Soy Allergy

Soy allergy is one of the most common food allergies in the United States. A soy allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly interprets the proteins in a product containing soy as a harmful substance. When a person with this allergy comes in contact (touching, breathing or eating) with soy, the body produces antibodies to fight the harmful substance, and this triggers an allergic reaction.

The most common reactions include rash (atopic dermatitis), redness and swelling around the mouth, hives (urticaria), asthma, stomachache, cramping, diarrhea or vomiting, asthma, and in extreme cases anaphylaxis. Reactions can occur within minutes or several hours after consuming the allergen.

Foods are categorized into botanical food families, and soybeans are classified as a legumes, or pulses. If you are allergic to one member of a food family, you may also be allergic to other members of the same food family.

Other foods in the legume family include beans (refried, northern, red, kidney, cannellini, pinto, navy bean, lima, butter bean, azuki, mung bean, golden gram, green gram, black gram, urd, scarlet runner bean, rice bean, moth bean, tepary bean, horse bean, broad bean, field bean, congo bean, etc.), peas (dry peas, garden pea, protein pea, chickpea, garbanzo, bengal gram, dry cowpea, black-eyed pea, pigeon pea, cajan pea, earth pea, etc.), lentils (any color), bambara groundnut, vetch and lupin (lupin flour). Also included are carob, licorice, and peanuts.

My youngest daughter Mary Grace tested positive to peas. She also has adverse reactions to soy, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans and several other members of this food family.

Some children eventually grow out of a soy allergy, although some people remain allergic for their entire lives. It is also possible to develop a soy allergy later in life. If you suspect you have a soy allergy, avoid all foods that contain soy, and please see a board certified allergist or immunologist as soon as possible. A skin prick test or RAST can confirm the allergy. (Do not use antihistamines for 7-10 days prior to the test.)

Note – If you are nursing a baby and suspect or know the baby has a soy allergy, do not eat any foods containing soy. The protein is passed through breast milk. Also, consult with your pediatrician before switching formulas.

Note – Some people with soy allergy react adversely to soybean oil and soy lecithin, and some don’t. Check with your physician before consuming either.

Which Foods and other Products Contain Soy?

Soy can be found in a number of surprising places, both food and non-food. It is commonly found in a variety of non-food products, such as ink, cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, craft materials, glycerin, conditioners, lotions, creams, ointments, pet food, vitamins, and more.

Pharmaceuticals are also possible sources of soy. Oral, inhalant (Atrovent) and topical medicines, vitamins and vaccines may all contain soy. Benedryl ® Fastmelts also contain soy. Always read all labels for foods and personal products. Manufacturers occasionally change recipes and manufacturing processes.

Note - Adopt the rule, “No label, no thank you!” Read the ingredient label every time you purchase a product. The ingredients can change at anytime. When eating out at the house of family or friends, or in a restaurant, do not eat a food if you don’t know the exact ingredients and how it was prepared.

Foods Containing Soy

Foods Likely to Contain Soy

Dairy and Non-dairy Products – cheese, cottage cheese, cheese sauce/spread, shredded cheese – especially in restaurants, yogurt, non-dairy creamers, whipped topping and frozen desserts

Snack Foods – chips, crackers, pretzels, candy, chocolate, snack and granola bars, popcorn, etc.

Meats, Seafood and Poultry – fresh meats, pork, poultry and seafood, hamburger, kebabs, meatballs, sausage, commercially prepared meats, sausage, deli/luncheon meats, pressed beef, imitation crab, surimi, fish sticks, processed and prepared meats, bacon, bacon bits, chicken nuggets

Condiments, Sauces and Spreads – spreads, dips, mayonnaise, peanut butter, nut butters, some salad dressings, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, barbecue sauce, dips, salad dressing soy sauce, shoyu, tamari, teriyaki, Worcestershire, marinades, chili sauce

Jarred and Canned Foods – vegetables, fruits, pickles, tuna or other meats, sauces, gravies, soups, stews, chili, meats and poultry, stocks, broth, bouillon, pasta sauce, cheese sauce and more

Frozen Foods – vegetables, meats and poultry, dinners, entrees, desserts, casseroles, French fries

Desserts – ice creams and other frozen desserts, sauces/toppings/dips for fruit, cakes, cookies, candy, pie, fudge

Prepared, Pre-packaged and Boxed Foods – pasta, rice and stuffing mixes, commercial entrees, and combination foods, instant (dehydrated) potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and more

Baked Goods – breads, cookies, cakes, crackers, doughnuts, muffins, pastries, rolls

Breakfast Foods – pancakes, cereal, oatmeal and other hot cereals, granola, or breakfast bars, waffles

Fats – cooking spray, margarine, vegetable shortening, vegetable oil, margarines, butter and butter substitutes, shortening, Crisco

Sports and Nutrition Foods – bars, powders, drinks, weight loss, weight gain and protein products

Processed Meats – chicken nuggets, hot dogs, processed foods and meat, sausage, deli or luncheon meats, pepperoni, salami

Candy – hard candies, nut candies, fudge, and caramels

Beverages – fruit drink mixes, soft drinks, diet drinks, imitation milk, hot chocolate (cocoa) mix, lemonade, instant coffee, tea, malt beverages, etc.

Vegetables – any vegetables prepared with sauces or breading  


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