Soya allergy is one of the top 13 allergens that have to labelled in the UK and until just this year it wasn’t one I was particularly worried about.
Soya is part of the legume family along with dried peas, beans, lentils, peanuts and carob. Interesting to note that I also have an peanut allergy but as far as I am aware, can eat peas, beans and lentils without issue.
Whilst I CAN eat chocolate containing soya lecithin (praise the Lord) and also enjoy gluten free sausages which contain soya flour, I absolutely cannot drink even a drop of soya milk. It’s been a while working this one out. When you have multiple allergies you grow accustomed to recognising the signals and if you know you can eat ‘soya in some things’ you could be excused for assuming that soya was OK.
Pinning down soya milk as the culprit
It has never been a milk to my taste so I never regularly drink it, preferring instead rice, oat and coconut milk. Asthma is something that doesn’t generally bother me too much and is under control but recently it’s been flaring up and inhalers have been useless. Sudden and unexplained asthma attacks, one resulting in a trip to A&E are worrying when the cause it not easily understood.
If you just get asthma for no reason you can’t do very much avoid it happening again.
So it was down to Mr what allergy, the household detective, to work out on a recent skiing trip, that copious amounts of soya milk, which we don’t normally have in our fridge at home, could be at the bottom of the near crippling asthma I was struck down with.
The attacks would start as soon as I got back to the chalet. The mug of tea with soya milk would explain that. But I didn’t suspect the soya milk. In fact I often thought I was drinking rice milk but it transpired that the two cartons in the fridge, one with rice milk and one with soya milk where identical apart from the little words ‘riz’ and ‘soja’ and they were tiny little words on the carton.
The chalet also made me delicious dairy, gluten and nut free cakes, so I tucked into those as well. My asthma got worse. I didn’t suspect the ingredients themselves but I did begin to suspect cross contamination.
After talking to the staff it was clear that they were being extremely careful, so what was causing my asthma? I spent three whole evenings lying in bed desparate for the next breath, on the verge of calling for help but dreading having to do that. In a strange country with a very poor grasp of French I just wanted to stay in the chalet.
Was it the dog in the chalet? Was it their cleaning products? Dust? A plug in air freshener? Was it just the mountain air? Slowly I ruled out each of these possibilities. I would feel a bit better in the morning, choosing rice milk for my cereals and get progressively better all day, out on the slopes in the open air. It was as soon as I got back that it got worse again.
Finally, Mr What allergy took a look in the FreeFrom Fridge – there was a dedicated fridge just for allergy me, but I’ll share more about that in a separate blog post about my skiing holiday experience. It was FULL of soya milk, soya cream, soya margerine, soya yogurt. All of which was being used in my special meals. It was, as he described it, soya city! A term that now has us both laughing like little kids remembering him bursting into our asthma filled bedroom saying, “It’s like soya city down there! Could it be the soya?”
By cutting out the soya I was as right as rain. But where did that come from? Only then did I question why I choose not to have soya milk at home. I remembered then slight tingling in my throat on drinking soya milk and a dreadful hayfever type attack after eating swedish glace icecream, which contains soya. I have grown so used to self avoiding foods that make me feel unwell, that I had unknowingly cut out soya. I had thought that by not avoiding soya flour, soya lecithin etc. in ingredients that I was still consuming some and so I couldn’t possibly be allergic to it.
How wrong I was.
I am pleased to know this though as it explains another serious asthma attack which led to a night in A&E after a friend made a cake for me with soya milk in it. She later admitted that she thought she might have used normal margerine and we put the attack down to that. But dairy doesn’t give me asthma, it effects my skin, in a bad way. Perhaps I should have worked it out back them, but at least I’ve sussed it out now.
My allergy doctor is doing tests to confirm this new one, and so I find that I am STILL on the allergic march.
Foods to avoid if you have a soya allergy
If you have a soya allergy you should avoid:
- Soya bean
- Soya protein
- Soya sauce
- Soya milk
- Soya margerine
- Soya yogurt
- Unrefined and cold pressed soya oil
- Oriental products such as Tempeh, Miso, Tofu
Soya lecithin (E322) only causes problems in VERY rare and severe soya allergies so most people are OK with this. It contains hardly any protein, if any, so most people with a soya allergy are OK with it.
PLEASE NOTE: In addition to the above, soya can be hidden in an ingredients list in countries outside the EU as: vegetable stock, vegetable protein, vegetable shortening, vegetable past, textured vegetable protein (TVP), vegetable broth, vegetable gum and vegetable starch.
Ref: Special thanks to my new allergy doctor, Dr J Reed at Oxford for giving me this list of soya free diet information and to Tanya Wright for compiling it.
I don’t think it will affect my diet too much as often, food that’s free from dairy is also freefrom soya, but many of the dairy free alternatives are soya based so it limits things somewhat. I eat very little processed foods anyway but will be monitoring my soya intake to keep check on this new allergy.
I am finally realising that I was in ‘soya denial’, thinking, like my doctor, that I couldn’t possibly be allergic to that too! My maiden name was actually Sawyer so my nickname at school was ‘soya bean’ and ‘oi soy’ and various other soya related derivations. The irony of ‘Soy’ being allergic to Soy is not lost on me.
And just to complicate things further…
Last night I ate some Dietary Specials ciabatta rolls, two of them, with no ill effect. When I came to throw out the packet it says ‘Soya protein’ in the ingredients. So how come I can’t drink soya milk but I can eat soya protein? Now THAT is confusing.
Then a day later I finished off a bag of dairy free fudge and noticed some hard, itchy lumps on my leg. No asthma, but yet another strange reaction to the fudge, that on further checking, contained soya milk!
For research articles and studies visit the Foods Matter Soya information page.
And some official advice from Allergy UK on Soya allergy.
So that’s all I’ve discovered about soya so far. Anyone else got a soya allergy? Does it give you asthma? or anaphylaxis? or just skin problems and gut ache? I’d love to hear from you.