There IS a difference between an soy intolerance and an actual allergy to this food, including how it relates to irritable bowel syndrome.
“It is important to differentiate soy allergy from soy intolerance,” explains Dr. Saad Habba, MD, an attending consultant physician at Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ.
“Soy allergy is a true immunological process that involves stimulation of immune response in the body and [the body] considers soy as basically a foreign object,” says Dr. Habba, a gastroenterologist.
“The body responds to this allergy like any other response and varies from simple symptoms such as abdominal bloating and discomfort, to rash and sometimes difficulty in breathing.
“The response is dependent upon the degree of reaction to soy, similar to any other allergen.
“Soy intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve a serious reaction to soy. In a sense, it would not cause any symptoms beyond abdominal bloating and discomfort.
“Unlike soy allergy, this never progresses to any complication beyond abdominal symptoms.”
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Dr. Habba explains, “Soy intolerance is not very common and certainly is not as common as lactose intolerance, which can cause chronic diarrhea and abdominal discomfort in 10 percent of patients diagnosed with IBS.
“In general when one is treating symptoms of abdominal discomfort, bloating and diarrhea, one would first try to abstain from lactose-containing products before resorting to soy abstinence.
“If indeed soy intolerance is present, it would most likely be the cause for bloating, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. It would not account for constipation or other symptoms of IBS.”
Thus, if you have IBS and are eating soy, chances are very high that your IBS symptoms are not being influenced by this, but by some other agent such as lactose or even mental stress.
Dr. Habba pioneered the concept of IBS being a wastebasket diagnosis and collection of different entities rather than a true single medical condition. He’s been presented and published in 26 national and international medical journals and symposia.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.