More and more people are developing soy allergies. Could this have something to do with the fact that soy is used in over sixty percent of all processed food and accounts for over seventy-five percent of Americans’ consumption of vegetable fats and oils? It isn’t an exaggeration to say that soy is present in almost every aspect of our lives, and that it is extremely difficult to avoid it.

So what does a soy allergy look like? It depends on the severity of the allergy and how the person’s immune system reacts to the allergen. People who are allergic to soy can have minor symptoms like hives or a rash, or severe symptoms like anaphylactic shock, a drop in blood pressure, and even death.

Our wild apple blossoms

Possible soy allergy symptoms:

  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Flushed face
  • Swollen eyes, lips, throat, tongue, or face
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • A feeling of faintness and anxiety
  • A sudden impending sense of doom and weakness
  • Extreme paleness
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Vomiting
  • Severe cramps or diarrhea
  • Extreme hyperactivity in children
  • Delayed reaction (read Kristy’s comment below)
  • Debilitating migraines (not usually acknowledged as a symptom but for many people, including myself, severe migraines are the MAIN symptom)

If you or someone in your family has a soy allergy, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to check product labels every single time you purchase anything. Just because a product hasn’t contained soy in the past doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain soy now. Ingredients lists often change, and we’re finding soy in many places now where it wasn’t before.

Also, don’t trust the new allergen labeling completely. It can be helpful when soy is clearly stated on the label, but there are still a variety of ways that soy can be present in the product without it being stated on the label. Calling the manufacturer should result in accurate information, but we have found that many customer service representatives (even the “lab experts”) have no idea of the many ways that soy can be present in a product. We’ve also had customer service representatives insist that their product does not contain soy in any form, and then add that just to be on the safe side, they would advise not eating the product if the allergy is life threatening. Not very reassuring, is it?

First, obviously anything with the word “soy” in it is to be avoided:

  • Soy, soybean
  • Soya, soyabean
  • Soy protein, soy isolate
  • Textured soy flour or TSF
  • Textured soy protein or TSP

There are many other names for soy:

  • Textured vegetable protein or TVP
  • Tofu (soybean curds)
  • Edamame
  • Miso
  • Okara
  • Tempeh
  • Nimame
  • Kinako
  • Yuba
  • Kouridofu
  • Natto

Next to look for… the ingredients that are usually made from or contain soy:

  • Lecithin
  • Monosodium glutamate or MSG
  • Mono-diglyceride
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein or HPP
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vegetable shortening (like Crisco and the other solid white shortenings in a can)
  • Vegetable broth
  • Protein
  • Protein concentrate
  • Protein isolates
  • Guar gum, vegetable gum
  • Gum arabic
  • Glycerol monostearate
  • Natural flavorings
  • Thickening agents
  • Stabilizers
  • Liquid smoke (some brands)
  • Vitamin E
  • Citric acid (can be derived from fruit, corn, or soy)

Note: Although guar gum and gum arabic are made from legumes that are closely related to soybeans, the real problem is the soy added during the manufacturing process. (Guar gum, for example, sometimes has up to ten percent of added soy protein.)

And then there are those products containing soy as an emulsifier, a flavoring agent, additional protein, etc., etc., etc.:

