Harmful or Harmless: Soy Lecithin | Chris Kresser

Harmful or Harmless: Soy Lecithin

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soy lecithin, is soy lecithin bad for you
Is soy lecithin bad for you? iStock.com/sergeyryzhov

Soy lecithin is one of the most ubiquitous additives in our food supply. It’s used primarily as an emulsifier, and you can find it in everything from salad dressing to tea bags. Paleo dieters avoid the brunt of it by eliminating most processed foods, but it almost always pops up in chocolate (everyone’s favorite honorary Paleo food) and often appears in supplements.

I recommend avoiding soy as a general rule, but consuming small amounts of soy lecithin as an additive is very different from, say, eating a soy burger  topped with soy cheese or drizzling soybean oil on your salad. This article will probably be more than you ever wanted to know about soy lecithin, but I wanted to do my best to get all the facts out on the table.

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What Is Soy Lecithin?

The term ‘lecithin’ can have different meanings depending on the context, but for our purposes, it refers to a mixture of phospholipids and oil. Phospholipids are a component of the cell membrane in all plants and animals, but lecithin is most often derived from sunflower kernels, rapeseed (canola), milk, soy, and egg yolks. (1)

The specific composition of soy lecithin varies depending on its manufacturer and intended use, but on average, it contains about 35% soybean oil and 16% phosphatidylcholine. (2) Phosphatidylcholine is a type of phospholipid that is abundant in liver and egg yolks, and is the primary form of choline found in foods. (3) The remaining percentage is other phospholipids and glycolipids.

To make soy lecithin, soybean oil is extracted from the raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane). (4) Then, the crude soy oil goes through a ‘degumming’ process, wherein water is mixed thoroughly with the soy oil until the lecithin becomes hydrated and separates from the oil. Then, the lecithin is dried and occasionally bleached using hydrogen peroxide.

There are many claims online about soy lecithin being full of nasty chemicals left over from the production process. Not surprisingly, there aren’t many credible sources describing the chemical content of commercial soy lecithin, but I have found some relevant data about the safety of soy lecithin.

Before the ‘degumming’ step where lecithin is removed, the crude oil undergoes a multi-step process to remove the hexane. (5) However, it appears that the FDA doesn’t regulate the amount of hexane residue in food products, and one paper estimated that the residual hexane concentration of soy oil is 500-1000ppm. (6) So, it’s very possible that similar concentrations remain in the soy lecithin. (For comparison’s sake, the concentration limit for hexane in pharmaceuticals is 290ppm.) (7)

According to one analysis, total pesticide residues in crude soy oil are around 400ppb. (8) Since the pesticide concentration of the oil after degumming is similar, it’s pretty likely that some of those pesticides end up in the lecithin as well.

While it’s unfortunate that soy lecithin likely contains pesticides and solvents, I would just encourage you to keep this information in perspective. We’re exposed to hundreds of chemical toxins every day in our air, water, household products, and food, and contaminants in soy lecithin will contribute only slightly to your overall toxic load. After all, we’re talking parts per million and parts per billion, and soy lecithin itself usually makes up no more than 1% of processed foods. (9)

Of course, in an ideal world, we would be able to avoid these things altogether, and I certainly recommend reducing your exposure as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to make sure your detox systems are functioning effectively. But unless you have a severe chemical sensitivity to hexane or pesticides, occasionally consuming small amounts is not worth getting bent out of shape over.

Allergies

Soy allergies are triggered by soy proteins, so whether lecithin triggers an allergic response or not depends on its protein content. One analysis found protein concentrations ranging from 100 to 1,400ppm in six different soy lecithin samples. (10) (For reference, the new FDA gluten-free labeling law requires a gluten concentration of less than 20ppm.) (11) Another analysis of six different lecithin samples found that four had sufficient protein to trigger an IgE-mediated response in people with soy allergies, while two contained no detectable protein at all. (12) However, another study performed similar testing and concluded that even if protein is present in soy lecithin, it’s not a significant allergen for people with soybean allergies. (13)

It’s clear that the source of the soy lecithin is a major determinant in whether or not it will present a problem for those with soy allergies, but if you have a soy allergy, I’d say better safe than sorry. However, because protein is present in such a low concentration, and soy lecithin itself usually makes up no more than 1% of processed foods, it’s probably not a problem for those with minor sensitivities to soy.

GMO

Most of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified, so unless the label says ‘organic soy lecithin,’ it probably came from a genetically modified soybean. You know I’m not a fan of GMOs, due to the presence of potentially transferrable DNA and potentially immunogenic proteins. However, as I discussed in the section on allergies, soy lecithin contains very little soy protein, and lecithin from some sources contains no detectable protein at all. Soy lecithin also contains very little DNA, and the DNA present is usually degraded to the extent that it’s impossible to tell whether the soy is genetically modified or not. (14) Thus, most of the risks associated with consumption of GMOs aren’t relevant for soy lecithin, and shouldn’t be cause for concern.

Phytoestrogens

Soy is the greatest food source of phytoestrogens, and one group of researchers discovered significant estrogenic activity in soy lecithin. (15) Interestingly, none of the soy lecithin they tested contained genistein, which is the predominant phytoestrogen in soy. They concluded that “a so-far unidentified estrogen-like compound” is present in soy lecithin that accounts for its estrogenic activity.

