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Lecithin is a group of chemicals that belong to a category of compounds called phospholipids. These compounds help maintain the normal function of the blood, brain and tissues, according to the University of Utah Medical Center 13. Lecithin is commonly used in a wide variety of foods as an additive to help preserve food and add viscosity. Lecithin in food is made from either egg yolk or soybeans, which can trigger an allergic reaction if you have an allergy to either of those foods. The only feasible explanation of headaches from lecithin is an allergic reaction that causes sinus inflammation.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Lecithin Side Effects
Drugs.com states that common side effects of lecithin include nausea, increased salivation and a decreased appetite 2. Headaches are not considered a normal side effect of consuming lecithin, which means the headache must be related to another medical condition, such as an allergic reaction 1. If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, talk with your doctor before using lecithin as a dietary supplement.
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Food allergies are the result of a hypersensitivity to the proteins found in certain foods. If you are allergic to soy or egg proteins, you will develop an allergic reaction after consuming foods that contain lecithin. During an allergic reaction soft tissues becomes inflamed and constricted, leading to most symptoms. The sinus cavity is made of soft tissue that is easily irritated by allergens. Swelling throughout your nasal passages will cause pressure in your head, leading to sinus pain and headaches. Anytime you develop a headache consistently, you need to talk with your doctor.
- Food allergies are the result of a hypersensitivity to the proteins found in certain foods.
- If you are allergic to soy or egg proteins, you will develop an allergic reaction after consuming foods that contain lecithin.
A sinus headache may form within minutes of consuming lecithin if you have an allergy 4. Sinus headaches are the result of excessive pressure that builds up throughout your head because of inflammation of the soft tissues. Sinus headaches cause a dull, throbbing pain in the center of your head and can lead to facial tenderness. Pain may also develop in behind your eyes, cheekbones and in your upper teeth, according to MayoClinic.com 4. Sinus headaches from an allergic reaction are treated by avoiding the allergen, such as lecithin, and the use of decongestants and antihistamines. Talk with your doctor before using any over-the-counter medications.
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In rare cases, the consumption of soy products may lead to migraine headaches, according to a May 2006 article on NPR's website. When soybeans are processed, they can release glutamate and form monosodium glutamate, also known as MSG. MSG has been linked to triggering migraines and general headaches.
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- University of Utah Medical Center: Lecithin
- Drugs.com: Soya Lecithin
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Food Allergy
- MayoClinic.com: Sinus Headache
- NPR; Your Questions on Migraines; Vicki Valentine; May 4, 2006
- Küllenberg D, Taylor LA, Schneider M, Massing U. Health effects of dietary phospholipids. Lipids Health Dis. 2012;11:3. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-11-3
- National Library of Medicine. Lecithin. In: Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed) [Internet]. Update October 23, 2019.
- Mourad AM, De Carvalho Pincinato E, Mazzola PG, Sabha M, Moriel P. Influence of soy lecithin administration on hypercholesterolemia. Cholesterol. 2010;2010;824813. doi:10.1155/2010/824813
- Wang Z, Klipfell E, Bennett BJ, et al. Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease. Nature. 2011;472(7341):57. doi:10.1038/nature09922
- Stremmel W, Hanemann A, Ehehalt R, Karner M, Braun A. Phosphatidylcholine (lecithin) and the mucus layer: Evidence of therapeutic efficacy in ulcerative colitis?. Dig Dis. 2010;28(3):490-6. doi:10.1159/000320407
- Velazquez R, Ferreira E, Knowles S, et al. Lifelong choline supplementation ameliorates Alzheimer's disease pathology and associated cognitive deficits by attenuating microglia activation. Aging Cell. 2019;18(6):e13037. doi:10.1111/acel.13037
- Blusztajn JK, Slack BE, Mellott TJ. Neuroprotective actions of dietary choline. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):815. doi:10.3390/nu9080815
- University of Nebraska Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. Soybeans and soy lecithin. Updated December 3, 2018.
Diane Marks started her writing career in 2010 and has been in health care administration for more than 30 years. She holds a registered nurse license from Citizens General Hospital School of Nursing, a Bachelor of Arts in health care education from California University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Science in health administration from the University of Pittsburgh.