Soy allergy? Fermenting takes the ‘allergy’ out of soy & other foods

Food allergies affect approximately 32 million Americans.1 And it seems they are on the rise, impacting a higher percentage of children than adults.

By fermenting soybeans first, the beneficial bacteria and yeast do the tough job of “predigesting” for you.

Food allergy symptoms can be mild or more serious and even fatal. Reactions can appear on your skin or in your digestive, respiratory, or cardiovascular system.2

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

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They include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Watery eyes
  • Blood pressure drop
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

These symptoms result because your body thinks a food you ate is harmful, creating an immune reaction to that food.

While some individuals may have a reoccurring allergic reaction to the same food again and again, allergic reactions can also be varied and often even delayed. The reaction comes days later. Many people experience “food sensitivity” or “food intolerance.” And while you may not have a full-blown allergic reaction, these can cause uncomfortable symptoms that occur after eating certain foods.

Which foods are the most common culprits?

The top food allergens (also called the Big-8) are:3

  • 1. Milk
  • 2. Eggs
  • 3. Fish
  • 4. Shellfish
  • 5. Tree nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, and cashews)
  • 6. Peanuts
  • 7. Wheat (and gluten)
  • 8. Soy

There are many theories about how food allergies develop. Could your problem be genetic? Might it be caused by eating too much of one food?

While scientists are exploring various treatments, including potential medication for severe peanut allergies, the most common recommendation is simply to avoid the offending foods. But Body Ecology’s founder, Donna Gates, teaches that food allergies are often the first sign of a digestive tract that is out of balance and a lack of an inner ecosystem.

The gut connection to food allergies, explained

A healthy inner ecosystem (your intestines) should be teeming with beneficial microorganisms. These microbes (beneficial bacteria and yeast) actually help you digest your food.

And when you have too few of them:

  • It’s more difficult to digest many common foods, like gluten, dairy, protein, etc.
  • Dairy-loving bacteria help you digest dairy. Grain-loving bacteria naturally digest grains.
  • Bacteria eat up the sugars in food, consuming them for their own food, and also digest proteins for us as well.

When there are too few beneficial microbes in your inner ecosystem, pathogenic bacteria and yeast also show up, which may harm your digestive tract and lower your immunity.

This sets the stage for food allergies, candida, and other illness and disease.

The Body Ecology Diet was written by Donna Gates to teach natural ways to help your body recover from food allergies, candida, and low immunity. At Body Ecology, we want you to know that you can heal your inner ecosystem (your digestive tract) naturally so that you can begin to eat many of the foods you love again. One of the keys to healing your intestines and restoring your inner ecosystem is fermented foods and drinks.

Fermented foods and drinks can actually deliver huge amounts of potent microbes to your inner ecosystem. And, it’s important to know that if you ferment those foods that are common allergens, like gluten, dairy, and soy, you’ll find you can now consume them once again.

Let’s start by examining soy to find out why.

Soymilk is given to millions of babies in formulas. This soy “milk” is poured onto the breakfast cereal of school-age children. Soy food “imitations” — from tofu hot dogs to tofu ice cream — are widely available and are popular among millions of vegetarians. Soy protein bars and shakes are believed to be “healthy protein sources” for weight loss and for athletes. But are they?

In actuality, eating unfermented soy is not recommended in the Body Ecology Lifestyle, even if you don’t have an actual soy allergy.

Unfermented soy may potentially create “estrogen dominance” in a woman’s body. It may lower a man’s testosterone levels.4 It shouldn’t be given to babies in soy formulas. Soy may also suppress your thyroid and therefore your energy. It may create imbalances in your entire endocrine system and weaken your immunity. It may also affect your libido and increase your risk of endometriosis and heart disease.4-6

On the other hand, fermented soy products like miso, tempeh, and natto can be very healthy vegetarian protein choices. We encourage you to eat these fermented soy foods, instead of unfermented soy, because of their amazing health benefits.

Two notable studies on fermented soy, from Spanish and American scientists, found that people with soy allergies do not react to soy products when they are fermented before consumption.7,8


Because people who are allergic to soy have immune systems that react to the proteins in soy by releasing antibodies. These antibodies cause allergic symptoms. During fermentation, however, the allergy-causing soy proteins are broken down into tiny pieces that are no longer recognized by the immune system as the same protein it would normally react to.

In other words, no more allergies!

But even if you don’t have an allergy to soy, we recommend eating only fermented soy — non-genetically-modified (non-GMO) — products.

That’s because soybeans, like all beans, are a hardy combo of protein and starch — mostly starch. Soybeans are difficult to digest. The enzymes in your digestive tract have a hard time breaking down the starch and the protein, especially if you’re low on stomach acid. And who isn’t these days, since our blood is chronically acidic? This is a common contributor to low stomach acid.

Thankfully, predigested, plant-based, probiotic protein is a thing.

