What To Do When A Five-Year-Old Has A Stomach Ache Soy Protein: Hidden Ingredient, Hidden Danger

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Soy Protein: Hidden Ingredient, Hidden Danger

Almost all of the food processed in the United States contains soy fines and/or soy protein. Soy protein (concentrated soy) is used to extend meat, emulsify food and as a thickener. These uses transformed the food industry. Food that never contained soy protein — smoothies, ice cream, frozen potatoes and baked goods — may now contain it.

Most companies list soy protein on labels, but don’t. In March 2005 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued an allergy alert for “undeclared soy protein” in a specific brand of cheesecake. All eight flavors of cheesecake contained soy protein, yet it was not listed on any of the labels.

“Consumption of these products may cause a serious or life-threatening reaction in people with allergies to soy protein,” the alert said.

Soy protein is often a hidden ingredient. That’s because soy protein has many names: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, isolated soy protein, soy protein concentrate, textured soy protein, vegetable protein, soy flour, soy flour, textured soy flour, and tofu. Even if you weren’t allergic to soy protein before, you may be allergic to it now.

Have you felt uncomfortable after eating fast food? Have you had a stomach ache after eating at a restaurant? Have you had “indigestion” after eating foods prepared with sauce or rice mix? The symptoms of a soy protein allergy include colitis (inflammation of the colon), stomach bloating and severe stomach pain. These symptoms may last 24 hours or more.

Few adults are allergic to soy, according to The Cleveland Clinic, but times are changing. More people are allergic to soy protein because of the number of products that contain it. You wouldn’t be the first person to visit a doctor because you’re worried about ulcers and find out you’re allergic to soybeans.

If you can’t eat soybeans, you may not be able to eat similar foods. The Center for Food and Environmental Disease says that soybeans are a member of the legume family, so you can have “cross-reactions” with peas, beans, kidney beans, black beans, lentils, peanuts and even wheat. What can you do?

You can become a food detective. Before you put a product in the grocery store, read every word on every label. Shopping will take longer, but that’s a fair measure to avoid getting sick. Recipes change, so continue to read labels even of products that have been safe in the past.

Keep a running list of foods to avoid. Do this on a computer if possible, as your list will grow from dozens of items to hundreds in a few weeks. Bring the list with you when you shop. When eating out, don’t be afraid to ask the server if there is soy protein in a recipe.

Because the only way to “treat” a soy protein allergy is to avoid the foods that contain it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to make meals from scratch. Set aside a few hours every weekend (or when it’s convenient) for meal prep. Make a big batch of soup, for example, and freeze most of it. You may also want to freeze individual dinners and servings in sheet pans.

Finally, always have a gas-reducing product on hand, such as Beano or Gax X. Your doctor can help, but the ultimate responsibility for a soy protein allergy rests with you. Although this requires vigor, your health and well-being are worth it.

Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson. To learn more about her work please go to www.harriethodgson.com.

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