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Howdy! And Soy Lecithin Question. December 28, 2007


I am in bed, nursing something annoying which I shall tell you about in good time, but first let me say that I had wonderful Christmases. The first one I already told you about, with my family on the coast.

The second one was with my family in Idaho, the in-laws, and IT SNOWED. I don't think anyone except for Lala's family knows how crazy I get in snow. It's so foreign and interesting and cold and soft and fluffy and pretty and new snow does things I don't expect it to, like NOT BE UNDER PARKED CARS! That's just weird. And it blows on the road. Rain doesn't blow like that! It's so pretty! I love it! It's my favorite weather! (I bow, of course, to those of you who have so much snow to spare they'd like to shove some my direction. Feel free! Mail it to me, and I'll play in it!)

I got to wear knitted items, and I wore them with sheer determination. When exiting the car to go to the house, I would put on my hat and mittens and scarf, even though it's a short walk, and it wasn't really that cold. But I could, and I did. Because it was SNOWING! And we walked around a lot in it, and I think I might have gotten frostbite. In my cheeks, you know. Or maybe chillblains. Or windchill? Lala is rolling her eyes right now, as are you in the frozen north but HOW FUN!


That is not dandruff, folks.

And Christmas itself was lovely. While the standing rib roast was in the oven, we went to view the Christmas lights in the botanical gardens. Pictures to follow sometime, hopefully. When we got home, Lala and I made potatoes and asparagus and salad, and we ate. Couldn't have been easier. Then we sat around the table and Tony, my father-in-law, put on stacks of Kingston Trio records and he and mom-Jeannie and I sat singing for hours. Lala listened, and appeared to like it. Excellent, lovely trip. I'm so glad I got to go.

But today, whew. I'm in bed, recovering from some kind of belly-unhappiness attack, and I think I know what it is. I've been fighting allergic reactions, mostly the facial lip/eye swelling kind, for a while now, similar to my MSG reactions, and I've narrowed it down (pretty easily, in fact) to soy lecithin. Every time I eat chocolate, I swell up. Soy sauce hasn't been treating me well. Yesterday at work, trying to avoid all the chocolate surrounding me on all the flat surfaces, I was proud of myself for having only a sugar cookie and some wheat thins. Then the roof of my mouth started to itch, and my belly started to hurt badly. I read labels -- both the cookie and the wheat thins had soy lecithin. WHY do they have soy lecithin? So annoying. The tummy upset got bad, and I'm still felled by it, so spending some time prone today. I'll catch up on blog-reading, that's a good thing.

I am certainly making an appointment with an allergist. Another one. But a question for you geniuses: Who's allergic to soy lecithin or soy products? What are your symptoms? And how can I face life without sushi (without soy sauce, it is pointless) and chocolate? O, Cadbury Creme Egg, do not leave me in my time of need! WTF? Help!   


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Oh no, Rachel, I hope to all that is holy that you are not allergic to soy lecithin... it's in EVERYTHING.

Damn emulsifiers.

I lived in Cleveland for 18 years, and I STILL LOVE SNOW! So I appreciate your adoration of the fluffy white stuff. I rarely get my fill of it these days.

Err... I meant Rachael. That was a typo!

(I hate it when people misspell my name so I probably overcompensate when I misspell someone else's. I'm okay with it.)

OMG! How awful to be allergic to all those yummy things. Almost as bad as being allergic to gluten (which thankfully, I'm not). And snow is fun as long as there isn't too much of it. At least you had lovely Christmases.

I hope that you're not allergic to soy. The PTB (powers that be) put it everywhere. I googled soy free chocolate and found this link: http://www.soyfreesales.com/. I don't know if they are any good, but it may keep the cocoa cravings away. They have imported organic Swiss chocolate. Mmmmmmmm.

Oh, I'm so sorry.... I'm allergic to soy myself. The first symptom is a raging migraine. W/in about 10 min of eating it - same with msg. But it also gives me the tummy problems, too. Lots of....ahem...wind. And then upset of even more substance. Nasty stuff, 'tis. I'm making a connection, though, with the symptoms you mentioned - the swelling (and tingling, yes?) lips, etc. Maybe that's what's been happening to me, too. I hadn't made that connection. Yikes. Oh yeah - and hives. Ain't allergies grand?! :p

Oh, I'm so sorry.... I'm allergic to soy myself. The first symptom is a raging migraine. W/in about 10 min of eating it - same with msg. But it also gives me the tummy problems, too. Lots of....ahem...wind. And then upset of even more substance. Nasty stuff, 'tis. I'm making a connection, though, with the symptoms you mentioned - the swelling (and tingling, yes?) lips, etc. Maybe that's what's been happening to me, too. I hadn't made that connection. Yikes. Oh yeah - and hives. Ain't allergies grand?! :p

