This post is NOT meant to be a research piece on soy but a personal testimony as to the effects of soy on my body. We’ve already been there, done that with a post on why we don’t recommend soy . And a bazillion of other real food bloggers have done so as well (see: Weston A Price, Food Renegade, Wellness Mama, Small Footprint Family).
People seem to either be in one camp or the other regarding soy. They either advocate for it or call it EVIL. I tend to fall into the latter category. However, I don’t believe that soy itself is the monster, but a by-product of a very corrupt food production system that values profit over health. (I will leave that for another post because this really is about a my personal story with soy and not a rant per se.)
Soy, Estrogenic Compunds, Infertility, and Female Health Problems
Much of my health history as it relates to infertility has been written about in my infertility posts (part 1 and part 2). In those posts I alluded to soy as being the culprit for my female problems and I still believe that this is true to this day. However, it is not as simple as just removing soy from my diet to fix my infertilty.
If I look back over my dietary life I now see that most of my dietary intake was consuming convenience foods. And by convenience, I don’t mean McDonald’s. I mean packaged or canned items that saved me a step or two in the kitchen. I do love-me-some mayo and folks that is a convenience food if you buy it in the store. Packaged foods like mayonnaise contain soybean oil or other soy by-products.
And looking way back, I know that my mother cooked with A LOT of canned soups, veggies, etc. I am not sure when BPA was introduced to cans, but I do know that MOST cans today are lined with BPA. BPA, like soy, is a known to have strong estrogenic effects on the body.
My body has been in estrogenic overload my ENTIRE life. The evidence is in my female cycle. I’ve read articles blaming these issues on heredity, but there is NOT ONE WOMAN IN MY FAMILY WHO IS INFERTILE. NOT.ONE. — neither my mom’s nor my dad’s side of the family.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
Because of my infertility I have had many tests done to check my hormone levels. Often I was told that progesterone was relatively low. But an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone is more often than not a sign of imbalance rather than a deficiency of progesterone. I had high estrogen levels that likely occurred unknowingly from estrogenic compounds (or FAKE ESTROGEN) called xenoestrogens that are found in the environment. The answer is NOT SUPPLEMENTATION of the low hormone but removal of the fake dominating hormone, since estrogen and progesterone work antagonistically yet synergistically in the body.
My Signs of Estrogen Dominance
- heavy or irregular periods – My periods were always regular, but often VERY heavy and painful. I thought this was normal my whole life, apparently it’s not. I would often have ‘accidents’ not just at night but during the day as well during the first three days of my period. My periods would also last 7-8 days.
- mood swings
There are multitudes of other possible symptoms associated with estrogen dominance but these are my symptoms. A simple search on Google will give you many sites that list other symptoms. You will find a lack of quality websites that actually post data on this subject unfortunately. There is a reason for that . . . there are no studies, nor do I ever think that there will be.
All of the above symptoms have plagued me since my puberty. Oddly enough I never questioned it. Partly because I had parents who didn’t ever take us to the doctor (I am actually grateful for that) and partly because I never discussed these things with other people. As I got older I did have some conversations with girlfriends in college who assured me that my periods were not normal, but by then I just figured I got cursed with bad genes or something. It never occurred to look into the reason for my problems.
It wasn’t until after I got married and had an ectopic pregnancy that I started to realize that I had some issues that could cause me to be infertile. Yet even then, I leaned heavily upon what the doctors told me (WHICH IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING), that no one really knows why people get endometriosis. By my third and fourth surgeries I was seeking information other than from western medicine.
My Understanding of Xenoestrogens/Phytoestrogens on the Body
In one of my infertility posts I mentioned that I visited a Chiropractor who was also trained in nutrition (I believe he has a Doctorate in nutrition as well). He preformed a test on me that is considered controversial and I personally only recommend it if you find an honest practitioner who knows how to use it (otherwise you can get scammed). I was skeptical at first, but I now know that this guy was legit and really knows what he’s talking about. He also cares more about healing people and changing the culture rather than making a buck. It was this Chiropractor that pinpointed that one of my main issues was soy (and liver toxicity). I never told him that I ate soy but his tests picked up on it.
At this point in my life I was eating a lot of soy ON PURPOSE because many medical people were saying that the estrogen was good especially if you are having a hard time conceiving. If you have heard the same thing please know that these people are wrong. Soy and other estrogenic factors are so pervasive in our environment that we do not need any extra in our diet. This is a fact!
Xenoestrogens are found in mattresses and new furniture! Did you know that? Here are places in the environment that you can come into contact with estrogens in the environment:
- Water – from chlorine and other toxins
- Plastic food containers
- Teflon-coated pans
- Non-organic meats (animals are often fed synthetic hormones that get passed on to us in the food)
- Cosmetic and Hygiene Products – like soap, shampoo, conditioners, lotions, make-up
- Household cleaning products
- Laundry soap and dryer sheets
. . . . . and the list goes on. Do you really think we need to supplement with estrogenic foods? I think not. More xenoestrogens create imbalance with our hormones between progesterone and estrogen.
The Problem with Xenoestrogens: They are not REAL estrogens!
Xenoestrogens were explained to me this way by the Chiropractor/Nutritionist:
Think of estrogen as a key. Estrogen opens locks in your body’s female functions that are created to only be utilized by estrogen. Xenoestrogens have keys that fit the lock but they will not turn the lock and perform the body’s normal hormone functions. As a matter of fact, they try to unlock the door, but instead ‘break’ off in the lock keeping our bodies’ real estrogen from being able to perform the necessary functions because it can no longer get into the cells.
This is what I believe to be my problem. I have xenoestrogens that my body can get rid of. I’m dominant in estrogen and have all the symptoms of estrogen dominance in my body yet the real estrogen can not do its job.
Once I removed SOY and ESTROGENIC FOODS from my diet my female problems started to resolve.
- My periods are now down to 3 days, which has never been the case my entire life prior to this.
- I am guessing that the fibroids and the endo are whittling away in some fashion as I have less pain associated with them.
- My migraines happen so infrequently now that I might only have them twice a year where I used to have them atleast once a month.
- I’m still working on mood swings and insomnia, but even those seem to be mellowing out.
It may seem odd to those in the “I LOVE SOY” camp to understand why I am so down on what has been touted as a superfood in this modern era, but my body knows it’s no good. And I am staying away from it, lest I have another nasty surgery and potentially more reproductive issues.
My Stand on Fermented Soy and other Estrogenic Foods
Fermented soy has been accepted in real food circles. We even allow ‘fermented soy’ recipes on our real food blog carnival. However, fermented soy only reduces phytic acid and a few enzyme inhibitors. FERMENTING does not remove phytoestrogens (which are plant based xenoestrogens). Therefore, I stay away from all soy and estrogenic foods as much as possible. This means no flax either. Flax is highly estrogenic as well.
If you know about the history of soy it is debatable whether is was ever intended to be consumed by humans to begin with. Yet in small amounts in a non-estrogenic filled world they may have been acceptable to be eaten when traditionally fermented. Flax is a real food. There’s no doubt about it, but for the same reasons I will not be eating it. There are too many extra xenoestrogens floating around out there for my body to be forced to deal with let alone ones that I choose to ingest.
My intention of this post is only to give a perspective on where I am on soy and estrogenic foods. I realize I may be wrong but until I see sufficient data to prove otherwise, I will be staying away from these foods and my posts and recipes will reflect such a stand.
Have you noticed any ill-effects from soy or estrogenic foods? If so what have you experienced?
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