By fermenting soybeans first, the beneficial bacteria and yeast (during fermentation) do the tough job of “predigesting” for you. So, when it’s your turn to eat the fermented soy, your body has no problem assimilating its healthy nutrients. Any food that’s improperly digested may potentially create acidosis, toxins, and basically long-term damage to your inner ecosystem, your body, and your health.

Reasons to rely on fermentation for better health

As we mentioned, fermented foods and drinks are a cornerstone of the Body Ecology Way of Living because they support your digestion and consistently build your inner ecosystem.

They work by:

  • Helping to break down foods, making them easier to digest and assimilate.
  • Removing some of the anti-nutrients, like phytic acid in grains.
  • Eating up the sugars in food that may feed candida (pathogenic yeast).
  • Adding beneficial microbes (friendly bacteria and yeast) to the food.
  • Increasing the nutrient value of foods by helping boost the vitamin and mineral content.

There are other foods that commonly cause allergies or symptoms of digestive upset. Just like fermented soy, fermenting these foods first can help to eliminate these problems.

Do this to reintroduce dairy into your diet

It’s all about training your gut to digest the dairy.

We suggest you start with Body Ecology’s now world-known fermented drink, Young Coconut Kefir. This kefir, made from fresh coconut water, is full of “dairy-loving” bacteria that will re-inoculate your intestines. It helps them colonize right inside your intestines and create a hardy inner ecosystem.

Once your inner ecosystem is back in balance, and if you really feel milk kefir would be a valuable food for your unique body, then start by taking baby steps and reintroduce it slowly. Milk kefir should preferably be made from raw, organic cow milk or raw, organic goat’s milk. Drink about a quarter cup each morning on an empty stomach for one to two weeks.

Better yet, create a Green Veggie Smoothie, using filtered water, a sour Granny Smith apple, and some green veggies (celery, romaine, spinach, zucchini, etc). Add the quarter cup of milk kefir and a pinch of sea salt.

After a week or two, increase the amount of milk kefir to a half cup. If you have no negative symptoms, you’re on your way.

Still, milk kefir is a concentrated food, so small amounts are always best. In Russia, Poland, Turkey, and all over Europe where kefir is popular, people do not turn up a giant glass of kefir and drink it down like we Americans would do.

As for gluten: This is a hard-to-digest protein found in wheat and many whole grains and cereals, and it’s hidden in countless processed foods today. In some people, it may cause serious gastrointestinal disorders, like celiac disease.

While eating a gluten-free diet seems to be the only answer for people with gluten sensitivities, part of the problem may be that people with imbalanced inner ecosystems have been eating improperly prepared grains for years, further destroying their digestive systems.

Grains have phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in them that are harmful to your digestive system and make extracting nutrients difficult. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting them eliminates this problem.

Many people who have been on the Body Ecology program for three months or more and have added fermented foods and drinks into their daily diet report feeling healthier and more energetic than ever.

Furthermore, they often confirm that they’ve been able to reintroduce foods into their diet that they were not able to eat before. Even gluten.

Fermented foods and drinks are true superfoods, and we hope that further research will continue to prove — and popularize — that fact in the interest of better health for us all.


  1. 1. “Facts and Statistics.” Food Allergy Research & Education, 2020.
  2. 2. Seth D, Poowutikul P, Pansare M, Kamat D. Food Allergy: A Review. Pediatr Ann. 2020 Jan 1;49(1):e50-e58. doi: 10.3928/19382359-20191206-01. PMID: 31930423.
  3. 3. United States Public Law C. Food Allergen Labelling And Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Public Law 2004; 108-282:905-11.
  4. 4. Siepmann T, Roofeh J, Kiefer FW, Edelson DG. Hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction associated with soy product consumption. Nutrition. 2011 Jul-Aug;27(7-8):859-62. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.10.018. Epub 2011 Feb 25. PMID: 21353476.
  5. 5. Mvondo MA, Ekenfack JD, Minko Essono S, Saah Namekong H, Awounfack CF, Laschke MW, Njamen D. Soy Intake Since the Prepubertal Age May Contribute to the Pathogenesis of Endometriosis in Adulthood. J Med Food. 2019 Jun;22(6):631-638. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2018.0160. Epub 2019 Mar 13. PMID: 30864871.
  6. 6. “Statement from Susan Mayne, Ph.D., on proposal to revoke health claim that soy protein reduces risk of heart disease.” FDA, 2017.
  7. 7. Song YS, Frias J, Martinez-Villaluenga C, Vidal-Valdeverde C, de Mejia EG. Immunoreactivity reduction of soybean meal by fermentation, effect on amino acid composition and antigenicity of commercial soy products. Food Chem. 2008 May 15;108(2):571-81. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2007.11.013. Epub 2007 Nov 17. PMID: 26059135.
  8. 8. Frias J, Song YS, Martínez-Villaluenga C, González de Mejia E, Vidal-Valverde C. Immunoreactivity and amino acid content of fermented soybean products. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Jan 9;56(1):99-105. doi: 10.1021/jf072177j. Epub 2007 Dec 12. PMID: 18072744.

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