The possible allergies linked to soy sauce: wheat and sodium

Soy sauce is a popular ingredient in South and Southeast Asian cuisine. The sauce was originally made in China and then it spread to other countries. Today, it is widely used in western cuisine also. So, chances are high that if you go out to dine in a restaurant or get a packaged dinner, it will contain some soy sauce. In this context, it is necessary to know whether the sauce can have any detrimental effects on your health. Special concern is focused about two ingredients – both of which are present in liberal amounts in the sauce. These are wheat and sodium.

Wheat in soy sauce

Soy sauce is traditionally prepared by the fermentation of soy beans by certain fungi called Aspergillus oryzae. Before fermentation, the beans are mixed with grains, specifically wheat. As a result, most soy sauce contains large amounts of wheat. This may cause health problems for people who have gluten intolerance.

Gluten is a special type of protein found in wheat. It is that substance which causes the dough to rise and makes the bread chewy. But many people cannot tolerate gluten. It causes irritation and reaction in the digestive tract. Nausea, diarrhea and incontinence are common symptoms of gluten intolerance. In a small percentage of population, gluten intolerance may take a severe form. This is known as celiac disease. There is no known cure for celiac disease and the only way to stay healthy is to abstain from eating gluten throughout your life.

If you have gluten intolerance then it is best to avoid soy sauce. There are different types of soy sauce depending on their wheat content. One type of soy sauce which is mostly made in Japan is called Tamari. This variety is almost completely free of wheat. Instead it uses other grains which are free of gluten. If you have to buy a soy sauce, be sure to buy a Tamari style sauce.

If a food contains less than 20 ppm of gluten, it can be labeled as gluten free. So, check the labels of the soy sauce that you are about to buy. Most gluten free soy sauce contains less than 5 ppm gluten.

Some of the most well known gluten free soy sauce is as follows:

  • San-J soy sauce
  • Kikkoman soy sauce
  • Eden organic soy sauce
  • Wan Ja Shan soy sauce
  • Little soya soy sauce

It is better to consult your physician before you opt to consume the soy sauce.

Sodium in soy sauce

During the process of fermentation, the mixture is immersed in brine – a solution of sodium. This impregnates the sauce with sodium and gives it its distinctive salty taste. According to recent analysis, 1 tbsp of soy sauce contains 1000 mg of sodium. This is half the recommended daily intake of sodium. So, it needs to be decided whether you can eat so much sodium without harming your body.

Sodium is traditionally associated with high blood pressure. So, if you suffer from high blood pressure or other cardiovascular conditions, it is not advisable for you to eat soy sauce.

The alternative is to buy low sodium soy sauce. Kikkoman supplies a well known low sodium soy sauce. You can also brew your own low salt substitute. Mix together 2 tbsp sodium free beef bouillon, 2 tsp red wine vinegar, 1 tsp molasses, one eighth tsp ground ginger, a dash of garlic powder and black pepper powder and three fourth cup of water and boil the mixture till it is reduced to half a cup. This is obviously salt free and not soy sauce, but it will give you a close flavor.

If you do not have high blood pressure, then probably the sodium in soy sauce will not be a problem for you. But make sure to get the naturally fermented variety of soy sauce. The process of natural fermentation breaks down soy proteins into peptides which inhibit the activity of an enzyme called ACE. This enzyme constricts the blood vessels. So, when its level is depressed, the blood vessels remain dilated and blood flow is facilitated. However, this action of soy sauce is still being studied.

In conclusion it may be said that if you are suffering from a medical condition, you should take your doctor’s advice before choosing to buy soy sauce or its brands.

Gluten – the silent killer

Gluten is a protein found mostly in wheat and also in rye, oats and barley. So, all products containing wheat or these other cereals contain gluten. It is the staff that makes the bread chewy. Gluten is one of the main ingredients of the American staple food. How would you make those wonder breads and extra large bagels without gluten? However, recent research shows that gluten can have significant health impact; so much so that it has been marked as the culprit in being one of the causative factors of as many as fifty five diseases including osteoporosis, schizophrenia, epilepsy, lupus, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, anemia and even cancer.

The dimensions of the gluten problem

The problem of gluten intolerance ranging from mild sensitivity to full blown celiac disease has recently been brought to light by a series of research papers. In order to understand the dimension of the gluten problem, you should know the following:

  • Celiac disease is diagnosed in one in every one hundred Americans. This means, celiac disease affects three million Americans every year, though many may remain unaware of it. In addition, there is milder form of gluten intolerance which has not yet developed into celiac disease. Taken altogether, one third of the American population may be said to be suffering from some form of gluten related problem.
  • A recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association compared the deaths in three groups of people numbering 30000 in total. The three groups were those diagnosed with celiac disease, those with inflamed intestine often causing pain where celiac disease has not developed fully and those with gluten sensitivity. This does include people that have simply pronounced them selves gluten-free. This is not the meaning of gluten-free. It was found that the groups experienced increase in the risk of death by 39%, 72% and 35% respectively. This data clearly shows how gluten intolerance can cause serious complications.
  • In another study, it was seen that the incidence of full blown celiac disease have increased by 400% in the last fifty years, but people are hardly aware of it! This is the reason why you can easily call gluten the silent killer.
  • This gluten sensitivity is costing the American health care system millions of dollars. The reason why you are not alarmed by gluten related problems is because this is a silent epidemic whose symptoms can often not be identified. In most cases, gluten sensitivity masquerades as a series of unrelated and inexplicable health problems. Different remedies are prescribed and thousands of dollars are spent without ever identifying gluten intolerance as the true root of the problem.

How to find out if you have a gluten problem and deal with it?

If you suffer from chronic ill health which is seemingly unrelated but persistent, it is prudent to check yourself for gluten intolerance. Moreover, there is a myth that only malnourished children who are underweight have celiac disease. Actually, obesity has also been linked to gluten sensitivity.

When you go to the doctor to check for gluten sensitivity, a number of different tests can be prescribed for you. Some of these tests include IgA anti gliadin antibodies, IgA anti endomysial antibodies, IgG anti gliadin antibodies, total IgA antibodies, intestinal biopsy etc. With this array of tests, you can be sure of finding out if you suffer from gluten sensitivity.

However, before you go to the doctor, there is a simple yet highly effective way of identifying gluten intolerance. This is the elimination reintegration diet. This works in the following way:

  • If you decide to check yourself for gluten intolerance, then eliminate every source of gluten from your diet for four to six weeks. This means no breads, pasta, wraps, soy sauce(unless gluten free soy sauce)pizzas or processed foods or anything which contains gluten. Keep in mind that even a little bit of gluten will lead to failure of the test.
  • Watch your own health during the diet. If you are really gluten intolerant, then you will begin to see small but noticeable changes in your health when you eliminate gluten. All those unexplained health problems may decrease significantly.
  • After a month and a half, introduce a little gluten in your diet. Eat bread at one of your meals. If you are indeed gluten intolerant, your body will react and let you know immediately.

So, how are you going to deal with this silent killer? Gluten intolerance is a genetic autoimmune disorder and you cannot take any preventive steps against it. However, it is not very difficult or expensive to tackle the problem once it is identified. You will just have to eliminate every scrap of gluten from your diet. In addition to such obvious sources like breads, pizzas and pasta, gluten is also present in lipsticks, sauces, soup mixes, stamps you lick etc. So, you have to find out about all the sources of gluten and cut them out completely from your diet. A few weeks of gluten free diet will help you enjoy health that you never knew before.

Does Gluten Cause Cancer?

The simple answer is, no it does not cause cancer. There is no proven study that can link gluten to increase the risk of cancer.

However there is an exception to this and that is if a person has Celiac Disease or true gluten intolerance. This will increase chances but only by a little bit.

Actually there are quite a lot of studies that show whole grains in a diet can actually lower your risk for cancer. These would include: wheat, barley, triticale and barley. This is not true for all cancers but it is for common cancers such as prostate, colon, breast and many other lesser known cancers.

The key point to take away from this are fibers are a good thing and great to keep in your diet.


What is soy sauce?

