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If your infant or child gets an upset stomach, diarrhea, or nausea after eating soy, they
are not alone. Allergy and intolerance to soybeans is one of the more common food allergies, especially among babies and young children. Symptoms can range from mild, with complaints of tummy aches, to severe, such as trouble breathing or anaphylaxis, a whole-body allergic reaction that can restrict breathing, or in severe cases, cause death.
The only way to prevent these uncomfortable or dangerous symptoms is to avoid eating soy altogether. Unfortunately, this is not as simple as staying away from soymilk. When most people think of soy, Asian food products may come to mind, such as:
However, since becoming a major crop in the United States, soy is no longer restricted to the Asian food aisle, and has instead found its way into the majority of processed and “natural” foods that may be in your pantry!
Soybeans, in the form of textured vegetable protein (TVP), are used to make imitation meat products, such as:
TVP is also used as a filler and texturizer in “natural” products, which helps food manufacturers lower costs, reduce fat content and add juiciness.
It might surprise you to learn that soy can also be hiding in:
Other uses of soy, in the form of soybean oil, soy protein isolates, and soy lecithin are used in a wide variety of common, kid-loving processed foods, including some brands of:
Soy is also used in a variety of mom-loving processed “diet” foods, such as:
Soy has even made its way into spices including garlic and seasoning salts, as well as condiments like some brands of ketchup and steak sauce.
Like all allergies, people who are allergic to soy are allergic to the protein found in soy, so, in theory, soybean oil (which is 100% fat and has no protein) should not pose a threat. But, if your child has a severe allergy, you may want to consult with a doctor and take special precautions to avoid soybean oil, since the absence of protein in the oil depends completely on the good manufacturing practices of the food manufacturer.
For those children who are severely allergic and at increased risk of developing dangerous symptoms associated with a soy protein allergy, it is imperative to be aware of the risk of cross contamination. Cross contamination occurs when a soy free food accidentally comes in contact with soy in the manufacturing plant or in the kitchen where the food is prepared. Keeping an allergen-safe kitchen (with separate knives and cutting boards for the preparation of soy versus soy-free foods, for example) will help your child avoid the risk of cross-contamination. Carefully reading labels and looking for the warning that a food is “made on equipment shared with soy” will also help protect your child.
There are a few important steps you can take to make sure that your soy-allergic child is safely avoiding soy while still enjoying food: