Thursday, August 2, 2012
The Dangers of Using Soy Lecithin
I heard a quiet whimper as Jason was brushing his teeth last night. "What's wrong?" I asked. "I got a canker sore," he answered. Canker sores are painful open sores in the mouth and unfortunately, Jason lived with them most of his life because the traditional dental establishment failed to recognize until recently that normal toothpaste is a major cause. Yes -- that wonderful tool of modern dental hygiene irritates some people's mouths so much that they end up with sores.
The culprit is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). It's a detergent and some people are very sensitive to it. A few years ago, Jason switched to Trader Joe's Peppermint toothpaste, the only one he could find with no detergents, and voila -- no more canker sores. The fact that there was one in his mouth yesterday was a mystery to both of us. There was a short return of them when he tried a new toothpaste this summer called Squigle. It claimed to prevent canker sores by using poloxamer (a mild detergent) instead of SLS. As it turned out, no detergent was mild enough for Jason. The terrible sores came back. He switched back to TJ's, and life was good again. Could it be the lingering effects of Squigle, or...
No. It couldn't be. Soy lecithin? I have been playing with it a lot lately to make foams. But it's a food. Well, sort of. It's a food additive. Many commercial foods use it. It's approved by FDA; but hey, so are the toothpastes. I knew it was an emulsifier. In other words it helps oil and water stay together. But I also remember it being referred to as surfactant. That word sounded familiar, but I couldn't remember where I heard it before until now. Of course! I heard Jason refer to the cleaning agents in toothpaste as surfactants. Uh-oh. This couldn't be good.
"Is there a difference between a surfactant and a detergent?" I asked Jason. "No. Why?" he asked. "Because I think I know why you have a canker sore," I said. "Foam!!!" we said in one voice. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I was going to suggest that you add a little drop of soap to all those stocks and juices to make foam," said Jason laughing. "As it turned out, that's exactly what I was doing," I answered.
Remember how I told you the stuff I got from Mark was legal? Well, not any more. Soy lecithin is officially outlawed in our house. The use of all other food chemicals is on hold until further investigation. Any chemists out there? Please help! What about versawhip, xanthan gum, agar-agar, ultra-tex 3, and the whole post-modern pantry? Are those surfactants too?
Please don't think I am on some food-should-be-natural-chemicals-are-evil crusade. One of my children is terribly allergic to completely natural and healthy foods: kiwi and eggs. There is nothing man-made about them, but his little body thinks they are toxic. I think there is a place for many chemicals that the food industry uses in people's home kitchens, just like there is a place for baking powder. I am sure 150 years ago, baking powder was considered a strange and unnatural ingredient, yet now there isn't a household without it. What I want is not a return to the good old "natural" days, but a good explanation about how these man-made substances work -- and that's not easy to get from contemporary cookbooks.
Posted by Helen Rennie at 8:40 AM