Soy sauce which is also popularly known as soya sauce, is a common condiment used widely in South and Southeast Asian cuisine. The sauce probably originated in China. Today, it is also widely used in western foods and in many prepared foods. The sauce is dark colored liquid and has a distinct salty taste.

The history of the sauce

Soy sauce is produced by fermentation of soy beans. The earliest history of the sauce is found in China between third and fifth century BC during which time this sauce was first prepared. Salt has always been an expensive commodity. In China, the soy beans were fermented and used with salt to cure fish which was then consumed as a condiment. Gradually, the fermented soy beans developed into soy sauce while the fermented fish developed into fish sauce.

During the colonial times, records are obtained which showed that soy sauce was exported from China and Japan. By the middle of nineteenth century, all soy sauce was being made in China. Europeans could not master the art of making soy sauce as they failed to comprehend the role of the fungi in the creation of the sauce.

Nutritional facts about soy sauce

According to the USDA, the nutritional facts of soy sauce are given as follows:

100 ml of soy sauce contains:

  • Calories : 60
  • Fat: 0.1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 5.57 g
  • Fibers: 0.8 g
  • Protein: 10.51 g
  • Sodium: 6 g

Most soy sauce contains a high quantity of salt which constitutes 14 to 18 percent of the sauce. Certain low salt varieties have become available in the market, but it is not possible to completely eliminate salt from soy sauce.

Types of soy sauce

Depending on the type of raw material used and stage and process of fermentation, a number of different types of soy sauce can be identified. Some of them are as follows:

Chinese soy sauce is made from soybeans and has little amount of other grains. It can be of two types:

  • Brewed – This type is formed directly by fermentation without adding anything else.
  • Light or fresh soy sauce is thin and opaque and widely used as seasoning.
  • Yaam Yau is made mostly in Taiwan and is created by mixing steamed soybeans with coarse rock salt which is then dry fermented for long period of time. It is used for dipping or for red cooking.
  • Blended – Sweet or other types of tastes are added.
  • Mushroom dark soy – where broth of mushroom is added into the sauce and then exposed to the sun
  • Thick soy sauce – when the sauce is thickened by addition of starch and sugar and MSG is sometimes added to flavor.
  • Shrimp soy sauce – where fresh soy sauce is simmered with fresh shrimp, spices and a special type of distilled liquor.

Japanese soy sauce – The sauce was brought to Japan from China by Buddhist monks. Wheat is the main ingredient. So, they are sweeter. There are five types:

  • Koikuchi contains equal amount of soybeans and wheat and is the most common type.
  • Usukuchi is lighter and sweeter as fermented rice is added to it.
  • Tamari – Darker and richer, it contains almost no wheat and is closest to the Chinese variety.
  • Shiro – It uses mostly wheat and little soy bean and has a sweeter and lighter taste.
  • Saishikomi – It is twice brewed and darker and richer.

Indonesian soy sauce includes different fermented sauces. There are three types:

  • Salty soy sauce is similar to Chinese but thicker and stronger.
  • Sweet soy sauce has treacle like flavor as palm sugar is added to it.
  • Medium sweet soy sauce has less sweetness than the sweet soy sauce and is a little more salty.

Apart from these, different flavors and varieties of soy sauce are found in Burma, Korea, Philippines, Hawaii, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Health benefits of soy sauce

According to several studies, soy sauce has a number of health benefits. Some of them are:

  • In a study conducted by Elam in 2000, it was found that soy sauce increases the level of HDL and lowers triglycerides thereby leading to better health of the heart.
  • Soy sauce is rich in anti oxidants.
  • It also contains manganese which helps in clotting of blood and formation of connective tissues.
  • Soy sauce contains high amount of an amino acid called tryptophan. This material is used in production of serotonin which helps you to fight depression.

Gluten Intolerance versus Allergies – which one do you suffer from?

villiThe problem of gluten intolerance is quite common among the population and you too may be a victim to it. Gluten is a protein most commonly found in wheat. This is the component of the wheat which makes the dough rise and the bread chewy. There are various grades of gluten intolerance. You may be able to eat little quantities without any trouble or you may develop serious problems by eating gluten. You need to understand whether you have gluten intolerance or gluten allergy. Understanding this distinction can help you work out the best diet for your health.