We know how problematic phytoestrogens can be, but again, the dose makes the poison. Remember, soy isn’t the only source of phytoestrogens we’re exposed to. (Did you know that flaxseed is also a significant source of phytoestrogens? In fact, one study showed that supplementation with ground flaxseed altered estrogen metabolism even more than supplementation with soy flour.) It’s definitely best to keep phytoestrogens to a minimum, and individuals dealing with cancer or fertility problems might want to avoid them more strictly. But for most generally healthy people, the small amounts of phytoestrogens from soy lecithin shouldn’t be a problem.

Toxicity

One study that has been used widely as ammunition against soy lecithin is titled “Effects of a Commercial Soy Lecithin Preparation on Development of Sensorimotor Behavior and Brain Biochemistry in the Rat.” Researchers found that soy lecithin in concentrations of 2% and 5% in the diets of pregnant and newborn rats resulted in impaired reflexes and swimming ability, along with other cognitive deficiencies.

It’s important to understand that these effects are due to choline toxicity, not soy lecithin per se. The elevated brain/body weight ratios, plus elevated acetylcholine and choline acetyltransferase levels that resulted from soy lecithin supplementation were caused by the phosphatidylcholine, and would’ve still occurred even if they had used a source of phosphatidylcholine other than soy; even egg yolks.

It would be very difficult to consume as much choline as these rats did, especially from soy lecithin. In fact, most people are deficient in choline! This is just another case of a study being misinterpreted, and you certainly don’t need to worry about soy lecithin causing developmental problems.

Therapeutic Uses

I believe I’ve covered all of the main concerns about soy lecithin, but it’s worth mentioning that soy lecithin is also being recommended and consumed as a dietary supplement. There is a growing body of research supporting its use for improving blood lipids, reducing inflammation, and treating neurological disorders. (16) For instance, one study found that after 2 months of supplementing with 500mg of soy lecithin per day, total cholesterol levels fell by 42% and LDL levels decreased by 56%. (17)

However, most of these studies involve supplementation with a purified form of soy lecithin, which usually contains less soy oil and more phosphatidylcholine than the commercial soy lecithin that shows up in foods. Additionally, isolated phosphatidylcholine is often referred to as ‘lecithin’ in scientific contexts, so some studies supplementing with ‘soy lecithin’ are really just supplementing with phosphatidylcholine.

So once again, it’s not the soy lecithin; it’s the choline. Luckily, you can derive all the benefits of phosphatidylcholine supplementation just by increasing your consumption of choline-rich foods like egg yolks and liver.

So, What to Do?

The only people who need to make a point of avoiding soy lecithin are those with severe soy allergies or chemical sensitivities, and of course, those who notice that they personally react badly to it. And if you don’t have a soy allergy, almost all of the remaining concerns about soy lecithin (pesticides, solvents, and GMOs) can be completely eliminated by purchasing products that contain organic soy lecithin.

But for the vast majority of the population, even conventional soy lecithin isn’t worth worrying about one way or the other. If it’s just as easy for you to avoid it as it is to consume it, then do so. (For example, Enjoy Life is one popular brand of chocolate that is soy-free.) Ultimately, I think most people can just enjoy their occasional chocolate treat without worrying about whether it contains soy lecithin.

374 Comments

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  1. Hi there. I have started taking a supplement which contains Soy Lecithin (98 percent oil free) 2000 mg. Breast cancer runs in the family (not a lot, one person, my mother) so this concerns me.
    Does the oil free part make it ok?

    Thank you.

