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.
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Peter Fonzanoon says
I use small amounts of coconut or red palm oil when I cook but was wondering if you have any potential suggestions for how else to make use of these in my diet.
On a related note, I notice a few online retailers offering coconut cream in glass jars and without anything added. Re-hydrating this can turn it into coconut “milk”. Would this be another potential option for adding in the benefits of saturated fat from coconuts? I’ve considered getting some of it and then pouring it over the frozen blueberries or raspberries that I consume each morning.
🙁 Dear MH
I am a registered dietitian. I can concur that a high carb vegetarian diet is NOT the best way to lose weight. Even traditional research supports a lower carb diet for weight loss. Go with the Weston Price diet- it will NOT make you fat!
Kaayla T. Daniel says
Glad you are using coconut and palm oil. Sally Fallon offers lots of wonderful recipes for coconut oil in the book she wrote with Dr. Mary Enig called “Eat Fat/Lose Fat.” Great book and not just for dieters! Remember that whenever you use whole coconut milk you are getting the good fat. As for red palm oil, I haven’t seen a lot of recipes. I enjoy a spicy chicken recipe called “Muamba de Galinha”, which I found on a flyer for the Jungle Products brand of Red Palm Oil. It’s good with hot and spicy, but otherwise too strong a flavor for my taste.
Yes, pouring coconut milk or cream over berries or other fruit is a good option for getting the saturated fats of coconut oil.
Donielle @ Naturally Knocked Up says
And not only does a vegan diet not help lose weight (especially sustainable weight loss) it leaves you perilously deficient in the wonderful fat soluble vitamins which can lead to degeneration of the body, and in my line of work – infertility.
@Peter – I love adding in a tablespoon or so of coconut oil into smoothies!! So yummy! And while I don’t advocate the use of a lot of sweeteners (even natural ones) equal parts coconut oil, cocoa, and raw honey mixed together and frozen makes a FABULOUS fudge! :-)I also use the oil as ‘body lotion’ and the skin can absorb nutrients that way as well.
Bill cook says
Would be nice to have a share button for social media. Love telling people about healthy living
Arkaan Reddy says
I ended up on your site a little while ago and I just can not get enough!
Please keep writing!
I recently started a vegan diet, 8weeks now and as a sufferer of childhood exercise related asthma I hoped this would help. 7 weeks in lost 1st and a half but my asthma has taken hold with a vengeance. Can barely get a breath when exercising and inhaler isn’t working. So much for trying to get healthier. Not eating anything new but definitely thinking of giving up as this lack of lung power is scaring me.
I too have started a vegan diet 8 weeks ago. Had childhood asthma and about two weeks ago starting having horrible asthma/breathing problems. I did a six day round of steroids and have been puffing on inhalers daily. I have been consuming a lot of soy on this new diet. I am eliminating that now and probably going back to my old diet which wasn’t bad to begin with.
Same thing happening to me. My wife and daughter are both vegan so I have been doing to make things easier and for health. 7 weeks in and asthma is the worst it’s ever been. Haven’t had any issues with asthma for twenty years. Actually eating meat today. I have been eating a lot of soy too so not sure if I have an allergy to that.