Oh, I'm so sorry.... I'm allergic to soy myself. The first symptom is a raging migraine. W/in about 10 min of eating it - same with msg. But it also gives me the tummy problems, too. Lots of....ahem...wind. And then upset of even more substance. Nasty stuff, 'tis. I'm making a connection, though, with the symptoms you mentioned - the swelling (and tingling, yes?) lips, etc. Maybe that's what's been happening to me, too. I hadn't made that connection. Yikes. Oh yeah - and hives. Ain't allergies grand?! :p

Buy even more expensive chocolate - a lot of it doesn't have fillers/emulsifiers.

Allergies Suck!

Hey happy Chronikah! I think there is a lot of swiss chocolate that does not have the soy lecithin. Jeez does that suck though.

Oh no! Soy? It's in everything! Allergies to soy are quite common, though. This website offers a lot of great products that do not contain soy. http://www.organichorizons.ca/index.htm

I have a friend who is allergic to soy and uses beef bullion to dip sushi in. Haven't tried it so I can't vouch for it. Personally, I think sushi can be great with a little fish sauce with lemon and ginger in it. Make sure you buy a really high quality fish sauce though! I prefer Thai brands over Indonesian, though, Vietnam has a couple good brands. Golden Boy brand is my favorite - you can find it in very select stores in the East Bay or here: http://importfood.com/sagb2401.html
Hope your allergist can help you!

My nephew is allergic to soy. I can't tell you his symptoms (he's 3, so his parents are still working on figuring it out), but I can offer my sympathy to the "soy is in everyDAMNthing" issue. I hadn't realized how omnipresent it was before DN's allergy was diagnosed.

ah, i love wikipedia:

Lecithin is used commercially in substances requiring a natural emulsifier and/or lubricant, from pharmaceuticals to protective coverings. For example, lecithin is the emulsifier that keeps cocoa and cocoa butter in a candy bar from separating.

i weep for you! i don't know what i would do without soy sauce, or my green&blacks. i was surprised wiki didn't have anything about allergies, but i would be stunned if a google search for soy lecithin allergy didn't turn up any resources for you on what foods are safe.

My ex-husband is allergic to soy, and he would (depending on how much he'd eaten)either get stinky toots (also known as shooting the canary), or cha-cha. So much for my forays into tofu when cooking for him!

Hi - up until recently my daughter was allergic to multiple foods, including soy, so I've done a lot of research into allergies and experimented with cooking for elimination diets. You definitely should visit an allergist and have a skin-prick test done, and there are also blood tests they can do (specifically RAST tests).

I had avoided soy lecithin for Julie for several years because of her soy allergy, and then right before her final test during which she was cleared to eat soy (she had outgrown the allergy) I was talking to the allergist and he said that soy lecithin shouldn't be a problem for people allergic to soy because it doesn't contain the soy protein. So even if you are allergic to soy, the lecithin shouldn't be a problem. On the other hand, you may be intolerant of lecithin, which is unfortunately in many processed foods. That said, there are some people for whom even minute trace amounts can be dangerous, and you could really be allergic to soy lecithin. One thing I've learned after years of experience is that even allergists are pretty hazy about food allergies - not much real research has been done about them.

Oh, and if you decide to avoid soy in general, I often used fish sauce in place of soy sauce for recipes. It's not exactly the same flavor, but it does add some flavor in, and is salty like soy sauce.

I hope some small part of what I've mentioned helps! And I hope that you feel better soon!

Yes, allergies suck! My list is wheat, dairy, soy, sugar and caffeine. Soy tends to give me headaches and the worst PMS known to woman kind. This holiday season has been really bad. I decided I would eat whatever I wanted, but it's starting to not be worth it. A couple more parties this weekend, then I can do a big detox and get back on target.

As for an allergist, I learned a lot from http://www.carolinesutherland.com/.

I am intolerant of a lot of things- soy being one of them. I won't say allergic because only 1-2% of the population is truly allergic to things- as in, they have an anaphylactic reaction to said item. When I eat soy I get really nauseous and vomit. It is unpleasant enough that I avoid soy (unlike dairy, which is too delicious to avoid). I've never had the mouth/throat swelling that you describe, but I know with continued exposure to an allergen, the reaction gets progressively worse.

My friend Anne Marie is allergic to soy. She gets swelling/itchiness on her fingers. It does suck, but I think everyone is right - the pricier chocolate might not have soy in it.

poor schmoo!

p.s. I'm the same way in snow. except that it only lasts for about 4 minutes and then I'm TOO COLD TO BE HAPPY.

