Many people on gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diets think they must eat soy. This might be true for Japanese beetles or soybean aphids, but it’s hardly necessary for humans. It’s clear, however, that those who depend on processed and packaged GFCF products will find it challenging to avoid soy. More than sixty percent of processed, packaged foods—including many gluten-free products—contain soy ingredients, and it’s in nearly one hundred percent of fast foods. The best option by far is a nourishing diet of real foods, whole foods and slow foods for better quality, better control, and much higher likelihood of full bodily healing.
For those who consider preparing one’s own meals too much toil and trouble, there’s some evidence that backs the extra effort required to go soy free. A 1999 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology showed that some adults with celiac disease experienced diarrhea, headache, nausea and flatulence whenever they ate a tiny amount of soy even on a gluten-free diet. A 1980 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology looked at ninety-eight infants and children with multiple gastrointestinal allergies and revealed that 62 percent had both soy and milk allergies, and 35 percent reacted to both soy and gluten. In terms of anecdotal evidence, I’ve heard several people tell me that gluten is only a problem for them if they indulge in modern soy products. (Today, most commercial breads contain soy flour.)
For those on GFCF diets, there are other good reasons to avoid soy as well. Healing the gut is key for those trying to heal the ravages of celiac disease and other forms of gluten intolerance, and that won’t happen anytime soon if soy foods and soy milk with their load of protease inhibitors, lectins, oxalates, oligosaccharides and allergenic proteins contribute to ongoing irritation. Soy products are also low in methionine, needed for gut rebuilding and immune support, and low in usable forms of the amino acid cysteine, vital for detoxification. Without adequate cysteine, the body can’t eliminate aluminum, mercury, cadmium and lead, as well as toxic levels of needed minerals such as copper and manganese.
Soy milk is a particularly problematic GFCF product because it is often drunk every day and even several times per day. In addition to the risks of the soy itself, such products carry a supplemental load of vitamins and minerals, including cheap, hard-to-absorb forms of calcium, the inferior vegetarian vitamin D2 (instead of D3) and beta-carotene (in lieu of true vitamin A). Sadly, vegan-approved supplements are also added to other popular milk alternatives, including rice, oat, almond, hemp and packaged coconut milks. Catering to the growing vegan market, such inferior formulas compromise the health of everyone going GFCF.
Take a trip down the aisles of Whole Foods Market and you’ll see brightly colored “Gluten Free” signs posted nearly everywhere In the USA, retail sales have already hit 1.6 billion dollars, according to a market research report published by Packaged Facts entitled “The Gluten-Free Food and Beverage Market: Trends and Developments Worldwide, 2nd Edition.” By 2012, the market will most likely reach 2.6 billion dollars in sales. The compound annual growth rate from 2004 to 2008 was a whopping twenty-eight percent.
In terms of product launches, more than two hundred twenty-five marketers introduced new gluten-free products into the United States in 2008. Enjoy Life Foods, an upstart company catering to this niche market, was named to the Inc 500 list of the fastest growing, privately held businesses in the U.S. It was one of only thirteen companies in the food and beverage category to make the list and showed a three year revenue growth of 850 percent!
Today, about 40 percent of gluten-free products are sold in health and natural food stores, such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats and GNC. About 20 percent of sales occur through specialty food websites or catalogues. Conventional supermarkets hold just a 14 percent share of sales.
Clearly, hype’s driving this trend, but also genuine need. Medical problems associated with gluten intolerance are legion, and include autism, multiple sclerosis, ADD, ADHD, allergies, osteoporosis, repetitive strain or stress injury, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and other digestive system disorders. However, it’s celiac disease that has catalyzed and is driving the gluten-free food and beverage market. Although three million Americans—one percent of the population—have been officially diagnosed with celiac disease, many experts believe that 97 percent of celiac sufferers remain undiagnosed, and even more may be affected by a subclinical gluten sensitivity. Worse, the number of known sufferers will most likely increase tenfold around the world during the next few years. No wonder this market is booming with double digit growth.
