Is this “health food” hurting your health?

Tofu, soy sauce, soy, milk, soy beans

Many people have a soy sensitivity that makes them sick as, um, heck! Others eat soy with no problems???
© Can Stock Photo

Soy sensitivity (also called soy intolerance) affects many people. Most people don’t even know what soy is.  Yet many people suffer from the effects soy has on their digestive tract. Many people have a soy sensitivity and don’t even know it.

Soy is in all kinds of foods either as soy bean oil, as a meat filler, as a meat substitute (like tofu).

Soy can be found in MANY OTHER FOODS!

Note that soy isn’t the the only food people have trouble with. Find out more about “ Food Intolerance.


Is soy sensitivity the same as a soy allergy?

No, a soy allergy is extremely common (one of the 8 most common food allergens), and like most food allergies  a soy allergy is dangerous. The difference between a soy sensitivity and a soy allergy is how your body responds to soy. When you have a soy allergy, your body’s immune system responds to proteins in the soy and gives you allergy symptoms. Soy sensitivity doesn’t cause an immune response.

Some common soy allergy symptoms are:

  • Long used as a health food by some, soy milk makes ME miserable and sick.

    Long used as a health food by some, soy milk makes ME miserable and sick.
    © Can Stock Photo

    Hives or other skin rashes

  • Tingling in the mouth
  • Swollen lips, mouth or throat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Abdominal pain and/or diarrhea
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Anaphylaxis (a kind of shock that can be fatal)

and more. If you even suspect a soy allergy, you should be seeking medical help NOT web help. But this page is about soy sensitivity.

So what is soy sensitivity or soy intolerance?

If you have a soy sensitivity, your body has trouble breaking down the proteins and sugars in soy. Any undigested soy sugars and proteins move through your digestive system. Eventually they get to the colon where they begin to cause you problems like diarrhea, cramping and trapped gas. Your bowels can be sensitive to the soy proteins themselves, which can cause the IBS symptoms I just mentioned. However, I think more often, bacteria in your gut devour any undigested proteins and sugars. This creates lots of gas, and can cause spasms and diarrhea…

And misery!

Soy sensitivity can develop over time too. I used to be able to eat and drink soy products. Now the soymilk is like poison to me. I can still get away with small amounts of tofu or soy sausage. Too much and I’m doomed.

What is soy anyway?

Soy is made from soy beans. Like most beans, soy can cause abdominal gas. Soy oil and ground soy bean powder was added to many other foods. As soy milk and tofu, soy has become a non-animal health food for many people. Many people digest it with no problems. In fact it’s been used as food in some Asian countries for centuries. Maybe the people of or from that region have adapted to eating soy so they don’t suffer as much from soy sensitivity.

What are the symptoms of soy sensitivity?

An empty toilet paper roll with Plan B written on it. Time to try a soy alternative.

Maybe you need to try another milk and/or meat substitute.

For me (sorry for being indelicate) the first symptom is large amounts of intestinal gas. This happens particularly with soy milk. Next comes the cramping, abdominal pain and diarrhea. It’s like lactose intolerance only for me it’s much worse. I’m actually more sensitive to soy milk than regular milk!

Here is a list of the more common soy sensitivity symptoms:

Unlike most allergies, people with soy sensitivity can usually tolerate small amounts of food that they are sensitive to. You may be able to get away with the amount of soy in salad dressing for instance. Other people have to cut out soy all together to get relief from soy sensitivity symptoms.

How does soy sneak into your mouth?

Soy is in all kinds of foods and food additives. Here is a partial list. Some of them are obvious. You’ll have to check labels as best you can for others.

These foods are made of soy:

  • Soy flour
  • Soy nuts
  • Soy milk
  • Soy bean sprouts
  • Tofu
  • Soy protein
  • Textured vegetable protein (TPV)
  • Soy sauce

These foods often or always contain soy:

  • Miso
  • Soy sauce
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Vegetable broth
  • Many infant formulas
  • Some cereals and baked goods

These food ingredients sometimes contain soy:

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
  • Hydrolyzed soy protein
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein
  • Natural and artificial flavoring (Some may be soy based)
  • Vegetable gum
  • Vegetable starch
  • Some Vegetable oil

Could my baby have a soy sensitivity to baby formula?

A young boy leaning back on the toilet looking sick.

Is your kid sick because of a soy sensitivity??? Something to think about.

YES! Many babies don’t do well on soy formula or soy in general.

Many mothers find out the hard way that soy was the reason that baby was so cranky, and had so much diarrhea, gas and gas pains. The trouble is that soy has been in most baby formulas for so long that people rarely question it.

Soy was originally used in baby formula over 100 years ago, and has been recommended for babies that can’t handle cow’s milk. However many people with soy sensitivity also have a lactose sensitivity or lactose intolerance.

In my opinion, nature made the perfect food for babies… And mom’s make it for free!

Is there a treatment for soy sensitivity?

Like most food sensitivities, soy sensitivity is best treated by avoiding problem food. Avoiding soy can be difficult though, since it’s in so many foods. As always, I recommend a competent dietitian or other medical professional involved in dietary needs. Get help when you need it! For more info see the Food Intolerance section or see the links below.