    • Just wanted to comment on the cancer concerns and to write all those who find their way to these helpful comments from everyone. First, people with cancer are almost always found to have low Vitamin C and D levels as well as other deficiencies. All of us trying to do the best and often find it to be very difficult to find and consume only health foods. The problems with so many food poisons are definitely engineered this way on purpose. After all, the biggest food producer also owns and profits when people need their drugs. It shouldn’t even be legal for food producers to own pharma companies. With this in mind, I urge you all to read Thomas Levy’s books (also video Y-tube, the books are more detailed and worth their price in gold) on how high doses (IV levels) of Vitamin C can be used to otherwise consume toxins out of the body and how most major diseases leading to death occur when we lack sufficient Vitamin C. A person who eventually dies from any disease… is often actually dying of scurvy. Ebola bleeding of the mouth is scurvy. Toxins, cancers, snake bites poisons, viruses, infection are all cancelled out by Vitamin C; while also being helped by other sources of nutrition. Vitamin D (including high doses) also play an important part by you shouldn’t take D without K2 which is why you should first read about Vit D, calcium and k2 balancing . Another Dr published book talks of how he took high doses of D; helping rid a host of chronic problems. I’ve taken the time to read on these and have improved my own health. after being chronically ill for what seems a long time. I’ve learned things that all of you should know before you are too old to help yourselves in the same ways. Take the time to study nutritional supplementing because its so important today. Truth is..none of us are getting the right levels of nutrition because of the way food is grown – to no longer include it. Some of these GMO’s are made to ensure your body can’t even process food containing higher nutritional value. When the intestines don’t have the enzymes, things don’t get adsorbed as they should. Calcium can become deadly (builds up in the blood – clogging your system) if not balanced with K2 and or magnesium and yet no one ever educates students of these life critical truths in 12 years of schooling – health classes. I believe even this is intentional. I am convinced that all of us should be offsetting exposure to environmental/food toxins with very high doses (much higher than recommended) doses of C, D, K2 and iodine) at a minimum, as well as giving attention to enzymes and overall digestion (such as no gum chewing because it uses them up) . It is no coincidence iodine was removed from bread conditioners (replaced by poisonous bromine which is toxic to thyroid function- making most breads toxic). This happened in the early 70s; just as synthetic thyroid was developed and put on the market. As a result, today 1 in 10 people take it this medication; not realizing the true cause of their problems. Chlorine, bromine (from most breads) and fluorine all consume iodine which is an essential element to thyroid, health, immune system function, sleep cycles, pituitary gland etc. If you look up old newspapers, you can read articles from doctors in the 30s who would write articles to local papers. They sought to to inform the public what the symptoms of iodine deficiency were. That chronic fatigue, lack of motivation, constant bad mood, poor sleep, cold hands &feet and many other similar symptoms all demonstrated severe iodine deficiency. Their lives were totally turned around (transformed) by taking iodine supplementation. This says a lot because doctors today are wrongly (educated by big pharma) told -that salt gives us all sufficient levels and that this negates the need for us to test for the need to supplement. However, If you ask iodine experts, they all say without question that 90-95% of the population is deficient in iodine with exception of those who eat seaweed & seafoods very regularly. If you want to stay healthy, develope a good non-gmo supplement program. It’s very possible that high levels of Vit C in your system can cancel out these toxins – such as soy lecithin and even stop or delay a heat attack. Coincidentally, there has never been a max dosage of C in IV form found to be deadly. A great doctor from Oregon (Linus Pauling) tried to bring this information forward in the later 1980s. He had spent years confirming by his research the many benefits of Vitamin C and compiling his and research of others. He was wrongly discredited by doctors who were paid by big pharma. His original articles that brought forward his claims were challenged by dishonest Pharma drs. who lied and made misleading claims in the same Medical journals. Pauling immediately sought to counter these allegations but pharma made sure that AMA journal and others would not publish his rebuttal of their claims. This control that dishonest money has on our system is why USA has the 49th lowest life expectancy. Thank our corrupt system. Here is a reference to the Pauling Institute website which also has a lot of good info.

  2. I was told to avoid soy by my oncologist. I wanted to buy a protein drink but it has soy in it. Mostly everything I want to buy has soy. How dangerous is soy for a cancer survivor?

    • The problem isn’t the soy, it is the processed nature of the product. If you get organic soy-made products, the link to such things is moot.

    • I am a breast cancer survivor. My oncologist told me I’d have to make my own mind up regarding soy. Being that my particular brand of cancer was directly related to my estrogen levels (in layman’s terms, my cancer used estrogen for it’s “food” to grow), I avoid soy. I, too, would get very bad pseudo menstral cramps whenever I ingested any soy products. I even had to switch my brand of multivitamins because the soy lecithin in the vitamin would trigger my cramping. This is just my personal experience, but I feel that any potential benefits DO NOT out way the hazards regarding soy & cancer.

  3. Hi Chris,

    I was thinking of buying Alpha GPC choline but do not want the soy lecithin that it is made from. Do you know an Alpha GPC choline that is made from sunflowers? I would like to enhance my acetylcholine production to help with me sexually. I am male, 57. Does sunflower lecithin produce acetylcholine significantly?

    Thank you very much

    Randy

  4. I was diagnosed with CLL two years ago. I am still at O, it is not progressing so far. I started taking soy lecithin for short term memory loss. I am 77. My question is will soy lecithin trigger my blood cancer into high gear?

    • Yes. Consuming any soy isoflavones, disrupts endocrine activity, which in turn may have a carcinogenic affect. Also it will raise your estrogen levels with 100% efficacy.

      • I avoid non fermented soy foods but in supplements phosphatidyl choline has very little flavones and really isn’t an issue

      • Joe – That is a really dangerous thing to tell someone. Especially if you are not a doctor. That’s between her and her healthcare provider to determine.

        Ruth – There are alternatives to soy lecithin. NOW makes sunflower lecithin, and there is a Nature’s Plus Egg Yolk Lecithin. Still check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

  5. Hi all. I have read through a lot of the comments but not all. It seems pretty clear that very many people have serious problems with soy full stop, and I think we need to be honey with ourselves as a race and say that ultimately it should be banne on this earth and not to seek to justify its use ever if there is any alternative, as a matter I principle even if we have no personal reaction to it.

    However, I am flabbergasted to not have found ONE single mention here, especially by Chris Kresser (although I may have missed it) to sunflower lecithin, which has to be far superior and causing no problems for virtually all people.

    Again I may have missed it but it should not be hard at all to find at leat one reference to it, certainly in Kressers main article itself.
    Am I missing something here?

    • Mention was made in the third paragraph of the article: “…lecithin is most often derived from sunflower kernels…”.

      • Most lecithin used in scientific testing yes. Then the food companies piggy back off this information that people blindly misinterpret and just assume that if lecithin is good; Soy lecithin must be too.

        If you do a bit more research outside of government moderated websites and this one; you will find a whole lot of eye opening information to do with this harmful additive.

