Does Soy Sauce Cause Inflammation?

We all know soy sauce as an Asian condiment that adds a lot of flavor to many dishes. According to Kikkoman, one of the major soy sauce producers, their style of sauce originates back in the 1600s. Traditionally soy sauce is made by fermenting wheat and soybeans using yeast or mold and can take months. A newer type of process — that is quicker and more cost-effective — uses acid hydrolysis to break down the wheat and soybeans, but it may also contain some fermentation.

The sauce with the recognizable umami flavor does come with some health considerations, though. For example, it can be quite high in sodium, according to WebMD, which can raise blood pressure and contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke. There have been many brands and variations of soy sauces, including those with lower sodium, to combat the stigma of soy sauce being salty (per Serious Eats). However, it turns out that soy sauce may also increase the risk for another type of health issue: inflammation.

How soy sauce might cause inflammation

Like all fermented foods, soy sauce has a high amount of histamine, says Healthline. Histamine is a chemical released in the body by the immune system in response to a threat. The resulting reaction is a boost in blood cells in the area affected. This inflammation is a natural response and how the body deals with injuries or allergies. When it eventually dissipates, that usually means the body has dealt with the trigger that caused the reaction. While histamine naturally occurs in the body, adding more or triggering a reaction to it may not be helpful, WebMD explains. Unfortunately, eating soy sauce can do both, especially for those with histamine intolerance, according to Medical News Today. Essentially the digestive system will have an allergic reaction to the soy sauce consumed. This reaction can result in headaches, shortness of breath, skin flare-ups, and digestion issues such as diarrhea (via WebMD).

On top of adding histamine, soy sauce's wheat content can cause a similar allergic reaction for those with a gluten or wheat allergy, according to Cleveland Clinic. Therefore soy sauce may not be an option for many as its general makeup can cause reactions resulting in inflammation (via WebMD).

Although still fermented, coconut aminos can serve as a safer soy sauce substitute with a similar flavor. They are made using fermented coconut sap and sea salt. Coconut aminos don't contain gluten, wheat, or soy and have only a fraction of the sodium content (via Healthline).