Vegans with Allergies by Mary Nesbitt Larking

Mary is a vegan activist from Hertfordshire who also runs the YouTube channel The Disabled Vegan Activist.

When people first discover that I follow a vegan lifestyle, one of the most common responses that I receive is “wow, that must be very restricting!”

So imagine their surprise when I tell them that not only do I refrain from consuming all animal based products (including dairy, eggs and honey) but that I am also extremely intolerant to both gluten AND soya.

The discovery of my intolerance came around 2 years into my vegan journey, after suffering with extreme stomach pain and nausea. After almost a year in hospital trying to find the cause of the issues, it was soon realised that I had could no longer consume gluten. Another year passed and new problems began to arise. It was then that soya products had to be eliminated too, and my body was finally able to start healing.

Allergies are a very common- and genuinely valid- concern for people wanting to transition to a vegan lifestyle. With so many delicious vegan treats such as mock meats, mock fish and dairy free ice cream being heavily gluten and soya based, it is no wonder people in my position would feel anxious about still being able to consume a healthy and substantial diet. 

Luckily, the world as we know it is changing. With every day that passes, more and more great tasting, allergen free products are being introduced to supermarkets. Online shops like Ocado have an absolutely huge range of yummy foods, and each month I treat myself to products like GoodLife Sweet Carrot & Nut Burgers and Alpro Hazelnut Chocolate Ice Cream.

Of course, expense is a factor. The great news about that is that every day essentials such as rice, beans, lentils, chickpeas, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and potatoes are all completely safe for people in my position. And whilst it may sound dull, the right combination of herbs, spices and condiments can truly add to a dish.  

One of the cheapest- yet most flavoursome- dishes that I make is gluten and soya free vegan chilli. I use a variety of beans, tinned tomatoes, rice and a huge variety of spices to give it a hearty kick. Garlic is a great one to give your dishes a richness, too.

To help others in my position, I run a Facebook group called Gluten Free Vegans UK. Within this group, there are people suffering with a variety of allergens such as gluten, soya, nuts, certain fruits and vegetables and even some legumes. It is a useful tool for providing one another with judgment free advice on how best to survive under restricted circumstances.

In short, if you’re considering veganism but are feeling unsure as a result of your allergies and intolerance, don’t let this hold you back! It is absolutely possible to eat healthy, delicious and flavoursome allergen free food.