        There is no business in soy lecithin being inside our consumables other than the fact it lines the pockets of the companies which are spending much less money on purchasing this, over more of the whole food ingredients.

        Like Chris says, keep things in perspective. Just ask why. Why does something with such little good benefit, and such large defects, be so widely produced and used? Because soy is one of the cheapest and economic crops to run. No other crop would yield such a result.

        And if you want to look at it from a different perspective all together; thousands of soy farmers now, India especially, are taking their own lives due to crop failure from the failure brought about by the toxic waste sprayed, injected and genetically modified. Another thing to consider is that, if you want to continue being a farmer in some situations, you need to buy a Monsanto GM seed to continue growing.

        Think of nature too which is being affected. Once a grass eating animal, is now fed soy and other grains, which fattens then twice as fast and matures them significantly quicker too. And in turn more and more soy is needed to be planted and harvested, in which forests are being destroyed in order to achieve this.

        • I Think it should be removed from all our foods that we consume. I have had breast cancer twice, and this last time, it came because I was not aware of what soy does to your body, and I was drinking soy milk almost on a daily basis. I now read all ingredients on many food packages, and try to eat only fresh as everything is made with soy. KRAFT, PROCTOR & GAMBLE, HEINZ and all the other food manufacturing are aware that it is not good for consumption, but its all about money.

    • How many people are you saying have problems with it? I don’t know a single person who has problems with soy, but only either drinks it because they do, or avoids it because they heard through big media that it was bad for them.

        • I think he is just stating that it is very rare really. I am 40 and never heard of it till my daughter had soy sensativities! But now I guess I know two people.

      • I have recently found out I have a soy allergy and it is life changing the things you can’t have anymore. You would be very surprised at how many people have this allergy it is becoming a very large number.

  6. Good! I want it to alter my estrogen metabolism. Since I started eating soy and other foods high in phytoestrogens my hormonal cystic acne is gone and my cellulite has greatly reduced. I hardly have any cellulite now. It keeps improving. It was REALLY bad before so was my acne. I do believe the people that keep saying how bad soy and phytoestrogens are for us, don’t really know what the heck they’re talking about.

    • Soybeans contain isoflavones, which are chemically similar to estrogens. Soybeans are a complete protein source and a dietary staple in many cultures. Soy contains phytoestrogens called isoflavones that may mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen in your body.
      Your body was producing to much test testosterone if you a woman this is bad but if your a guy eating soy products because your slowly turning yourself in to an emotional re

      ck

    • Crazily enough – since I cut out soy my cystic acne is gone. Just goes to show that women are not one size fits all.

    • Your improvements may be because of improved cell membrane function or better metabolising of fat, or other effects lecithin can have.

  7. Sadly we can’t escape all toxins and additives in food but like me I have over active Candida and about 8 months ago I stopped all processed foods and refused to eat anything like that. It makes my job way harder I had to eat foods I didn’t like but have grown now to love all to rid myself of Yeast in foods and foods that cause Mold in our guys you will be surprised on how many do that once you have this disorder. Even allowed the sugar I can have..I still have flare ups and haven’t been able to get that totally under control yet. But here is a brain thought for you.

    Why is it that some people can have kids and others can’t? When you are born boys have sperm and girls also have eggs..but for some reason when they hit age 25+ for some reason they can’t have kids. They have no eggs or something has just happened to change all that. I totally believe it is a additive that they are putting in the food. Much like the military did with putting stuff in the men’s water to stop them from the urges to have sex. I don’t know about you but I believe it is a part of what they call population control. Also the theory of us being lab rats without consent is another thing I believe is happening. Thanks for the information you did a great job giving us the facts and I appreciate your time doing so. 🙂

    • I used to have candida about 10 years ago. Besides what you took away from your diet you should drink kefir. Stuff brought me back to normal. Also just an FYI, I had my child at the age of 33 which is well over 25 and I see a lot more women having kids older. Not sure why you see a decline.

    • Lecithin can possibly be toxic for those who consume large amounts of ‘foods’ in which lecithin is used as part of an artificial product.
      Lecithin is a healful addition to a diet that is devoid of processed and ‘preserved’ foods.
      If one is not consuming these poisonous creations, it can be beneficial in the right (not huge!) quantities and from the right sources.

  8. I am recovering from estrogen-based breast cancer and my breast cancer surgeon told me to get rid of everything that has soy since it is a Phytoestrogen and creates estrogen. Plus I have to take estrogen-blockers for the next 5-10 years to keep the estrogen from coming back. When she told me to throw out everything with soy, I had no idea how much soy is in all of our food, hair and skin products, not to mention pet foods. Estrogen is now being linked to prostate cancer. Since 9 out of 10 men/and women who get breast cancer, never had it in their family like me, then it strongly proves a lot of our diseases are coming from the food we eat. Go through your cupboards and you will be surprised, actually frightened. Soy is one of the top 8 allergens but it is more than just an allergy it can cause loss of life if not caught in time.

  9. I don’t have a soy allergy but I’m going to start taking egg yolk lecithin because I’ve heard it is superior to soy

      • I also had a bad reaction when I ate eggs. But I just bought a new chocolate chip that used sunflower lecithin instead of soy and I noticed I was still having my usual soy reaction. I was wondering if it was the lecithin I was reacting to. Have you ever noticed this?

