May 30, 2007


Soy Can Be Poison To Those With Allergies

By Pamela Mortimer


If I hear one more person (or TV commercial) lecture me on the virtues of soy, Iím going to scream. I have been informed through flashy marketing campaigns that soy has a million wonderful little properties that can cure your heart, make you ageless, and put a spiffy shine on your shoes. (OK, so Iím exaggerating just a little.) However, if youíre allergic to the precious little bean, it can cause a great deal of trouble.


Iím not sure exactly when I became allergic to soy but I sure know it now. Naturally, when one develops food allergies, one wants to know all about them. One thing I learned rather quickly is that soy cross reacts with other foods, meaning that if a person is allergic to soy, s/he may be allergic to foods in the same family, as well. Food families arenít as simple to define as you might think. Some legumes are excluded from the legume family, some fruits and vegetables are related, etc. (One source you might want to pick up is Food Allergies for Dummies.) In the case of soy, some of its relations include peanuts, peas, lima beans, string beans, wheat, rye, and barley. Once the body develops a sensitivity, then an allergic reaction, the long lost cousins tend to come out of the woodwork. While I wasnít allergic to all of those foods in the beginning, my system apparently realized the connection and now Iím banned from all of the above except wheat, I think.


I was astonished at the number of products that contain soy - almost all salad dressings, soups, froozen foods, condiments, sauces, peanut butter, cooking oils, etc. The next time youíre in the supermarket, read over some of the labels and prepare to be amazed. In addition to foods, soy is also present in many skin care products. Particularly cleansers and lotions. I canít help but feel like itís a conspiracy.


Those reported as being allergic to soy is estimated to be about 20% of the population. While this may seem like a small number, the total number of products soy inhabits is about 60%. There is a rising concern for children with food allergies Ė soy in particular Ė who are ingesting unknown substances via school cafeterias. Even if little Johnny was savvy enough to ask what ingredients were in a particular food, chances are that the servers wouldnít know. Perhaps they wouldnít be able to find out because the packaging had been destroyed.


The same can be said for restaurants. I still like to go out to eat but obviously, I have to be very cautious. Since my food allergies go way beyond soy, I always make a point of asking if such and such an ingredient is present in the food I want to order. I am often met with a blank stare and even more often, a huffy annoyance if I ask the server to check on it for me. Most restaurants arenít aware if they use real butter or soy-laden margarine. I donít blame them. Even though I donít suffer from anaphylaxis, the reactions to these foods can be extreme enough to put me in bed for a couple of days in an utterly miserable state. In order to relay the importance of my allergy, I have taken to saying things like ďIf it has soy in it, Iíll die. Seriously.Ē I know it sounds a little extreme, but they usually pay attention.


Even if foods are labeled to indicate possible allergens, you have to consider that those foods may have come in contact with other allergens through processing or serving. Both soy and peanuts come in contact with other foods on a regular basis. On top of that, soy comes in many guises. Just as sugar can be called glucose, sucrose, corn syrup, fructose, etc., soy can appear as MSG, vegetable protein, soy lecithin, or ďnatural flavorsĒ.


Soy is also found in places you might not suspect Ė hamburgers, cheeses, pepperoni, and many other things that might contain even a smidge of oil. Many companies have even taken the peanut oil out of peanut butter and included soy oil, which is a much cheaper product. Because of the media blitz, products that contain soy are often more expensive yet cheaper to manufacture, which creates a bigger profit for the food companies. And the manufacturers are fiddling with ways to alter soy genetics to make the inexpensive oil even more versatile and popular. Oh goody.