The doctor just confirmed that 2 year old Eleanor has a soy allergy.
It all happened when her father noticed that she had a stomach ache, hives, and an itchy throat after drinking a few ounces of soy milk. Her father wondered, how common are soy allergies? How likely was Eleanor to outgrow this soy allergy?
In this article we will discuss what to know when diagnosed with a soy allergy.
Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here. Keep in mind food production can change, always check food labels to be sure products are free of your particular food allergen. For further information please see full Disclaimer.
Table of Contents
How Common is a Soy Allergy?
Approximately 0.4% of children in the United states have a soy allergy (1). Soy is an allergy that can commonly be outgrown as a child ages. Most children outgrow a soy allergy by the time they reach ten years old(1). However, a soy allergy may be life long.
A soy allergy is more common in infants and children, but can occur as an adult.
What are the 9 Most Common Food Allergies?
The top 9 food allergies also known as the big 9 allergens in the United States are:
You can be allergic to many other foods besides these top nine.
What are Symptoms of a Soy Allergy?
Soy allergy symptoms can vary from person to person but some typical reactions are listed below.
- Swelling of lips, tongue, throat, face
- Itching or swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Abdominal pain and cramps
- Wheezing (difficulty breathing)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Runny nose
- Congestion (stuffy nose)
- Digestive problems
- Loss of consciousness
An allergic reaction to soy can occur minutes to hours after ingestion. Reactions to soy may be mild in many cases (requiring only an antihistamine).
Anaphylaxis is rare with a soy allergy. However, it is possible. If a severe reaction occurs, epinephrine is required.
A Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan is a great tool for personalized food allergy treatment.
Soy and Other Legumes
Soy is a legume. Other legumes are peanuts, lentils, beans, and peas. Individuals with a soy allergy may have a higher risk of having another allergy to major food allergens such as peanuts, egg, sesame, and tree nuts (1).
It may be more likely that individuals with a soy allergy have a food allergy to peanuts rather than lentils, beans, and peas, all of which are legumes. Overall as far as legumes go, peanuts are a more common food allergy than lentils, beans, and peas.
Talk to your provider if you feel you may have an allergy to foods other than soy.
You may be wondering if you can eat soy lecithin with a soy allergy.
Soy lecithin is often tolerated by individuals with a soy allergy but discuss this with your doctor.
Foods to Avoid with a Soy Allergy
Soy is in many processed foods. If you have a soy allergy, you will want a diet rich in unprocessed foods.
Some possible food sources which contain soy or may contain soy include but is not limited to:
- Bean curd
- Koya dofu
- Soy sauce
- Teriyaki Sauce
- Soybean (curd, granules)
- Soy protein (isolate, hydrolyzed, concentrate)
- Vegetable gum
- Soy (soy cheese, soy sprouts, soy fiber, soy flour, soy grits, soy ice cream, soy milk, soy nuts, soy albumin, soy yogurt)
- Cold pressed, extruded, or expeller pressed soy oil
- Vegetable starch
- Canned and processed meats
- Crackers, cookies, cereals, energy bars
- Vegetable broth
- Peanut butter
- Baked goods
- Ice cream
- Soy infant formula
- Canned tuna
- Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Soy may also be found in personal care products such as moisturizers and soaps.
Arts and Crafts supplies may also contain soy. Allergens in Arts and Crafts are always an important consideration when someone has a food allergy, especially young children.
Food Allergy Labeling. About FALCPA
In 2004, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), identified the following foods as major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy.
Effective January 1, 2023, the FASTER Act (the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act) was signed into law, adding sesame as the 9th major food allergen recognized in the U.S.
FALCPA requires that foods or ingredients that contain major food allergens be labeled with the name of the allergen source.
FALCPA states that major food allergens should be listed in one of three ways:
- In the ingredient list, using the allergen’s common name.
- By citing the word “Contains” followed by the name of the major food allergen—for example, “Contains soy”
- In the ingredient list in parentheses after a less common name of ingredient that may contain an allergen. Example: Yuba (soy).
Due to the limited amount of protein in highly refined soybean or soy oil, FALCPA does not list this oil as a major allergen. Most individuals with a soy allergy can safely eat highly refined soy oil. Discuss this with your physician.
Soy lecithin is not exempt from FALCPA, and therefore labeled as a soy allergen on food labels. Much like highly refined soybean oil, soy lecithin is often tolerated in most individuals with a soy allergy. However, soybean oil is not listed as a soy allergy on food labels and soy lecithin is.
Again, discuss with your provider which foods you should avoid with a soy allergy.
Soybean Oil with a Soy Allergy
You may be wondering if you can consume soybean oil if you have a soy allergy.
Talk to your doctor, but highly refined soybean oil is safe for most individuals with a soy allergy.
If soybean oil is not highly refined it is likely to pose more of a risk of an allergic reaction. Unrefined soybean oil contains more of the soy protein. Gourmet soybean oils such as expeller pressed soybean oil, extruded soy oil, and cold-pressed soybean oil should be omitted from your diet if you are allergic to soy.
Made in a Facility/Cross Contamination Statements
Food manufacturers may use equipment to produce multiple products. This may lead to cross contamination of allergens. Some manufacturers disclose this information and others do not. This is true for both FALCPA and non-FALCPA allergens.
Cross contamination statements are not required in the U.S. Call the manufacturer to learn about their manufacturing practices.
Always be sure to ask how food is prepared.
Soy Allergy Treatment
- Always read food labels and look for soy ingredients.
- Avoid all foods related to your allergy. Learn less common names for your particular food allergy.
- Become familiar with labeling laws.
- Talk to your Board Certified Allergist.
- Be mindful of risk for cross contamination.
- In case of accidental ingestion, be ready to treat your allergy. Be sure to have not one, but two doses of epinephrine available when eating. Talk to your doctor about how to treat symptoms of an allergic reaction and visit www.foodallergy.org for more detailed information about treating food allergies.
A soy allergy usually occurs in young children, however, it can be present at any age.
Many processed foods commonly contain soy. Be sure to read food labels carefully.
If you have a soy allergy, be sure to ask about how food is prepared when dining out. Asian food often contains soy.
If you think you may be allergic to soy see a Board Certified Allergist.
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Last Updated on February 13, 2023 by Amber DeVore, RD, CSSD, CLT