Almost all processed foods in the United States contain soy and / or soy protein. Soy protein (concentrated soy) is used to prolong meat, emulsify food and as a thickener. These uses have transformed the food industry. Foods that never contained soy protein – smoothies, ice cream, frozen potatoes and baked goods – can now contain them.
Most companies list soy protein on labels, but they don’t. In March 2005, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued an allergy warning for “undeclared soy protein” in a specific brand of cheesecake. All eight cheesecake flavors contained soy protein, but were not listed on any of the labels.
“Consuming these products can cause serious or life-threatening reactions in people with soy protein allergies,” said the warning.
Soy protein is often a hidden ingredient. This is because soy protein has many names: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, isolated soy protein, soy protein concentrate, structured soy protein, vegetable protein, soy flour, soy flour, structured soy flour and tofu. Even if you weren’t allergic to soy protein before, now you may be allergic to it.
Did you feel uncomfortable after eating fast food? Have you had a stomach ache after eating in a restaurant? Have you had “indigestion” after eating food prepared with a sauce or a mixture of rice? Symptoms of soy protein allergy include colitis (inflammation of the colon), bloating in the stomach and severe pain in the stomach. These symptoms can last 24 hours or longer.
Few adults are allergic to soy, according to the Cleveland Clinic, but times are changing. Most people are allergic to soy protein because of the number of products that contain it. You would not be the first person to consult a doctor because you are worried about ulcers and find out that you are allergic to soybeans.
If you can’t eat soybeans, you may not be able to eat similar foods. The Center for Food and Environmental Illness says that soybeans are part of the legume family, so you may have “cross reactions” with peas, chickpeas, lima beans, black beans, lentils, peanuts and even wheat. What can you do?
You can become a food label detective. Before putting a product into your shopping, read each word on each label. Shopping will take longer, but this is a decent change to avoid getting sick. The recipes change, so keep reading the labels even of the products have been safe in the past.
Keep a continuous list of foods to avoid. Do it on a computer, if possible, because your list will go from dozens of articles to hundreds in a few weeks. Take the list with you when you go shopping. When you eat out, don’t be afraid to ask the server if there are soy protein in a recipe.
The only way to “cure” soy protein allergy is to avoid the foods that contain it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to prepare meals from scratch. Set a few hours every weekend (or when it’s convenient) for preparing meals. Prepare a large amount of soup, for example, and freeze most of it. You can also freeze individual dinners and portions in aluminum pans.
Finally, always have a gas-reducing product, such as Beano or Gax X, handy. Your doctor can help, but the ultimate responsibility for soy protein allergy lies with you. Although this requires vigilance, it is worth the health and well-being.
Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson. To find out more about his work, go to www.harriethodgson.com .