Soy lecithin is a mixture of phospholipids, and is obtained when soybeans are processed to extract soybean oil. An allergy to soy lecithin refers to a hypersensitivity to this substance, which is added to a number of food and pharmaceutical products.
Lecithin is the fatty substance, which is basically a mixture of phospholipids, glycolipids, glycerol, fatty acids, choline, and phosphoric acid. It is usually yellowish or brown in color, and can be found in both animal and plant tissues. Soy lecithin is a derivative or by-product obtained while processing soybeans.
Lecithin has found a wide range of applications, mainly due to its emulsifying properties. It is a common ingredient in processed food, besides being included in animal feed, paints, and many pharmaceutical products. However, some people can develop an allergic reaction after consuming soy or any other products that contain lecithin. In fact, an allergy to soy protein is one of the most common food allergies in the world.
Allergy to Soy Lecithin
An allergy to soy lecithin means that the immune system identifies lecithin as a harmful foreign particle. So, it releases a large amount of antibodies in the body, which in turn, produces an allergic reaction. Some people can experience a mild allergic reaction to soy lecithin, while others can encounter a life-threatening condition, known as anaphylaxis. Such a condition requires immediate medical attention. A large number of individuals are found to be allergic to soy protein and soy lecithin, of which a great majority are young children and infants.
Signs and Symptoms
An allergy to soy lecithin can sometimes produce a few mild symptoms, like sneezing, a runny nose, minor skin rash, and hives. But some individuals can develop a serious allergic reaction, which can manifest in itching, severe skin rash, urticaria, cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, and unusual swelling, especially of the face, tongue, and the throat. Eventually, the condition can lead to dizziness, fainting, and ‘anaphylaxis’. Anaphylaxis can be termed a systemic allergic reaction, which if not treated can lead to anaphylactic shock.
A serious allergic reaction to soy lecithin can be prevented by avoiding soy and soy-based products. Some common soy products are, soy flour, soy milk, soy albumin, soy beans, soy nuts, tofu, miso, natto, soy sauce, tamari, edamame, teriyaki, shoyu, and tempeh. Soy is nowadays included in a large number of processed foods as well. So, one should always read the label of a product to find out the various ingredients, before making any purchases.
Be sure to read the label of a product, even if you have already tried it and have not experienced any reaction. This is because, many times, the manufacturer can change certain ingredients, or include soy lecithin in it. While dining out, especially in a Chinese or Japanese restaurant, never forget to check the ingredients of the various dishes served by them.
As this allergy is more common in children, they should be taught to not accept any food offered by their friends or other people who do not know about this allergy. To sum up, every possible measure needs to be taken to avoid soy products, and processed foods that include soy lecithin. The symptoms of an allergic reaction can be managed with antihistamines, but a severe case may require the administration of epinephrine. Therefore, on observing any of the symptoms, one should immediately seek the help a physician.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.