Darn!  

    The question is, why did I not react to coconut in this test?  That is because this test shows a different type of reaction than the other allergy tests.  Although I will test positive on a skin test to coconut, it could be because my allergy is through mast cells and a tissue reaction rather than a blood reaction.  I am learning that there are so many different types of allergic-type reactions including things that are real reactions that doctors don't have a label to give to yet, so they just call them sensitivities! 

    In any case, this test is mostly marketed to people with IBS or migraines, but it supposedly can help people with autoimmune issues, autism, ADHD, chronic congestion, etc.  So, I guess I have a few more foods to watch out for. 

    The program intends for you to work with a nutritionist to plan your meals and do an elimination/ reintroduction diet.  That would cost me an extra $100 and the booklet explains how to do this, so I am going to set out to do it myself.  The real benefit to this is that the booklet has already included which foods for me to introduce when, so they already did most of the work.