What is gluten allergy?

An allergy is a reaction to a food where the body offers an immunological response. If you have gluten allergy, chemical changes will occur in your body in response to ingestion of gluten. They may also be triggered by using cosmetics containing gluten.

Here are some important facts that you should know about gluten allergy:

  • When you ingest any food containing gluten and you have gluten allergy, your body will begin to release antibodies. This is a common occurrence in case of any food allergies including gluten.
  • When you ingest gluten for the first time, your body releases immunoglobulin E or IgE. These antibodies circulate in your body and attach themselves to mast cells located in nose, skin, throat, abdomen etc. When you ingest gluten after this, the mast cells release histamines. These cause allergic reactions in those parts of the body.
  • The common symptoms of gluten allergy are rashes, hives, eczema, swelling of tissues, trouble in breathing etc. In extreme cases, gluten allergies can lead to drop in the blood pressure and even death. However, these allergic reactions can occur in response to many other factors. So, you need to be sure that you are actually allergic to gluten.

What is gluten intolerance?

Intolerance to any food is that where your stomach suffers if you eat that food. In most cases, you can tolerate a small amount of the food. Gluten intolerance is thus a condition where you cannot eat foods containing gluten.

Here are the major facts regarding gluten intolerance:

  • Gluten intolerance is not an uncommon condition. In this situation, you will not be able to eat foods containing gluten, though you may be able to tolerate small amounts now and then.
  • If you have gluten intolerance and eat gluten, this will trigger an immunological response in your body. Your body mistakes gluten for a harmful substance. So, it releases chemicals to fight this enemy.
  • These chemicals attack the villi in your small intestine. Looking like finger like projections, the villi play an important part in the digestion of food. They are rich in blood vessels which absorb the nutrients of the foods being processed by the small intestine.
  • When the chemicals attack the villi, they are gradually destroyed. The finger like shape becomes flat and rounded, thereby decreasing the surface area. This inhibits the process of digestion and absorption of essential nutrients.
  • So, if you suffer from gluten intolerance, you will have digestive troubles and other symptoms like gas, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramp.

Understanding gluten intolerance and allergies 

Here are some points of distinctions to help you differentiate between gluten intolerance and allergy:

  • Gluten allergy is like any other food allergy. You react to the taste or even touch of the substance. Your body releases histamines leading to extreme symptoms like breathing trouble, change in blood pressure, swollen tongue etc.
  • However, gluten intolerance is unlike food intolerance. In case you are intolerant of a food, your body does not have any chemical reaction; you simply cannot digest it. So, you will not have any trouble touching or smelling it.
  • But in case of gluten intolerance, the body does have a chemical and immunological reaction.
  • Your blood releases certain substances which attack the villi of your smaller intestine. In extreme cases this can lead to a number of complications including cancer.
  • If you are gluten intolerant, you may be able to eat a little bit gluten, but it is better not to take the risk. Even the little amount will add up over time and may cause serious complications.
  • It is not possible for you to find out if you have gluten intolerance or allergy. It is up to your doctor to do that. Certain blood tests and skin prick tests are necessary. Your doctor may even put you on an elimination diet to determine what allergies are suffering for. Here, you start with only a few food and then add one item at a time to determine which ones are triggering the allergic reactions.

Whether you have an allergy or intolerance, if you have any problem, you should completely eliminate gluten from your diet because in long term it can lead to severe complications.

Do you have a gluten problem?

The problem of gluten intolerance, gluten allergy and celiac disease affects approximately 15% of the population of America. So, you may need to check out whether you actually have a gluten problem. Gluten is a type of protein most commonly found in certain cereals like wheat, rye and barley.

It is widely used as an additive in sauces, baked, canned and processed foods etc. Gluten is the element that makes bread stretchy and causes it to rise. Hence it is used in a vast variety of cakes, cookies as well as pasta, pizza etc.

The symptoms of gluten problem

You may have an allergic reaction to gluten or intolerance to it. In extreme cases, this gluten intolerance develops into celiac disease. This is an autoimmune condition where your digestive system fails to absorb the essential nutrients even if you ingest them. Gluten intolerance and allergy are more common. Whichever condition you have, you will need to properly identify this so that you can take appropriate steps.