        • Because I have had cancer (12 years ago now and I did take estrogen before that), and more recently had two years of eczema, I had chemical patch testing done. The results were an allergy to “Nickel”. I didn’t know there was nickel in foods. Robin, the 3 foods you just mentioned above have nickel in them. Soy oil, sunflower oils, chocolate. There is a while list of foods. I’m finally getting my rash under control. I don’t sweat the small doses, but do cut out foods high in nickel. Still doing a lot of research though.

  10. Hi,

    I’m so stressed and wondering if someone could offer some helpful advice or opinions. So, my naturopathic dr wants to put me on Phosphatidyl Choline for a genetic disease(MTHFR). We finally find a bovine free capsule one and it’s a very reputable brand(PhosChol) by Nutrasal pharmaceutical grade. The company goes into how their product is non gmo, but gives a three page letter on how almost all soybeans they start with are gmo but it’s only the protein part that’s gmo. They say that part is removed, extracted and only the purest lipids are used. The product is tested by several third party labs, nanograms of DNA are extracted from the product sample, cleaned, treated with the reagents necessary and amplified over 50 cycles. They say to date from 1997 to current no gmo is detected in the final product. My naturo doesn’t want me to take Phosphatidyl derived from sunflower lecithin, he feels it doesn’t have the scientific evidence it helps. What is one to do???? I’m so on the fence and have no idea what to do.:(

  11. I wanted to share the amazing results I have found with LDA Allergy (Low Dose Allergens/Immunotherapy) treatments. I had severe allergies to many foods/chemicals- off the charts for Soy on my Cyrex 10 tests (sever eczema as well). I have retested after my final round of shots last month (every 2 months for 12 months) and have very few allergies now! After the 2nd shot I no longer had signs of eczema, inability to swallow, acid reflux, etc.) and after the 4th shot I felt like a new person I’m able to eat most of my allergic foods now and have no side effects. I traveled to Dr Shrader- Santa Fe, NM for my shots but I know his website recommends the approved Dr’s accross the country that offer his therapy.

    • I am hypothyoridic also and just discovered how much Iodine helps! And due to farming processes and it being taken out of bread and milk, almost everybody is way deficient. The RDA is 150mcg when in fact we need as much as 100x that. Read Dr. David Brownstein’s “Overcoming thyroid Disorders” to find out much more easy to understand and follow information. And yes, I was wondering about soy lecithin affecting my thyroid. So thanks for clearing that up.

  12. Interesting. My 5yo son has an allergy to legumes. Soy is a huge trigger food. It’s nearly impossible to find foods that don’t contain soy lecithin. He just started Kindergarten and wants to do everything all the other kids do. So, when someone brings cupcakes to celebrate a birthday, he can’t have any. It makes him feel different.
    He gets severe eczema when ingesting legumes. His entire infancy, he was covered head to toe in massive crusty rashes. he even got a few staph infections from scratching. They wouldn’t test him until he was 18 months…that was life changing. Now I know and monitor his consumption and treat when necessary. He still has a perpetual itch, but it’s much more controlled now that we know the triggers.
    I wanted to read on this (soy lecithin) because his teacher asked me to bring a “packaged” treat for him to have when there are birthday treat brought in by other kids. I couldn’t find anything, as I expected. So I picked a cookie that had soy lecithin as an ingredient near the bottom of the list and told her he could only have 2 on seldom occasion.

    I didn’t realize how many people have a soy allergy. My son also has the same reaction from beans, peas, peanuts, etc.

    • I wanted to share the amazing results I have found with LDA Allergy (Low Dose Allergens/Immunotherapy) treatments. I had severe allergies to many foods/chemicals- off the charts for Soy on my Cyrex 10 tests (sever eczema as well). I have retested after my final round of shots last month (every 2 months for 12 months) and have very few allergies now! After the 2nd shot I no longer had signs of eczema, inability to swallow, acid reflux, etc.) and after the 4th shot I felt like a new person I’m able to eat most of my allergic foods now and have no side effects. I traveled to Dr Shrader for my shots but I know his website recommends the approved Dr’s accross the country that offer his therapy. Good luck!

    • Why would the teacher request that of a highly allergic child? Screw her and make your own treat for your child. You can build his confidence about himself in general so that he doesn’t see eating a different treat as any reflection on who he is at all I’ve seen children who have diabetes and have to have insulin shots at school but are happy and confident within themselves. You are an amazing mum! Best luck to both of you!

  13. For those who have a soy lecithin allergy, could you share your symptoms? I have been avoiding it for years because every time I eat something containing it (bread, cheeses, chocolate, etc) I develop a severe sinus infection within hours. But occasionally I would still get them in spite of avoiding those products. And I could have organic soy with no reaction. I recently learned that hexane seems to be the culprit. I cut out canola oil, margarine, and a few other products with commonly high hexane carryover and it has eliminated the sinus infections, except for the occasional slip up. But it means pretty much only eating foods I’ve prepared myself. :/

    • My body is so sensitive to soy that I will know by the best morning, at the latest, if I have consumed something with soy in it the night before. Signs of puffiness and inflammation but the Big Tell for me- bluntly- my breasts become huge & hard & it can become quite painful. It is noticeable to people around me. It can be a few days for it to all go down. Sometimes a mild headache but it is more the swelling – I hate it. It has turned grocery shopping into a chore. Even Whole Foods can be a 2 hour event. Mom’s is the easiest of all the grocery stores for me to find the biggest variety. I have lists of company names & products- but not all companies avoid soy in all their products, so you can’t assume and have to read the labels. Hope this helps.

