To Soy Or Not To Soy

Before starting this cleanse I was trying to put the pieces of a new allergy together. Last spring I went to dinner with some friends then to the theatre for a musical. By the third song I was feeling ill. My eyes were really watery and I couldn’t stop scratching my abdomen. Within a few minutes I could tell that my eyes were swelling shut and I felt like I had something stuck in my throat. I snuck out of the auditorium and in the bathroom found I was covered in hives and my eyes were puffed out to twice their normal puffiness (ha!).

After maddening conversations with several incompetent ushers who offered me no help, I ran out of the theatre and up a few blocks to a convenience store in search of Benadryl. I popped four into my mouth before paying for them and did my best to calm down as the anaphylaxis subsided. WTF?

I had a much less severe reaction to wine many years ago, which likely points to a sulfite allergy, but I couldn’t figure out what I ate that night that might have had sulfites in it. I hadn’t eaten anything I’m not completely used to.

A few months passed. Then over the summer suddenly another attack, this time in the middle of the night. I awoke dazed and confused barely able to open my eyes. At first I thought I was just groggy and had to pee but as time passed and I still couldn’t open them I realized my eyes were swollen shut and my throat was on its way too. After four more Benadryl and some sleep, I woke up hours later with most of the attack gone except the feeling in my throat. I continued to take Benadryl, six total, and finally felt back to normal in the late afternoon.

Anaphylactic shock = mega scary. Living by yourself and waking up in your bed alone while your throat is swelling shut = kinda terrifying. But allergies are really hard to figure out.

Luckily, I have a theory. (I know, I have a lot of theories.) The only common denominator of the two incidents was soy. I had eaten edamame and miso soup with tofu at the restaurant the first time and chugged a huge glass of chocolate soy milk before bed (because in private I act like a nine year old child) the second time.

How could I be allergic to soy? I’ve been consuming large quantities of it for eleven years without ever having a problem with it. Hmm… or have I? Yes I’ve obviously been consuming it, but maybe all along I’ve been having problems I wasn’t paying attention to. A quick Google search of common soy allergy symptoms unveiled info I didn’t expect. It could be that the digestion issues I was shrugging off as just part of life, the general fatigue I could never explain, stomach pain and conjunctivitis of all things could each be related to soy intolerance.

Soy is touted as an absolute health food. I have bowed at the temple of the soybean for a long time. I incorporated it into my diet when I went vegetarian fully believing I was making a compassionate choice for myself and for the world. The Japanese are the healthiest culture in the world, right? I wanted to be healthy like them. But let’s be honest, I don’t eat like the Japanese. I eat like an American. And in America soy is in everything, literally. It turns out soy is the single most prevalent ingredient in foods processed in the US today. Why do we ruin everything good?

As a result of my blind faith in the health food debate, over the past few years my soy intake has skyrocketed. I’ve eaten it every single day in multiple forms: soy milk, tofu, soy yogurt, soy margarine, protein bars, soy sauce, miso, edamame and soy lecithin (can you say chocolate?) are the most common for my diet. Further research shows it popping up in unexpected ingredients like vitamin E preservative in cereals and crackers, vegetable gum, vegetable starch, natural flavors and more.

It pains me to write this for two reasons. First it means a huge shift in my diet if I’m going to effectively avoid it. Second it means admitting that something I believed was really good for me might not be working out so well. I’m going to have to re-invent my vision of healthy.

I don’t think I have to cut it out completely, but I do think my high volume intake over the last decade has built itself into a nasty intolerance I need to attend to. Can I live with it? Probably. Should I? Heck no. Fasting brings clarity. Clarity shows us how to be good to ourselves so we can be healthy and happy and therefore good to everyone else. And while my ego would still disagree, I deserve to be healthy and happy. (I’m working on it.)

So sionara to soy! I shall see you in small quantities on the flip side.

Here are some links to food allergy info for anyone interested:

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network


6 thoughts on “To Soy Or Not To Soy”

  1. The elimination is actually amazingly enlightening regarding my dietary health. It has been really easy mentally to keep up but, I am finding that it is hard to find gluten free items that don’t have soy. It has been 10 days though and I feel physically like a completely different person – it is amazing to me how the elimination of one little thing can change things so drastically.


  2. I am right there with you.I have come to find out that I am terribly intolerant to soy – almost as badly as I am intolerant to gluten. Maybe the fast will help lessen the intolerance.


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