How Much to Say About Your Food Intolerance or Allergy

Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!

Food intolerances, allergies, and sensitivities are very complex. Not only are there are tons of unique considerations that are individual to each person, but it can frequently be difficult to determine which foods are safe to eat and which foods contain an allergen. If we consider a soy intolerance as an example, we have to be concerned not only with avoiding soy-based foods like soy sauce, but also some breads, margarine, soybean oil, and even soy lecithin. This can be very difficult to communicate to others and, as a result, we are often faced with the question of how much information about Ashley’s soy intolerance we should share.

 Don't be afraid to share details with friends and family - IMAGE VIA PEXELS

Don't be afraid to share details with friends and family - IMAGE VIA PEXELS

While we could go into all the excruciating details about where to find soy and what exactly Ashley’s concern is, we often find that this isn’t necessary in many situations. In some places, it is better to only share the big picture idea while others lend themselves to a more detailed and intricate explanation of our situation (for example, we tell our friends and family way more specifics than they probably want to know). We typically share information about soy intolerances at three basic levels:

  1. With family and close friends, we share all the intricacies and details. Since they know that Ashley has a soy intolerance (that’s different from an allergy) and that even foods like soybean oil and natural flavors can cause problems, they are more perceptive of ingredients and are more able to accommodate our food restrictions when we eat with them. This is a good long-term situation because our family and friends feel comfortable asking us questions and we often eat together.
  2. With acquaintances, we share some of the details, but we don’t go into depth. We are comfortable sharing that Ashley can’t eat soy, but we don’t necessarily distinguish between an intolerance or an allergy. In the same vein, we stress checking the ingredient list for soy or soybean oil, but we don’t explain all the intricacies of particular soy-free foods that we’ve found unless someone asks. If a food intolerance or allergy comes up in discussion, these people need to know the basics, but since we spend less time with them, it isn’t necessary to provide all the details.
  3. With people we will never see again but who need to know about Ashley’s soy intolerance (think: at a restaurant) we only share the basics. We say that Ashley has a soy allergy and ask them to check the ingredient list for anything soy-related. This effectively communicates our concern without needlessly sharing details that could confuse the situation. 
 Friends and family often eat with you, so they should know about your intolerance or allergy - IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

Friends and family often eat with you, so they should know about your intolerance or allergy - IMAGE VIA PIXABAY

We don’t need to communicate all the information we know about food intolerances in every scenario, so we try to communicate the necessary (and relevant) information to be successful without unnecessarily oversharing. After all, no one wants to be that person who can’t stop talking about what they can’t eat. Often, it can feel hard to share details with family and friends, but it can be so rewarding to see them help in food situations. Remember, you aren’t in this alone, and the people around you can help!