Soya allergy and guar gum – is there a connection?

If you are allergic to soya you should take a very hard look at anything containing guar gum. This is something I’ve never come across from any doctor or allergy specialist so I’ve never worried about it before. However, if you examine ingredient lists from many freefrom foods, guar gum is often present.

So what does it do and what is guar gum?

Guar gum, also called guaran, is a galactomannan. It is primarily the ground endosperm of guar beans. The guar seeds are dehusked, milled and screened to obtain the guar gum.[1] It is typically produced as a free-flowing, off-white powder. (Wiki)

It increases yield in baked goods and also helps thicken dairy products but it’s uses are not just limited to food, though typically they are most widely used in gluten free goods. Guar gum is also used in the paper, explosives, pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries, to name just a few.

Why on earth are we eating this stuff?

But I’ll get to the point. The point that guar gum can contain traces of soya protein.

The Super Healthy Children website says, “Because guar gum may contain traces of soy proteins, eating it can lead to an allergic reaction. Symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, runny nose, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, hives or skin rashes. A severe and possibly life-threatening reaction of anaphylaxis could occur in rare cases with the consumption of soy proteins.”

Well… I’m speechless.

I’ve been having random and unexplainable, albeit mild but still worrying allergic reactions now so could guar gum be the culprit? It still might not be the guar gum but I’m suspicious and Mr What Allergy discovered this link whilst googling the problem.

I was eating a Coconut Collaborative Dark Chocolate Snowconut Stick and my throat began to itch and tingle. It didn’t progress from there but if you have ever had anaphylaxis, this is where it begins. I felt a very slight shortness of breath and the sypmtoms lasted for quite some time. So we checked the ingredients. Nothing in there that I was worried about…

Ingredients: Coconut Cream (32%), Water, Grape Juice Concentrate, Chocolate (17.2%) (Cocoa Mass, Coconut Sugar, Cocoa Butter), Inulin (from Chicory), Natural Flavour (1%), Vegetable Emulsifier: Mono & Diglycerides of Fatty Acids, Stabiliser: Guar Gum, Locust Bean Gum, Vanilla Pod (1%)

Coconut Collaboratives Snow Coconut sticks and soya allergy
I had ignored the ‘may contain soya’ warning, thinking it was probably from the chocolate and soya lecithin which is not such a problem for those allergic to soya. But no… it would seem it was a very valid warning.

I have eaten their yogurts no problem and if you look at the ingredients for them they contain corn flour instead of guar gum. So just consider, because one product from a company is OK doesn’t mean they all will be.

Mr What Allergy has kindly and happily eaten the other two, proclaiming them to be just as good as any ‘normal’ ice cream on a stick. He is somewhat of a connoisseur in this field so this is high praise.

And since I am now on a mission to ‘cut out processed food’, he has helped me by removing any temptation to try another one.

So watch out for anything with guar gum if you have a soya allergy and also heed warnings on packs.

Has anyone else experience a reaction from guar gum? or from these choc ices? Where does the risk of soya come from in this product. I have sent an email to the people at Coconut Collaboratives to find out.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

Comments

  1. I’ve not tried these – specifically because although the packet may make no mention of it, they produce their products on the same equipment as products containing cow’s milk. When their yogurts first came out, me and my daughter both experienced reactions and since then I have learned that we are not alone in this regard. Therefore I would query whether in fact you had a reaction to a hidden trace of dairy.

    • Hmmmm… so the fact it says ‘freefrom dairy’ may not actually be the case? I’m very disappointed. I’m waiting for them to respond. I have had the yogurt and not had a reaction so I guess it’s a case of Russian roulette as to which batch and how close it came to the dairy traces on the machine.

  2. On a separate note, the website which mentions use of soya/guar gum together is from the US. I’m not sure that would be allowed in the UK – especially with the current EU regs. The US seem much more lax about these things. Alex Gazzola might know more.

    • Thanks for this… I will ask Alex. And yes they are far more lax in the US. It is certainly not something I have ever come across before.

      • Belatedly hearing my name being called ….

        The thing that jumps out at me is that guar is a legume – like soya, chickpea, peanut – so there’s potential for cross-reactivity.

        Just a possibility …

        Alex

        • I’m not sure whether it’s that or possible dairy cross contamination. This is what they told me:

          No other dairy ice creams are currently produced on the same production line although the factory where the products are made does handle other dairy products.

          So far all the results for milk protein have come back saying <2.5mg/kg, which is the lowest level achievable. In the long term we're going to have our own production line which will enable us to eliminate any traces of dairy whatsoever, however as we're still a start-up this hasn't been possible quite yet!

          So I wonder if it's either the manufacturing process or the chocolate they use as I react to some chocolate that swears it's nut and dairy free. Who knows. But I do have a quite a severe dairy allergy so maybe 2.5mg per kg is too much for my body.

  3. This is what Coconut Collaboratives told me: Thanks for getting in touch. We’re very sorry you had a bad reaction after eating one of our Choc Dipped Snowconut sticks.

    The risk of soya traces comes from the chocolate coating we use as the chocolate is also made in a factory which handles soya.

    We also make a range of mini milk style sticks called ‘Little Coconutters’- these are Vanilla Snowconut sticks without the chocolate coating which may be more suitable for you if you have a soya allergy. You can find these in Co-op stores as well as online on Ocado.

    Please do send us your address so we can get a refund sent out to you so you can give our Little Coconutters a try instead.

    Best Wishes,

    Zoe & The Coconut Collaborative team

    PS. I have now asked them for more information on whether dairy products are made on the same line. This really worries me… if they are, the a product can label itself free from dairy WITHOUT a may contain dairy warning. Yet is does have a soya may contain warning.

  4. another Ruth says:

    I’m catching up on your blog and noticed this post particularly.
    Could it be that the problem was ‘ the Vegetable Emulsifier: Mono & Diglycerides of Fatty Acids’? I have avoided them after someone said that they can be derived from soya when I had a reaction to a product including them.
    Here’s something that came up when I googled it today: E471
    Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids (glyceryl monostearate, glyceryl distearate)
     A normal part of digestion, prepared commercially from glycerin (see E422) and fatty acids. These are normally obtained from hydrogenated soya bean oil so may be GM.

    I don’t have anaphylactic allergies but delayed. Even at that, it definitely helps when I avoid these, but they are in almost everything. I think the theory is that the emulsifier is so refined that none of the soy remains.

    • Yes and it’s the same with soya lecithin, but I would argue that a bit does remain. It’s not enough to give me the strong anaphylactic reactions that soya milk and protein give me but if I eat lots of foods with soya derived and soya lecithin I do begin to just have mild itching, hives, nodular Prurigo. So I have put myself on a pretty much processed food free diet. It’s tough to stick to sometimes but it’s really helped my allergy and eczema reactions. So you are right in limiting your intake. Since with these things you don’t get told where they derive from it’s the safest option.

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