  • Almost all commercial bakery items (breads, cakes, cookies, doughnuts)
  • Cake mixes, cookie mixes, pancake mixes, any baking mixes
  • Breakfast cereal (check label carefully… some cereals contain no soy but have a cross contamination notice)
  • Anything breaded
  • Self-basting turkeys (call the company for ingredient list)
  • Canned tuna (even the tuna packed in water is almost always flavored with vegetable broth)
  • Canned meat products unless otherwise stated
  • Processed and prepared sliced meats (deli meats)
  • Ham or smoked anything (check ingredient list)
  • Hot dogs, packaged cold meats, sausage
  • Imitation crab meat, imitation bacon bits
  • Canned soups, broths, or stocks
  • Dried soup mixes (the flavor packet)
  • Frozen vegetables with sauces
  • Almost anything labeled as vegetarian
  • Sauces: teriyaki, Worcestershire, soy, shoyu, tamari, sweet and sour
  • Gravies and marinades
  • Bouillon cubes
  • “Dairy free” products
  • Half and half (check ingredients)
  • Fresh cream (a very few heavy creams are soy free)
  • Dairy topping in can or packaged mix
  • Some yogurts
  • Ice cream (a few of the gourmet ice creams are OK, but most supermarket ice creams are not)
  • Purchased pizza
  • Peanut butter (look for 100% peanuts only, with or without added salt)
  • Baby formula, baby foods
  • Most seasoning blends (again, check label carefully)
  • Spices (some manufacturers are adding smoothing agents and anti-caking agents that contain soy… I have had problems with garlic powder, ground cinnamon, and chili powder)
  • Margarine
  • Butter substitutes or anything with “butter flavor”
  • Salad dressings
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ketchup
  • Almost anything “diet”
  • Crackers
  • Potato chips, corn chips, and just about any kind of chips… if you’re lucky, you might find some potato chips without soy
  • Popcorn
  • Unpopped popcorn (not all, but check the label)
  • Soft drinks (not all, but check the label)
  • Energy drinks, energy bars
  • Beverage mixes like hot chocolate, instant tea, or lemonade
  • Most candy and most chocolate (exceptions: some baking chocolate and chocolate made with cocoa butter instead of lecithin)
  • Chewing gum
  • Cooking sprays (except one 100% olive oil spray that may or may not contain soy)
  • Carob
  • Microwaveable meals
  • Restaurant food
  • Fast food
  • Herbal teas

Many non-food items usually contain soy:

  • Craft products like glue
  • Inks (newspapers, magazines, books)
  • Cardboard
  • Paints and stains
  • Carpets
  • Flooring
  • Pet food
  • Vitamins
  • Many non-prescription drugs
  • Cosmetics
  • Lotions and other skin products
  • Soap and soap products
  • Shampoo
  • Sunscreen
  • Candles (soy wax and scents)
  • Plastics
  • Cleaning products
  • Automotive waxes
  • Air fresheners or other scented products
  • Adhesives
  • Fertilizers
  • Pre-seasoned cast iron cookware (some are seasoned with soy oil)
  • Some fabrics, some yarns

Food or non-food items from other countries may contain soy without it being listed on the label. Also be aware that cross contamination can cause problems… any cross contamination possibilities should be listed on the label but often are not. Cross contamination occurs when a product that usually does not contain soy comes into contact with a product that does contain soy. Even though the cross contamination might be slight, for a person with a serious soy allergy, the dangers of eating the product are significant. Products can be cross contaminated during the manufacturing or packaging processes when the same equipment is used for soy and non-soy products. Watch what happens in stores, too. A soy-free cheese sliced on the same slicer as a cheese containing soy, for example, is not safe for a person with a soy allergy to eat. The same applies to soy-free food being stored next to products containing soy… this happens often in bulk food bins.

You may have seen official sites stating that a soy allergy in an adult is rare and that most soy allergies are outgrown. However, recent new information verifies that soy allergies can last for a lifetime and that reactions often can be so severe as to result in death. I am glad to see that finally soy allergies are being taken more seriously.

Obviously a soy allergy is nothing to fool around with. I have a huge problem with the recipe sites and cooking shows that advise sneaking tofu or other soy products into foods for their supposed nutritional value… this is just stupid… and this silly deception could lead to an emergency medical situation or even death to an allergic person. PLEASE don’t ever serve ANYONE anything containing soy without first making sure that the person eating it knows that they will be eating soy. Another point I would like to dispute is the often repeated advice that soy oil is safe for someone with a soy allergy because “most of the protein has been removed”. For a person with a soy allergy, this is dangerous nonsense… any exposure to soy in any form should be avoided.