According to Tatjana Meerman, publisher of Packaged Facts, “Evidence shows that the patients that comprise the celiac community are not willing to be passive sufferers. Their passion to live a full life without gluten must be considered one of the most powerful driving forces in the market. . . . Although these products are largely bought by celiac sufferers, very often the entire family of a celiac will switch to gluten-free products primarily to avoid buying different versions of the same goods, but also as a preventative step—as celiac disease is known to be hereditary.” Good to know that sufferers aren’t passive, but limiting proactivity to buying ready-made products will succeed only in keeping the burgeoning GFCF market profitable for generations to come. To attain optimum health, consumers need to embrace real food, not just focus on the avoidance of gluten and casein through the purchase of high-priced specialty “food products.” In addition to being laden with soy, such products may contain canola or other poor quality oils; high fructose corn syrup, agave and other questionable sweeteners; refined salt; artificial flavors and other dubious ingredients. And by bringing attention only to the problems of gluten and not also to soy, many consumers will not see significant health improvements.
Many alternative health practitioners believe that sensitive people will need to assiduously avoid gluten and casein for life, but in my experience, it’s possible to heal the gut and attain radiant good health on a gluten-free, casein-free version of the WAPF diet. This diet would necessarily be rich in bone broth, cultured vegetables, coconut oil and a high-vitamin cod liver oil. Supplement regimens—preferably based on laboratory assessment— may speed things along, but lasting healing will only come from real foods, including high-quality animal products. That said, there must be a complete elimination of gluten, casein and soy for at least six months and maybe a year or more. This is not easy to attain in today’s world.
NO APRIL FOOL’S JOKE
April was National Soyfoods Month. Given all the hype, soy must be good for something, right? Absolutely. The miracle bean would be very good indeed for politicians with the zipper problem. The soy industry apparently agrees, because on March 17, it held a special Soyfoods Lunch on Capitol Hill for some two hundred members of Congress, government officials and industry representatives. Billed as a way to showcase the “health benefits of soy,” the Eighth Annual Congressional Soyfoods Lunch may have had the side benefit of controlling Capitol Hill lust. After all, in Asia, soy is eaten in Zen monasteries to help monks maintain their vows of celibacy. It’s also featured heavily on the menu in Japanese homes where the husband has been unfaithful. Seems that wives know that soy can kill the desire, the ability, . . . or both.
As for U.S. politicians, too bad Bill Clinton didn’t eat it. Not because it would have prevented his heart disease problems— even the American Heart Association (AHA) has backed off from its pro soy position—but because it might have dampened his infamous libido. Accordingly, let’s urge Bill Clinton to admit the truth to the American public. The words I’d put in his mouth are, “If that woman and I had eaten soy, I’d have saved a lot of embarrassment to my presidency.”
Sadly, the American Soy Association (ASA) has a stereotypical pro-soy message for the public. “ASA’s Congressional Soyfoods Lunch is a unique occasion for the U.S. soybean industry to provide Members of Congress and other government officials with the chance to taste the ever-expanding selection of soyfoods available today,” said ASA president Rob Joslin. Those taste treats included all sorts of fake steaks—er, mis-steaks—and other soybean ingredients dressed up, brightened, flavored and textured into approximations of Thai Beef Salad, Mediterranean Chicken and other pseudo foods.
The point of it all was for attendees to hear ASA spin doctors tout the “health benefits of soy” and learn how they could help acquaint the American public with said benefits. Sadly, the truth is another soy story, with soy linked to malnutrition, digestive distress, thyroid disorders, immune system breakdown, ADD, ADHD, even heart disease and cancer, especially breast cancer. Soy also causes or contributes to reproductive problems in both men and women, including infertility, loss of libido and other problems. The Israeli Health Ministry, French Food Agency and German Institute of Risk Assessment have all issued warnings about soy. Here in the U.S., the marketing of soy is business as usual, moving full speed ahead all year long and especially during April. Too bad the misinformation wasn’t just an April Fool’s Day joke.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2010.