What’s the first step in soy recovery? Eliminating soy from the diet, of course, but for the average American this is easier said than done. In brief, we must cut out processed, packaged and fast foods and return to a traditional diet based on whole foods, real foods and slow foods.
The next step is healing the gut, which usually requires eliminating wheat and other gluten-containing grains, eating lots of homemade, gelatin- rich broth and regularly consuming coconut oil and moderate amounts of cultured vegetables. Probiotic supplements play an important role in gut healing, but I have serious concerns about the safety of brands that contain Bacillus subtilis or other soil-based micro-organisms, especially if used long-term in high doses.
Other supplements too may be in order as determined by laboratory testing by your health care practitioner. My Soy Alert column in the Spring 2007 issue contains a lengthy discussion of how to live a soy-free life and achieve gastrointestinal healing (Recovery from Soy Part I: A Strategy for Dealing with Soy Allergies).
Sadly, for many people these two essential steps are just the beginning. The symptoms of Soy Originated Disease and Disorders (SODD) are many, multi-layered and complex. They may include thyroid damage, immune system breakdown, reproductive disorders (including infertility), ADD/ADHD and other behavioral and learning disabilities, as well as depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Many babies are put on soy formula because of allergies and digestive difficulties, and children and grownups switch to soy foods and soy milk initially because of health challenges. These initial health problems must also be addressed in any effective soy recovery program.
Soy damages people in a variety of ways and to various degrees. Accordingly, I cannot recommend a one-size-fits-all approach. There are no silver bullets or quick fixes. Given the fact that few clients have the funds for comprehensive laboratory testing, I recommend starting with hair mineral analysis to determine levels and ratios of needed minerals as well as levels of toxic metals such as aluminum, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead.
A common finding in overly estrogenized persons is high copper. Soybeans are naturally high in phytoestrogens, plant estrogens that are not identical to human estrogens but are close enough to fool the body and cause significant endocrine disruption. Although women are a hundred times more likely to become copper toxic than men, anyone who uses soy as meat or dairy replacements or who adheres to a vegetarian diet is at risk for copper toxicity. Vegetarian staples such as nuts, seeds, grains, avocados, mushrooms and chocolate are all high in copper. So are liver and shellfish, but individuals who eat these nutrient-dense foods tend to also eat red meat and other animal foods high in zinc. And people who consume sufficient zinc are far less likely to develop copper toxicity. Since the phytates in soy block zinc uptake, diets based on soy represent a fast track to zinc deficiency.
Many WAPF members have lately been adhering to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet espoused by the late Elaine Gottschall. While this restrictive diet has helped many people, those who get carried away with the nut breads sometimes develop copper or manganese overload.
Copper toxicity is associated with a variety of reproductive health issues, including PMS, infertility, difficult pregnancies and miscarriage. It is common among people who suffer from depression, panic attacks, free-floating anxiety and other mental health issues. Adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia and candida are other conditions that may be fueled by copper imbalance or toxicity. The body stores excess copper in various tissues such as the liver, brain and bone, to prevent it from building up in excessive amounts in the bloodstream. Safely eliminating these stores can lead to much health improvement. Curiously, the same people who are copper toxic often are deficient in the bio-available copper their bodies need for cellular oxidative metabolism and other critical functions.
Adults and children fed soy infant formula during the first six months of life may also be high in manganese. Levels of manganese found in soy formula are 50-80 times the amount found in breastmilk or dairy formula. Excess manganese is a double whammy for neonates because their immature livers are not fully functioning and their neurological systems are growing and developing. ADD/ADHD and other behavioral disorders and learning disabilities, as well as violent tendencies, may result. The good news is that high manganese, like high copper, can be removed safely from the body.
Soy consumption can also lead directly and indirectly to heavy metal toxicity—directly, because soy products are often processed or packaged in aluminum or processed with fluoridated water, and indirectly, because soy foods contribute to low levels of cysteine, zinc, pantothenic acid and other factors needed for detoxification. This can result in a buildup of mercury, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum and other toxic metals in the body, ultimately affecting every metabolic process.
Nickel toxicity may also be a factor. Although hair mineral analysis is a poor tool to evaluate nickel status, the very methods used to eliminate the others will take care of nickel.
Keep in mind that the body eliminates metals through the hair so hair does not reveal bodily stores. This is why people who are suffer from adrenal exhaustion or who are otherwise not healthy enough to eliminate metals from their bodies rarely show metals other than aluminum on their first hair test. Other ratios, however, will point to the likelihood of “hidden” metals. Follow-up hair tests at three-month intervals will reveal these metals as they come out the hair, and so should be used to monitor the success of any detoxification protocol.
Optimization and Elimination
I consider it a high priority for SODD sufferers to optimize their levels and ratios of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, to improve the zinc-to-copper ratio, eliminate toxic copper and manganese if present and to eliminate toxic metals from the body.
My article “Mad as a Hatter: How to Avoid Toxic Metals and Clear Them from the Body” in the Summer 2008 issue of Wise Traditions (written with Galen D. Knight, PhD) proposes a slow, steady and safe method to do so and extensively discusses the many reasons why it is crucial to the restoration of good health. Toxic metal removal rarely solves every health problem, but it’s a crucial early step. A properly nourished body freed of the toxic burdens of soy foods and unwanted metals has a far greater capacity to heal itself and recover from soy. Any remaining health challenges—including the thyroid disorders and hormonal imbalances prevalent among former soy eaters—can then be more efficiently and effectively addressed.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2009.