The food thing has become very difficult for me in the past year, dearie, so I am very sympathetic. I have been suspecting soy as one of the culprits (fruit being one of the others) and have severely limited my diet. No wheat, dairy, soy, chocolate, etc...ad infinitum this holiday season for me. The result is I'm weathering the typicaly holiday stress quite well. By all means, check in with the allergist, but also consider alternative treatment. Accupuncture and Chinese herbs have been working for me. They get at the root of things, while the typical Western medical approach treats the symptom. I'm just sayin...

I used to have such a severe allergy to msg that it led to a heart attack about 6 years ago. Talk about being afraid to eat! However, a Chinese medical doctor in my city (Winnipeg) cleared me of all allergies using a technique called naet.(naet.com)Sorry, I still don't know how to link! It is now 6 years later and I am able to eat anything my heart desires and I no longer have any stomach woes(took about 6 -20 min. treatments using acupuncture). You can find the information you need on the above mentioned web site and also practitioners in your area. If you want any additional info you can pm me any time. I know that this sounds too good to be true but believe me, I could give you a list of thousands of people she has helped over the past 15 years, including most of my immediate family. Btw, I have absolutely no affiliation with her, only an extremely grateful client. Hope you're feeling better soon!

Have I talked with you about NAET?

Your stuff about snow cracked my shit up. I read it out loud to my husband, and he cracked up as well. It was great. If you ever want to come out to rural Western Mass and spend a week with us and our TWO FEET of snow, let me know. :) We have a guest room. You can even bring the animals.

Me and soy are not friends. I am not sure if it is an allergy, per se, but certainly a dang intolerance!

After ingesting soy my stomach feels like it is trying to digest rocks. (It actually feels like a rock-tumbler in action, if you know what I mean.) My symptoms seem to vary between general stomach disquietude, headaches, puffy everything, and feeling like I have a hangover when I get up in the morning, never having had something lovely the night before to justify the feeling.

Soy sauce isn't so bad, and strangely, neither are edamame. But tofu and miso can really kick my butt. You can try using Brach's enzymes to replace soy sauce, but to be honest it tastes a bit "earthy" to me.

girl, are you SURE it's the soy? because many soy sauces are made from wheat and the belly symptoms you describe sound more like celiac disease to me than soy allergy. Celiac is an inability of the body to handle gluten in just about any form.
just sayin'. maybe wiki it and see if there's any match up with what ails you. anyway, hope you feel better soon and get to the bottom of it.

Sympathy from here as well. Soy is a common allergy so at least there is better information out there about it than if you were allergic to, oh, say, escargot or gooseberries. I can relate because I'm allergic to/intolerant of the solanum family of plants which includes potato, tomato, bell pepper, eggplant, tobacco and a host of other things. Try eating out or eating anything packaged with those allergies!

I do think the person who suggested looking at gluten also has a point, though chocolate doesn't tend to contain gluten, unless it's in cookies, cakes or other desserts. And important to differentiate between the soy itself and the lecithin.

I do think that alternative medicine can be helpful - I know my reactions have been minimized by the use of acupuncture and herbs to the point where I can tolerate small amounts of things without ill effects. If you're interested, I know an MD in Berkeley who is both a board certified allergist AND an acupuncturist and who is also gay positive and just a super person in lots of ways. She's one of those rare docs who is good at helping you figure out what you CAN do and enjoy rather than just giving you a list of things you can't do. And she's a bit of a chocoholic herself, so she'd probably have some ideas for how to work with it. (she's the doctor who once prescribed chocolate cheesecake for me.) If you are interested, email me and I'll give you her number.

Good luck with this!

Rachael, I just want to reiterate Meg's point about checking for celiac disease. Celiac is an auto-immune disease that attacks the small intestine. For some reason, your body thinks that the gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut) is poison and tries to overcompensate for it by destroying the finger-like projections in your small intestine that allow you to digest food. Symptoms range from nausea/gas/diarrhea to headaches and fatigue/muscle pain to depression and anxiety. It is estimated that one in 133 people in North America have the disease but only a small percentage have been diagnosed.
Gluten is in a lot of chocolate (not always labelled but cross-contaminated in the plant) and in the things that you listed, including soy sauce.
You get sick a lot - which is quite common for undiagnosed celiacs. Before I was diagnosed, I used to get felled by throat and lung infections regularly, and I had had both tonsilectomy and appendectomy before I was 30. I would have bronchitis twice a year. Not surprising when your immune system is compromised.
I think Meg has the right idea - you might be right that it is soy, since soy is one of the most common allergies (after wheat and dairy), but you should also be tested for celiac disease. I thought it was soy - or the nightshade family - and couldn't really figure out what was making me sick. I stopped eating wheat, especially stuff like pasta, but I kept eating rye, not realizing that it was also part of the problem.