    • When I have reacted to soy lecithin I have had the same reaction I have when I have soy protein, hoarseness, throat closing, and slightly labored breathing (I do have allergic asthma). From what I’ve seen and read the response can be different for different people or even from one reaction to another for the same person.

      • Hi, did you ever consider that the allergic asthma you have is caused from wheat or gluten. I found out I have that purely by removing wheat and gluten from my diet. I also found out other proteins have a similar effect., Perhaps the type of protein in the soy has a similar effect on you

  14. Great article. Really breaks it down without being alarmist or pseudo-sciency. Only issue is the comparison of gluten ppm to soy ppm. Allergens take different ppm to trigger reactions and that is dependent on the person with the allergy. The only way to know if soy lecithin is ok you have a soy allergy, is to try it, probably multiple times.

    • Yes Karen, and from what I understand from the Allergist I took my son to years ago, you may not react to the offending food every time. It depends on what state your body is in and how much you already have of the allergen. So there is a threshold affect. Not easy to calculate and could be dangerous if you have a severe and immediate reaction! In my opinion, throat closing, is getting close to dangerous!

  15. For the last 10 years I have experiences a roaming itchiness that comes and goes and now is more here than not. I have tried an elimination diet so I can test foods but after 3-4 weeks I still have the itching. My current diet contains bananas, coconut milk, apples, grapes, rice syrup, coconut (shredded unsweetened), caffeine free herbal teas, water, chicken breast, veggies (except tomato, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes), tuna (in olive oil, no soy), avocado, cucumbers, olives, baking powder biscuits (no gluten, eggs, dairy). I have eliminated tylenol and ibuprofen even after dental surgery as I heard they can cause itching. I have eliminated beauty and cleaning products with sodium laureate sulfate. I am elminating products with soy lecithin. I am beginning to wonder if maybe I am looking at a chemical and wondering what chemicals in beauty/hygiene (I don’t wear makeup) and cleaning products could be producing the problem. Any particular chemicals I should check out/watch out for?

    • Yes. I get horrible itches from my laundry detergent. Try using All free and clear. Works wonders. Everything that contains processed soy has been rooted out of my life. I finally feel normal.

      • Tide free and clear and Kirkland free and clear work for me as well. I personally can’t use All free and clear but its worth trying. Some people can only use Norwex laundry detergent.

    • Canned tuna contains high levels of mercury. When I eat it my face turns red and hot and my ear will swell up. Also, if you’re not eating organic grapes, apples and chicken will contain high levels of toxins. I find that store bought strawberries make me break out but garden fresh ones won’t. A single GMO peanut will make my ears swell up and turn purple but a jar of non GMO peanut butter, no reaction. I have to avoid dairy because of arthritis, unless its grass fed and hormone/antibiotic free. I also highly recommend dandelion tea for any auto immune syndromes. Its my hero plant and has helped me with everything from arthritis to hypoglycemia. Hope this helps.

      • What you’re saying is quite true. For me, even a single GMO grape makes my buttocks turn blue and double in size.

    • It may be the coconut. I would try using only All free and clear and no fabric softener or dryer sheets. They make us itch to death. Also, try only using cetaphil body wash. I used to itch every night all night and it is much better now since I switched to no fragrance products

    • I am an allergy queen, as I suffered immensely as a child and have had myriad treatments. I have done a lot of reading and trying things out over many years: I am almost 60 years old and have allergic daughters, though, not a severe as I.
      BIG ALLERGEN FOODS: ACIDS. I find that I cannot have anything fermented like soy sauce or wine or vinegar. I do not eat eggplant, tomato or green pepper. No tropical fruits. No citrus. ( I am healthy: I take high quality vitamins and mineral and a daily broad spectrum probiotic).
      I AM MILK ALLERGIC, NOT JUST LACTOSE INTOLERANT:
      If I have milk product, they not only cause gastro pain, etc. I break out severely between fingers a day later. I can have a bit of dairy in baking, etc. but that is it.
      This makes dining out difficult. I usually have to have grilled protein and salad with oil only on the side.
      Try cutting out these foods for a month, and see what happens. Read up on ‘leaky gut syndrome’.
      FOODS I BELIEVE ARE SAFEST AND SHOULD BE STAPLES:
      Egg whites, if you are sure you are not allergic
      Yams – so neutral
      Cooked apples
      Chicken soup: Jewish pennecillin
      Grilled meat
      Chick peas
      Cooked green beans, green peas, spinach
      whole grain bread or cereal, if you are not allergic
      rice milk as a super mild substitute for milk, tho less nutritious than almond or soy. These can be irritants.
      GOOD LUCK!!
      CHEMICAL IRRITANTS: In flavored seltzer, for example. Avoid

      • Have you tried a liver detox? when the liver is overloaded with toxins or is unable to process them effectively the first signs would be allergies not just to foods but also to environmental toxins. Best of luck

      • Consider pears. They are absolute lowest on the allergen scale for fruit. It’s practially the only fruit I can eat except for some yellow colored apples. But you have to peel the pears and make sure they are ripe. Find out about salicylates, oxcylates and amines.