Here are a few common symptoms which are seen to be associated with gluten intolerance and allergy:

  • One of the most common, yet most difficult to identify symptoms of gluten problems is fatigue. You will feel extremely tired – especially after eating foods that contain gluten. However, fatigue may be caused by a vast range of extraneous factors. So, just because you feel tired does not mean that you are intolerant of gluten.
  • Gluten intolerance is also suspected when there is sudden drastic change in weight – mostly weight loss. As your digestive system fails to absorb nutrients and process the gluten, you may experience consistent loss in weight.
  • A huge range of digestive disorders begin to manifest in persons with gluten intolerance. You will feel bloating, indigestion, gas and constipation. Heartburns become common. You may also experience diarrhea. These may lead to diverticulitis. Fat appears in stool as a result of incomplete or poor digestion. All these culminate in significant weight loss.
  • Related to the above are other symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Mouth ulcers may develop or you may feel irritation in the throat or the mouth.
  • There are quite a few other symptoms which indicate gluten intolerance and allergy. Your skin may itch and break out in rashes as a reaction to gluten. Dizziness, fainting spells, difficulty in swallowing, deficiency of vitamins and minerals, hair loss etc are common.
  • Headaches become frequent and attacks of migraine increase in frequency. Chest pains may also occur.
  • Women may experience additional symptoms. The menstrual cycle may be disturbed and in some cases it may even lead to infertility. In pregnant women, gluten intolerance may affect the growth and development of the baby.
  • Diabetes is aggravated.
  • Bone density reduces.
  • A number of dental problems develop.
  • Osteoporosis and muscle disturbances increase in severity.
  • Lactose intolerance may be caused.
  • Gluten allergy also causes the manifestation or aggravation of a number of psychological and neurological disorders. These include schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder, anxiety and depression.

As seen from the list of symptoms stated above, these can be caused by a number of other factors in addition to gluten intolerance. So, it requires systematic investigation to determine exactly what is causing these symptoms and whether gluten intolerance may be a reason.

How to identify the symptoms of gluten intolerance?

Here are a few steps which you may follow in order to identify a condition of gluten intolerance:

  • Watch your digestive health. Poor digestion is the most common fallout of a gluten allergy. If you observe symptoms like indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, heartburn etc, chances are you are developing a gluten problem.
  • Another common way to determine whether you have a gluten problem or not is to keep a close watch on your own energy levels after eating. If you have a gluten problem, your digestive system will spend a lot of energy fighting the effects of gluten. As a result, you will feel fatigued and lethargic immediately after your meal.
  • Mental disturbances like irritability or depression are heightened after a meal in gluten intolerant individuals.
  • Similarly, if you have a gluten problem, headaches may develop following a meal.
  • There are a number of long term effects which you can carefully track to determine whether you have a gluten problem or not. Change in weight is one such indicator. If you are experiencing consistent long term fluctuations in weight without having changed your diet in any significant way, then you probably have a gluten problem.
  • Similarly, gluten problem also causes long term changes in your mental health. Anxiety and depression and irritability may increase consistently.
  • If there is persistence of allergies, rashes and problems like eczema, gluten problem may be a contributing factor. So, check the health of your skin, teeth and hair. Any long term decline may be caused by gluten intolerance.
  • Women should take note of irregularity of menstrual cycle and whether a problem of infertility is developing.
  • Once you observe all these symptoms, you can begin an elimination diet. Just carefully avoid all gluten containing foods for seven days. If gluten intolerance is indeed your source of problem, then you will see a definite reduction in the symptoms after a gluten free diet for a week.
  • The final step to confirm whether you have a gluten problem or not is to carry out a simple diagnostic test. When you consult a doctor, he will first ask you to observe and record the symptoms. If you go to the doctor after you have already completed this step, a blood test will determine whether you have celiac disease. In order to determine a gluten allergy, a skin prick test is carried out.

If it is confirmed that you do have a gluten problem, your life is not over. Just a carefully constructed healthy diet without gluten can help you live a happy and healthy lifestyle.