I hope that this helps!

Oh geez - didn't know my earlier message posted 3 times!!! Sorry 'bout that.

Are you sure it's soy? Your reactions sound very much like mine and my allergy is sulphites. (They are used as a preservative in processed foods and to keep the colour "nice") The worst offenders are concentrated lemon/lime juice also citric acid which is in just about everything. I had to go to 3 allergists bfore I got one smart enough to diagnose me. Alas, I can no longer drink wine either! Get an Epipen and carry it with you while they are trying to figure out what the allergy is. All the best and good luck.

Hi Rachael,

The photo of you in the snow makes me nostalgic for NYC!

I don't know much about soy allergies but I DO know where you can get chocolate without soy lecithin. And in our neighborhood, too! There's this guy, Jordan, who makes yummy (unroasted) chocolate bars in a place in Oakland and uses some sort of rice product as an emulsifier.

You can reach him at eatme*at*fearlesschocolate*dot*com.
Life is not complete without chocolate.

Maybe we can get together for a run around the lake sometime soon?


Ugh, as everyone's commented, an allergy to soy (in any form) sucks because it's in everything. Not surprisingly, that exact reason is thought to be why so many people are allergic to it.

It's often needlessly added to all sorts of food because processing robs food of it's natural nutrients. So corn is used in various forms as a starch, carb, or sweetener, and soy is added for protein.

The suck-ball side is that allergies are equal opportunity. They don't care if the soy is superfluous or if it's a vital ingredient as in soy sauce, tofu, or miso.

You can find chocolates that don't have soy lecithin. As a vegan I look for chocolate WITH it because it is used instead of dairy-based emulsifiers. A fact-finding trip to the chocolate table at your local Whole Foods should get you plenty of yummies. As for sauces - check out the asian or sauce aisles while you're there. Also look up recipes for similar sauces and make them yourself using soup bases, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to substitute for the soy sauce.

Chillbains..2 choices
Udder Butter (cute black and white cow contaniner) absobs nicely
Bag Balm...these are for your feet, WITH SOCKS. it is green and the consistency of cold vaseline. Used on dairy cows with chapped udders. And believe me, if we use it on a $3K milk cow, it works. As we say about Bag Balm "Cures colds, mores, sore @ss holes and makes child birth a pleasure." Good for diaper rash, too.
Come is a BIG gree tin and a little one, too.

I gave up on my allergist - and instead found an acupucturist who helped me learn that I need to eliminate all sugars (the root of all evils in my life). I had silimar symptoms. At any rate, if the allergist isn't able to help you, perhaps you would consider an acupuncturist. A fastidious food journal of everything you eat will help the professionals. Good luck! Feel better!

My SIL went to an acupuncturist for help with a wheat allergy. She can now eat her breakfast cereal and sandwiches and other things without stomach problems and only has to keep from overdoing it with too much in one sitting.

And, on the topic of Celiac's, I've read that often a person with Celiac's disease will develop a long list of other food allergies if they don't realize they have Celiac's quickly enough. Certainly worth checking into.

Just to add one more iron to the fire... ha!

I used to work in a health food store, and some people intolerant to soy sauce used to buy a replacement called Bragg Liquid Aminos (it's also good for you. It DOES contain soy, but no lecithin and no preservatives as far as I know.

Perhaps a fast/cleanse would help? Reset your system somewhat?

Happiest of holidays to you and Lala!

I moved from San Francisco to Buffalo a few years ago--and I feel the same way about snow! It's so magical! So pretty! And I love slapping on the hats and gloves and scarves. Except everything indoors is so darn overheated that I never get to wear my wooley sweaters. Happy New Year!!

I also get an itchy/swollen throat with soy milk, and upset stomach. I read an article in the Washington Post health section a month or so ago about contact allergies that happen with certain foods, and what I experience matched well with what they described... you might want to check their archives. Soy in other forms of doesn't seem as bad. Good luck and shop for an allergist who'll listen and work with you.

we were so grateful when cameron outgrew his allergy to soy...it is everywhere! good luck.

May I please underscore the importance that you get checked for Celiac? Our 7 year old son, Angus, was diagnosed in November. And as mentioned it is an auto-immune disease. He has been gluten free for about 7 weeks and now does not complain of head aches or tummy aches. (The body begins to heal after a bit of time of being gluten free.) Another scenario is that you are NOT Celiac but have gluten sensitivity. Please get yourself checked and while Gluten Free living is a pain in ass, you do live in an area that is very food aware and supportive of alternative diets.

Oh, and the snow? I am completely the same way. Much love.

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