    • Not to alarm you, but I’ve just been reading about certain cancers and how itching is a symptom because the body (especially with the liver) is accumulating toxins. Please have yourself checked out medically for your continuing issue.

    • I had that same itchiness, But I found by putting a water filter on my shower it went away, remove filter & it comes back within 2 weeks. Tried it numerous times. Also use 7th Generation for washing clothes, but I’m sure any (real)”Natural” type of soap is an advantage.

    • Beware of avacods. I had eaten them all my life and at age 53 ended up in the hosital emergency room with hives covering most of my body. Dr. said that I had developed sensitivity/allergy to avacodas. They are in the same family as rubber, latex, banana, allergies. I am also allergic to soy.

      • Be careful eat eating them. I get sick from them if I use a knife. They have so much soy wax on them. Pealing them have kept the soy out of the mix

    • PLP, DOES YOUR ITCHING HAVE RED WHELTS WHEN YOU SCRATCH? I HAD THIS ON MY ARMS FOR OVER 20 YEARS, AND NO DERMATOLOGIST COULD FIGURE IT OUT OR CURE IT. EVEN WENT TO UAB IN BIRMINGHAM, AL., DUKE UNIV. MEDICAL DERMATOLOGY CLINIC. I FINALLY FOUND SOMEONE WITH SIMILAR ITCHINESS WHO TOOK TWO SUPPLEMENTS THAT CURED IT. I BEGAN TAKING LECITHIN (NOT SOY LECITHIN) GEL CAPSULES AND FLAXSEED OIL GEL CAPSULES EVERYDAY. IT’S BEEN GONE FOR AT LEAST TEN YEARS. GOT THE TWO SUPPLEMENTS AT “THE VITAMIN SHOP”. WORTH A TRY. BOTH SUPPLEMENTS ARE GOOD FOR THE SKIN. I CAN TELL IF I MISS A COUPLE DAYS TAKING THEM.

    • In response, I was prompted to this article while researching soy lecithin. I started doing so as a result of reading the ingredient list on my morning tea bag. Surprisingly, it shows up there too. While it takes an exorbitant amount of time to shop, reading labels is the only way to sure when purchasing processed food. When someone has severe allergies, like our kids, even ppm can be deadly. Keep up the battle. And good luck

    • Hi. I have found out that it is yeast that makes me itch!
      Many items have hidden yeast… Grapes, stock cubes. Yogurt etc.
      I really recommend you try going strictly yeast free.

    • Dysbiosis (a balance of unhealthy gut flora) can cause itching. Yeast overgrowth in the digestive system from lack of healthy bacteria (probiotics) and too many carbohydrates in the diet is often the reason.
      A lack of calcium can also cause itchy skin.

      • Marina, I know from personal experience that too much calcium can cause itching. I read about it and made the connection then dialed back the calcium and that took care of the itching.

    • I am allergic to nickel and it’s in everything but mostly chocolate, canned foods, whole grains and certain leafy vegetables like broccoli more than others. The websites disagree on which foods carry more nickel, and it depends on the soil they are grown in (which is annoying to no end), but if you have random contact dermatitis it could be cheap jewelry, drinks and food from a can or certain offending foods with nickel.

      If you are pregnant or breastfeeding it’s worse, especially if you are low in iron. The body absorbs nickel along with iron so eating a iron-rich diet can help and vitamin C also helps some people.

      • Thanks Paige – I have been wondering about nickel. A few years ago I discovered I am sensitive to nickel because of problems with my pierced ears and then started having trouble with canned foods. This one took a while to figure out. I haven’t gotten as far as you have, so the tips on chocolate, leafy greens, and whole grains are good to know. I came to this site thinking I was beginning to have problems with soy lecithin, and it actually might be the chocolate itself due to nickel.

        • Nickel is a trace mineral and it is found in literally everything natural, it can’t be avoided.
          I am also sensitive so I make sure my towel racks don’t have nickel and I use metal free dentistry but I don’t avoid certain foods because it’s impossible to avoid.

    • PLP, is it possible you are reacting to what the chickens were fed? Oiy! There are so many things to consider.

    • I was eliminating foods like you are and still having reactions. Finally I went to an allergist and did a scratch test and found out I was allergic to a lot of the healthy foods I was still eating daily like apples, grapes, spinach, blueberries, cucumbers and tomatoes. Imagine my surprise.

  16. Processed soy make me sick. short term memory loss, Brain fog and horrible panic attacks. Until just last year I thought I was dieing out of the 6 years of being miserable. All my food I eat I have to ask about soy. Most medicines contain soy. I have to have all mine made at a compounding facility. I cant use most band aids, Neosporin contains soy. All Advil products contain soy. I feel like I live in a third world country. US born. I’m almost afraid to leave my home. If I eat anything containing soy lecithin, my body shuts down until it passes through my system witch takes 24-36 hours unless I take a laxative. I became soy intolerant because I ate to much of it. I lived off of fast food for 10 years. Now I cant even touch it. I cant touch anything with soy or I risk the horrible side effects.

