Health
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What Is a Soy Lecithin Allergy?

Jillian O Keeffe
Jillian O Keeffe

Food allergies occur when the immune system overreacts to specific components of a food, resulting in such symptoms as skin hives or rashes, swelling, and trouble breathing. Soy allergy is a condition where a person is allergic to proteins naturally found in soy, but soy lecithin allergy is a separate allergy. Lecithin is a byproduct of soy processing, and is made up of fatty substances that are useful as emulsifiers in the food industry. People who have a soy allergy may not display allergic symptoms when they eat soy lecithin, as less allergens tend to be present.

Soybeans are common ingredients in Asian cooking. As well as being edible whole, they are also commonly processed into several different forms. Major forms include soy flour, tofu and soybean oil. Lecithin is a byproduct of the oil extraction process, and it can confer various desirable characteristics to processed food such as stabilization and emulsification, although it is not a food product itself.

Soy beans.
Soy beans.

Soy has a relatively high protein content, compared to many other vegetables. It is the proteins in soy that can adversely affect the human immune system. When people with a soy or soy lecithin allergy eat soy products, the immune system wrongly identifies the proteins as dangerous to health, triggering a potentially adverse reaction. The immune system sets off a strong inflammation process, which produces the swelling, redness and hives that are characteristic of allergy.

Lecithin is often used as a supplement to assist in weight loss.
Lecithin is often used as a supplement to assist in weight loss.

People with an allergy to soy typically have to avoid all soy foods, but products with soy lecithin may not pose a problem, as not as much protein is present. Those who do have allergic reactions to the lecithin suffer from soy lecithin allergy, which is a distinct condition from soy allergy and can be much harder to avoid. Many regular products contain soy lecithin as a minor ingredient, which may not be obvious from the type of food.

Some individuals may experience hives as part of an allergic reaction to soy products.
Some individuals may experience hives as part of an allergic reaction to soy products.

Often, those with an allergy to soy lecithin also have allergies to other substances because the immune system recognizes similar proteins present in related foods or non-related substances. An example of an allergy that may be present alongside allergies to soy components is birch pollen allergy. Common allergies such as those to nuts do not appear to be linked to soy allergies. People who suffer from soy lecithin allergy should also be aware that the lecithin is not only present in foodstuffs, but can also be present in cosmetics and medications.

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Discussion Comments

anon957368

In response to bluedolphin-- you may be reacting to a sweetener in the bar and coffee creamer.

burcinc

@literally45-- Soy lecithin can be (it's not always) safe for those with soy allergy, but it's not true the other way around. Soy lecithin is extracted from soy beans, so soy naturally contains soy lecithin. Soy will cause allergic reactions for people with soy lecithin allergies.

I am basically allergic to anything that has the word "soy" in it, so I have to avoid all of it.

bluedolphin

I think I'm allergic to soy lecithin. I ate a breakfast bar last week and my tongue and lips became slightly swollen. I also had some itching/tingling inside my mouth. The only unfamiliar ingredient I saw in the ingredients list was soy lecithin.

This morning, I had the same reaction to a cup of coffee at the office. When I checked the ingredients list of the coffee creamer, I saw soy lecithin again!

I'm frustrated because manufacturing companies are putting this ingredient in almost everything these days. How am I supposed to avoid everything with soy lecithin? It's going to be difficult.

literally45

I understand that soy allergy and soy lecithin allergy are not the same. But isn't soy lecithin found in most soy products?

Can someone with an allergy to soy lecithin consume soy products without problems?

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    • Soy beans.
      By: terumin
      Soy beans.
    • Lecithin is often used as a supplement to assist in weight loss.
      By: Elenathewise
      Lecithin is often used as a supplement to assist in weight loss.
    • Some individuals may experience hives as part of an allergic reaction to soy products.
      By: Rob Byron
      Some individuals may experience hives as part of an allergic reaction to soy products.
    • Soy lecithin may help prevent the development of gallstones.
      By: roblan
      Soy lecithin may help prevent the development of gallstones.
    • The proteins in soy can negatively affect the body's immune system.
      By: gitusik
      The proteins in soy can negatively affect the body's immune system.
    • Allergy symptoms may include itchiness.
      By: Piotr Marcinski
      Allergy symptoms may include itchiness.
    • Those with a soy lecithin allergy often have other allergies.
      By: FedeCandoniPhoto
      Those with a soy lecithin allergy often have other allergies.
    • People who have a soy allergy may not display allergic symptoms when they ingest soy lecithin.
      By: John Tomaselli
      People who have a soy allergy may not display allergic symptoms when they ingest soy lecithin.