Dear Dr. Daniel: I live in a city which has a high level of ozone and particulates, but I lived here for many years without making my asthma worse. Then I started drinking soy milk with the intention of improving my health. I was so into soy milk that I even purchased a soy milk machine. I didn’t make the connection until reading your article in Nexus. Quitting soy milk has greatly helped. I am pursuing a nearly vegan diet to lose weight, with occasional side trips for a small steak and ice cream. I’d like to do the Weston Price diet but I’d get fat on it. I know what I’m doing is not scientifically great, but it could be worse. Thank you for your work.- -MH
Dear MH, Glad you made the connection between soy milk and asthma. I have heard similar stories from many people. It’s important to stay as soyfree as possible. That includes not using soy-propellant inhalers — Flovent and other some other brands include soy in their propellants — and not breathing soydust-laden air. Beware of bulk bin aisles of health food stores — where there may be soybean dust — and highways — where you may be exposed to the exhaust of motorcycles or cars using biodiesel fuel.
You may be interested to know that epidemiologists consider soybean dust to be an “epidemic asthma agent.” From 1981-1987, soy dust from grain silo unloading in the harbor of Barcelona, Spain, caused 26 epidemics of asthma, seriously jeopardizing 687 people and leading to 1,155 hospitalizations. No further epidemics occurred after filters were installed, but a minor outbreak in 1994 established the need for diligent monitoring of preventive measures. Soy asthma epidemics have also occurred in New Orleans harbor and elsewhere. People who work in bakeries and other places using soy flour or other soy ingredients are prone to developing what’s called “occupational asthma.”
I am happy that your health has improved just from removing soy milk from your diet. However, I would strongly recommend that you reconsider your mostly vegan diet as it will not support the healing of asthma.The best weight loss plan is found in the book Eat Fat/Lose Fat by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon. It recommends coconut oil, butter and other good fats to nourish the thyroid and support the immune system – weak points for anyone suffering from allergies or asthma.
Contrary to popular belief, we need saturated fats. Indeed the lungs cannot work properly without them. The reason is that lung surfactant –a fluid that enables the lungs to work properly — needs to be 100 percent saturated. When people consume polyunsaturated fats — as would be true with a vegan diet– the lungs do not work as effectively. Research has linked the consumption of trans fats and excess polyunsaturated oils to the rising incidence of asthma in children. Children who consume a lot of butter have much lower rates of asthma and also lower rates of allergies. Your body has been craving steak and ice cream because of its need for good saturated fat. Help your body by procuring the highest quality grassfed meat and fullfat raw dairy products, preferably raw. If you are going to eat ice cream, make sure it’s a high-end product and choose the flavors with the highest fat and lowest sugar content. Vegans will improve their chances if they at least use coconut oil.
Dear Dr. Daniel, The deaths of Peter Jennings and Dana Reeve put the fear of lung cancer into me. Mrs. Reeve had never even smoked and now we’re hearing about many other cases of lung cancer in people like her. This week’s New Yorker even has a story about hospice care and the tragic last days of a 34 year old woman who died of lung cancer, not long after giving birth to a baby. What is causing all these tragedies?Do you have any reason to think that soy could be responsible? –ST
Dear ST: As you might guess, the soy industry claims that soy protects against lung cancer. The evidence for that is dubious at best. Right now I’ve got little evidence that soy causes it. It’s also important to say that soy rarely is the sole cause of health problems, most of which are affected by a multitude of dietary and environmental risk factors. That said, it’s certainly possible that increased vegetable oil consumption, including soy oil, in the American diet could be responsible. As I discussed in my answer to the question above, healthy lungs and immune systems depend on saturated fats.