    • I got on here to read about this because my 2 year old daughter has horrible food allergies. It is scary and exhausting and so discouraging. I still give her cereal in her bottle because she wakes at night and it pacifiers her but I was just realizing that it has soy lecithin. She has lost almost All speech. She was saying everything at 18 months, counting along with us, saying the alphabet with us, etc. she would chime in and finish what we were doing. Now she can’t hardly say anything. Her hearing has been an issue apparently. She had fluid and we just got tubes, but I’m also worried about if anything else is going on with her food sensitive being so bad. I’m cutting the cereal out for sure. I hope it helps her.

      • To MLEE: Your daughter is having a serious intolerance reaction to food that she is going backwards in her development. You need to do an elimination diet and keep a diary to see what’s going on with her. She probably needs dairy, soy, wheat and eggs removed for at least a month. Find a Pediatrician who is not mainstream. Meaning a functional medicine or intervention medicine Pediatrician who will walk you through getting her healthy. Maybe do some IGE and IGG testing to see what she might be allergic and sensitive to. Yeah, and the cereal in the bottle has got to go. Hope this helps! My children had a lot of issues and it wasn’t until i started keeping a diary, eliminating foods and then finally going to the right Pediatrician and did testing that we got to the bottom of the issue.

      • So please please see a developmental pediatrician AND call your local Child find esp. if you daughter is regressing. 2 is a great age where interventions can do a lot of good. Allergies can aggravate developmental issues but they are rarely the only thing going on. If hearing is an issue, that should also be addressed without delay because that alone can cause developmental delays at that age.

        • I second the motion on the Gerson diet. Dr Gerson eliminated massive migranes that started during his med school training by starting from scratch with apples only, then adding other items like carrots, all organic foods only. As a result, he found that the diet he created eliminated almost all chronic and simple diseases, including TB, migraines, Type 2 Diabetes, and today his clinic and others that follow the diet strictly have even eliminated terminal cancer. It’s very simple. Make the body healthy, and the diseases go away. The bodies immune system, if made healthy, is designed to cure itself. Don’t believe me, research Charlotte Gerson for yourself, and for your daughter. start now

      • MLEE, regression and loss of previously attained skills are symptoms of iatrogenic vaccine injury. There are holistic doctors who specialize in treating these injuries. Probiotics can help heal the entire body. Best of luck.

      • She’s so young for such symptoms… Maybe think about taking her to an alternative doctor… a healer such as an acupuncturist who is a Practitioner of Oriental Medicine. They can help her……the practitioner can help to get to the root of her symptoms, otherwise she’ll have a life of chasing symptoms, taking pills and and a battery of tests… just a thought!

      • You can have a hair analysis done on her and this may help to find her intolerances or allergies…it sounds like you might not want to wait to long, as her body is telling you that something is out of balance and her cognitive skills are being challenged! …. find someone who can help you to understand just what can help your child. All doctors are not created equal…

    • Hello John,
      May I make a suggestion?
      From the severe symptoms you’ve described it sounds like soy has now become an actual poison to your body.
      When you find you have accidently ingested soy, have you thought of treating yourself the way a hospital would?
      For decades hospitals have treated poisonings with activated charcoal.
      Activated charcoal adsorbs toxins (not absorbs) right out of your system and its saved many a life. Its totally non-toxic and so safe you can brush your teeth with it.
      Its cheap and available at most all drug stores, health food stores, Amazon, even WalMart, in both caps and powder.
      If its allowed, here’s an informative link from BulletProofExec explaining how he and his family use it. You might shorten
      your recovery time by trying it too… http://www.bulletproofexec.com/the-strangest-way-to-detox/

      • Its funny you should suggest that. The covering of the pills contain soy. Most pill coverings contain soy products, 95% of all products out there contain soy. I’m Soy free. When I digest it, laxative are the best solution, in its self most laxatives contain soy. I just deal with the issue until it passes through my system. Unless its compounded I cannot and will not take it. I cannot take most Antibiotics, the pills contain soy. Unless it can be compounded there is no use in me taking it. I’m living in a foreign country. I live in Texas, might as well live on a small Island. I have very few foods I can eat. Even the ones from the grocery store have a soy covering. Unless I start going my own foods, I will never enjoy a good apple any time soon.

  17. I have Neurofibromatosis. It causes tumors to grow anywhere there are nerves. Soy can mimic estrogen which feeds tumor growth, so I try and avoid it.

  18. I have been avoiding soy recently to decrease acne/skin inflammation. I also started taking a turmeric supplement for anti-inflammatory purposes.
    However, I’ve noticed soy lecithin and one of the “other ingredients” in these capsules. Would you recommend NOT taking these? Or would the turmeric/proprietary anti-inflammatory blend help negate the proposed acne-triggering effects of soy?

    • Hello.. Regarding taking turmeric.. The pills are expensive and much less effective than making your own paste and making golden milk or put it in a smoothie or something. Turmeric is AWESOME and helps so many different things.
      Look up “Golden milk” in “the mind unleashed” site. Or turmeric user group in Facebook..

    • @Anne, I buy fresh organic turmeric rhizomes from the grocery and use them for tea, broth, etc. Before I found those I just used the organic powdered form in the spice section. Stay away from supplement form if you can

      • LECITHIN CAPSULES ARE GOOD FOR THE SKIN. AS FAR AS I CAN DETERMINE, S O Y LECITHIN IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?

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