Posts tagged "soy"

Soy bad

Diet

February 7, 2011

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While I have long since taken this knowledge for granted, most people are surprised to find out that many kids on the Autism spectrum have major dietary sensitivities – especially to gluten (wheat) and cassein (milk) – and that removing those from their kid’s diets (the infamous “GFCF diet”) can result in remarkable behavioral improvements in their children. I’ve seen it first-hand in Bennie, who has been on a GFCF diet for years now. Before (and now, if something he shouldn’t have inadvertently slips into his diet) the result could be remarkable: near-immediate mood changes (typically extreme hyperactivity and/or irritability), digestive problems and – especially when it comes to milk products – a physical rash (usually on the insides of his elbow joints and cheeks.) There’s an entire industry of GFCF products available to allow kids with that type of dietary sensitivity still be able to eat and enjoy “regular” food (as well as kid-friendly junk food), so it’s actually not as difficult to manage and maintain as one might assume.

Further complicating this, however, is that some ASD kids also have soy sensitivities. A great overview can be found here, from which I’ll excerpt the following:

Soy beans are broken down into powder, oils and additives that add protein and flavor to commercially prepared foods. Soy is one of the eight most common food allergens in the United States, according to the University of Maryland. Soy intolerance differs from soy allergy. A true soy allergy involves the immune system recognizing soy protein as a foreign substance and trying to fight it. Soy intolerance does not involve the immune system. Instead, the body may have trouble digesting soy or find it irritating to the digestive system, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms.

Ben is one of those lucky kids who also is intolerant to soy, which does necessitate the need for me to be far more informed as to what GFCF foods I buy for him (as soy is a common substitute in GFCF foods.) As part of my new/more recent learnings into the wild world of Autism, I discovered that many GFCF products may not contain (regular) soy, but do contain something called soy lecithin:

Soy lecithin (E322) is extracted from soybeans either mechanically or chemically. It’s actually a byproduct of the soybean’s oil. Some people use it as a supplement, because it has a high value of the nutrient choline. Choline is good for heart health and brain development. But that’s not the reason soy lecithin is used as an additive in foods. It possesses emulsification properties. This means it can keep a candy bar “together” by making sure that the cocoa and the cocoa butter don’t separate. It is also used in bakery items to keep the dough from sticking and to improve its ability to rise.

Apparently, most people with soy sensitivities have no issues with soy lecithin… however, it would appear Benjo is not one of those lucky few. On Thursday, I gave him a couple new GFCFSF “Oreo”-like cookies I bought for him (again, trying to let him be a kid and eat semi-typical kid junk food.) The cookies did contain soy lecithin, so this was kind of a real-world experiment to see if he would have a reaction, what kind, how bad, would his diet have to be even more restricted, etc.

About an hour after eating the cookies (just 2 small ones), a light rash appeared on his inside elbow joints and cheeks – not bad, but noticeable. If that was as bad as a reaction as he’d have, however, I thought this could mean he could eat from a wider variety of foodstuffs.

Not so lucky, as it turns out.

Saturday night was a rough one. His mom reported to me that he had a really, really “off” night – very irritable, emotional, sad… much more than usual (i.e. outside of what we might consider “typical” outbursts by Ben.) I initially expressed skepticism that it could be related to the soy lecithin, as a few days had passed from when he ate the cookies (just 2 of them, dammit!) But his mom assured me he’d not eaten anything else outside of his regular GFCFSF diet, and as it turns out, bad reactions to soy lecithin can typically come many days after ingesting it:

Intolerance to soy protein may occur immediately or occur several days after ingestion. You may experience changes in mood or behavior after consuming soy protein if you are intolerant. Symptoms may include irritability or nervousness or depressed mood, according to a 2007 article in “Living Without Magazine.” Infants intolerant of soy may exhibit fussiness, irritability or discomfort.

Hard to argue with that. Unfortunate – not only that I’ll have to go through my pantry and toss out numerous tasty-looking foodstuffs I’d recently purchased for my Bennie, but more importantly it means that Bennie may not get to enjoy quite as wide a variety of foods.

Still: it’s a positive, nonetheless – now I know more of what he can’t eat, and I can shop (and, hell, bake/make) yummy foods that he can eat, enjoy and not have bad reactions to.

The never-ending learning process continues…