This is a subject that often comes up in consultations, or at least it should. At times it will come up a few consultations down the track and I’ll wish that I’d asked the question earlier…. ‘do you eat or drink soy (or soya in the UK) products?’ And I should ask the question when there are any issues relating to digestion or nutrition, allergies, hormone imbalances, fertility, mood swings, Thyroid problems and Autism.
Around 15 years ago there was a big soy trend in Australia, it was considered to be really healthy and I consumed more than my fair share of soy milk, soy ice cream, soy burgers, soy snacks, soy cheese, tofu etc. Since then I’ve learned so much about the effects of soy on the body and realise in hindsight that it’s the worst thing I could have done (not actually the worst but you know what I mean). It’s interesting also to witness a ‘health’ craze spread like that… some well meaning folk plus some big company marketing budgets.
So why do I avoid soy? Well it’s specifically non-fermented Soy products that I avoid (tofu, soy milk soy cheese, soy ice cream etc).
The problem with soy beans is that they are impossible to digest in their natural state. Originally they were grown in China to improve soil fertility and were also fed to animals. They were only introduced as food for humans when fermentation processes were introduced. Without that fermentation process the beans are high in Phytates (phytic acid) which bind to metal ions in the body and prevent the absorption of some minerals such as Calcium, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc.
Non-fremented Soy also contains enzyme inhibitors that block the body’s ability to digest proteins. And hemaglutinin, which that causes red blood cells to clump together (to clot), then these clumped cells can’t absorb and distribute oxygen to your tissues.
The fermentation process helps to deal with these issues and the body is able to then digest the soy and it doesn’t inhibit the other digestive and nutritional functions. So, soy products that are a better alternative to eat in moderation are Tempeh (yummy when marinated), Natto, Miso, traditionally made Soy Sauce and Tamari.
The other thing to consider is the effect on your hormone levels. Soy contains types of phytoestrogen, which are plant compounds resembling human oestrogen which mimic and sometimes block the hormone oestrogen. This can disturb the endocrine function which can effect fertility, menstrual cycles, and any other hormone related imbalances in the body including breast cancer. You might think ‘but I only have a little each day in my coffee’ but consider that we’re already over-exposed to oestrogen from our water supplies and from the use of plastics (plastic water bottles and food containers in particular) so it only takes a little to tip things over the edge and to effect our hormones.
And there’s the effect on the Thyroid gland. In Japan and China soy is traditionally combined with seaweed because soy contains goitrogens, substances that block thyroid hormones and interfere with iodine metabolism, thereby interfering with thyroid function.
And the GMO issue… most soy products use genetically modified soy which is laden with toxic chemicals. Consumption of chemicals of course leads to allergies and burden our organs, especially the liver and kidneys.
For all of these reasons, the consumption of large quantities of soy in pregnancy and the use of soy formula for babies has a massive impact on baby’s health. Hormonal development is tipped, toxicity is increased, allergies created, zinc and iron levels are effected and poor digestion can occur. Not what we want for lovely little bubba’s! When treating autistic kids, it’s one of the things that I need to ask about because soy formula has such a damaging effect on a child’s development. It can also lead to early puberty in girls and testosterone inhibition in boys.
On the positive side, soy beans are high in Vitamin K2 which helps to prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, dementia, and protects us from various cancers including prostate, lung, liver cancer and leukemia.
Often people ask about the use of soy products in menopause. It’s often recommended to replace ‘lost’ oestrogen in the body. My take on this is that during the menopause there is supposed to be a reduction of oestrogen and an increase in progesterone, that’s the whole idea. And by messing with that process then we’re messing with nature. Plus by eating/drinking soy you’re depriving your body of much needed minerals which help bones to stay strong and skin healthy… two of the biggest concerns for women who are going through the menopause. If there are issues during the menopause… dryness, brittle bones then some imbalances need to be addressed, some minerals supplemented. And in the case of extreme flushes there are usually blockages (emotional or energetic) in the body that can be addressed homeopathically or with healing. Adding a hormone which the body is trying to reduce rather than addressing the underlying issues doesn’t make sense to me.
So if you like a bit of soy, stick to the fermented types and don’t have too much… all in good balance. And remember that a lot of livestock are fed on soy so it’s best to choose meats from organic grass fed animals.
And if you really love soy milk, then Bonsoy is the best brand to have. It’s delicious and is made using non-GMO beans, using traditional Japanese techniques and the beans are fermented, plus it contains seaweed to balance out the effects on the Thyroid. But try not to have too much because of the old hormone balance implications.
I know I felt so much better for removing non-fermented soy from my diet and hope you do too!