Soy allergy is a type of food allergy. “Soy allergy” (U.S.) or Soya allergy (UK) is one of the most common food allergies. It is a hypersensitivity to dietary substances from soy causing an overreaction of the immune system which may lead to severe physical symptoms for millions of people. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates soy is among the nine most common food allergens for pediatric and adult food allergy patients. It is usually treated with an exclusion diet and vigilant avoidance of foods that may be contaminated with soy ingredients. The most severe food allergy reaction is called anaphylaxis and is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention and treatment with Epinephrine.
Those allergic to soy protein should always read food ingredient labels carefully and avoid any foods containing soybean, including the substances listed below. Caution should be exercised when dining at Asian restaurants or when using Asian sauces, which may contain soy.
Reactions and Treatment
Some people who are not allergic to soy protein may have an extreme allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock (anaphylaxis). In cases of anaphylaxis, emergency medical personnel typically administer epinephrine (available as an autoinjector, such as EpiPen) and an antihistamine such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine). In event of an allergic reaction, the victim should see a physician or immediately go to the emergency room, as anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated immediately.
Soy allergy can also manifest itself as urticaria, rash, redness (inflammation due to immune system response) and severe itching of the skin. These symptoms can happen immediately, but may also manifest a day (or even days) after consuming soy protein.
Food sources of soy protein
Many fast-food restaurants commonly use soy protein in hamburger buns (soy flour) hamburger meat (soy protein) and hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) in sauces. On their respective web sites, McDonald’s and Burger King list soy flour as an ingredient in their hamburger buns. U.S. Nutrition Information Multi-grain breads, doughnuts, doughnut mix and pancake mix commonly contain soy flour. Nearly all bread products available in the US now contain soy. Soy can now be found in nearly all types of foods, from meat to ice cream, to cheese, to french fries. Many foods are contaminated with soy due to being cooked in soy oil. At the Jack in the Box fast food chain for example, everything fried is cooked in a soy oil. At Baskin Robbins, over half of all ice creams offered contain soy. Canned tuna may contain vegetable broth which contains soy protein.
Some products [for reasons having to do with national regulation of soy products] don’t list soy protein or soy flour on their ingredients labels, yet they still contain soy. There are still many latent issues resolving how soy should be regulated, as well as it’s long term effects on human health.
Products containing soy protein include:
- shoyu sauce
- soy (soy albumin, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy milk, soy nuts, soy sprouts)
- soybean (curd, granules)
- soybean butter
- soy protein (concentrate, isolate)
- soy milk
- soy sauce, tamari
- textured vegetable protein (TVP)
The following food additives may contain soy protein:
- hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
- flavoring (including natural and artificial)
- canned chicken broth
- vegetable broth, gum, protein, and starch
- bouillon cubes (beef, chicken, vegetable, etc.)
- caramel color
- vegetable oil
- vegetable fat
- vegetable oil
- “natural” flavors
- mono- & di-glycerides
Many people with soy allergy can tolerate small to moderate amounts of soy protein: the typical dose needed to induce an allergic response is about 100 times higher than for many other food allergens, with 90% of sufferers being able to tolerate doses up to 400 mg. As a result, not all of those allergic to soy need to avoid very minor sources of soy protein such as soy oil or soy lecithin
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