It became a growing trend in the early 1960’s to change infant milk formula to a soybean based formula when the infant showed signs of milk allergies or lactose intolerance. It continues to be the first solution for babies who cannot tolerate milk proteins, even though soy is among the eight primary food allergies. In fact, infants can suffer from soy allergy symptoms. As late as 1989, soy foods and soy bean constituents were praised for their hypo-allergenic qualities. Recent studies have shown, however, that at least 35% of infants with milk allergies also show allergies to soy.
The Startling Facts About Soy Allergy in Infants
It’s possible the numbers are even higher. Often when babies continue to demonstrate allergy symptoms after being taken off milk formula, the problem is attributed to intestinal damage resulting from the early use of milk formulas. Accordingly, many physicians have recommended the use of infant soy formula from birth. This did not prevent subsequent food allergies in the developing baby.
The best way to safeguard against atopic disease and soy allergies, is to breast feed exclusively or alternate with a hypo-allergenic hydrolyzed casein or whey formula. Most babies out-grow soy allergy symptoms by age five. Among those who do not, the allergy reactions are usually mild; flushing, itching, tingling in the mouth and ears, or eczema, but consistent soy allergies have a tendency to increase over time and can result in a severe allergy reaction, requiring immediate medical attention.
Allergic reactions to infant soy formula can consist of irritability, vomiting, abdominal pain or diarrhea. There may be blood in the baby’s stools. If these symptoms are evident while breast feeding, the mother should avoid all soy products while nursing her child.
Two Types of Formulas for Use When There Are Soy Allergy Symptoms
There are two types of formulas to consider: hydrolyzed formulas and elemental formulas. With hydrolyzed formulas, the proteins are broken down, allowing easier digestion and less likelihood of causing an allergic reaction. Examples of hydrolyzed formula include Nutramigen with Enflora LGG and Similac Expert Care Alimentation. With Elemental formulas, the proteins are in their simplest form, and recommended when hydrolyzed formulas continue to present allergy symptoms.
As the infant who is allergic to soy formula grows old enough for other foods, caution should be taken concerning the baby’s solid food diet. Many infant cereals, such as oatmeal and rice contain soy oil and soy lecithin. Many baby snacks and prepared foods also contain soy derivatives. Caution should be taken to read the labels carefully for the addition of any soy products. Chicken broths and margarine should also be avoided. Most pureed foods, which include a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and meat are free from soy, including soy oil or soy lecithin. They may include corn starch, lemon juice or citric acid to thicken and preserve the product, but always read the ingredients carefully as they can change. Babies with soy allergy symptoms should not be given prepared chicken broth, margarine or yogurt.
When introducing a baby to a new food, it’s best to wait four days before concluding there will be no allergy symptoms. Allergy symptoms might not appear right away and may result in what appears to be the normal symptoms of catching a cold or teething, such as a runny nose or sudden diaper rash. Introduce a baby to a new food in the morning or early afternoon for safety reasons, as an allergy can result in sudden shortness of breath, face swelling or a closure or tightening of the throat.