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The Top 5 Benefits of Soy for Women

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I’ve been wondering for years why everyone seems to hate soy. As a part-time job during naturopathic medical school I used to sample health foods at various grocery stores and customers were so avid that they avoid soy. When I asked them why, they said, “Soy causes cancer”. This is a common misconception about soy. In fact, there’s evidence that soy consumption decreases the risk of many cancers such as endometrial, ovarian, gastrointestinal, breast, and prostate. If that’s not enough, I personally grew up on soy and I’ve turned out okay…so far! In a world full of fast food, microwavable meals, and plastic everything – is an innocent bean really the enemy? Since I’m passionate about female hormones, I hit the books and researched the effects of soy on estrogen and progesterone levels. I hope you’ll be pleased to read what I’ve discovered, and accept that soy isn’t so scary after all!

The components of soy: what’s in a bean?

  • Protein– soy contains the complete spectrum of essential amino acids, which is why it is a staple in a vegetarian diet.
  • Isoflavones– these are the constituents that act like estrogen and are the reason why it’s common to get confused about soy. Another term for isoflavone is phytoestrogen. Isoflavones/phytoestrogens can exert weak estrogenic effects in our bodies. This means they can bind to estrogen receptors in the body and prevent strong/harmful estrogens from binding. This is a good thing! It does not promote cancer, it protects us.
  • Beta-sitosterols– these are constituents that have been proven to lower cholesterol. Soy is recommended by Health Canada as part of a cholesterol lowering diet.
  • Vitamins & Minerals– soy is high in fiber, iron, folate, and B-vitamins. If you’re concerned about the bioavailability of nutrients in beans, opt for sprouted beans.
  • “Fermentability”– I may have made up this word, but I’m using it to explain all of the wonderful foods that have been created by fermenting soy, like: tempeh, miso, and natto! Fermented foods are amazing for gut health, lowering inflammation, and benefiting mood.

 

The Top 5 Benefits of Soy for Women

 

  1. Soy isoflavones bind to estrogen receptors and promote the urinary excretion of estrogen in estrogen dependent conditions like endometriosis and fibroids. With increased amounts of soy consumption, severity of endometriosis can decline and women can experience fewer symptoms.
  2. In menopausal women with low estrogen levels, soy consumption can improve serum estradiol levels and reduce hot flashes and symptoms of declining estrogen.
  3. In women undergoing IVF, those with higher soy consumption had increased fertilization rates. Women who consumed soy, compared to women who did not, had a 6% greater chance of fertilization.
  4. Not only can soy improve fertilization, but also pregnancy and live birth rates. In women who consume soy, there’s an 11-13% greater chance of pregnancy and birth rate compared to women who don’t eat soy.
  5. Soy increases a protein called sex-hormone-binding-globulin (SHBG). This protein binds estrogen and testosterone in the blood. If these hormones are bound then they are inactive, a greater ratio of bound hormone to free hormone can lower symptoms of androgen excess, like: acne, hair loss, and male pattern hair growth, as well as estrogen excess, like: breast tenderness, painful periods, and heavy periods.

 

What about men consuming soy? Here’s where it gets less obvious

There is a lot of conflicting research on the effects of soy consumption in men. For example, one human study showed that soy consumption lowers sperm concentration, and another showed that soy has no effect on any semen parameters. Soy has the potential to decrease testosterone levels in men who already have hypogonadism (low testosterone). It may exert estrogenic effects in men but the research is varied. However, it is undisputed that soy has great cardiovascular benefits and can lower cholesterol levels. It may also present a preventive role against prostate cancer and benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). If you’re male and you’re not trying to conceive, the benefits of soy likely outweigh the potential risks. It is ideal for man to eat a variety of plant and animal sources of protein; soy can be included in this daily diet.

 

The Bottom Line:

  • Opt for non-GMO, organic, and sugar free soy products
  • WOMEN: aim for 7-28mg of isoflavones daily (one cup of soy milk has about 6mg, 3 ounces of tofu has 20mg
  • MEN: when not trying to conceive, aim to consume about 3 servings of soy a week

 

Book an appointment with Dr. Sumner HERE

References:

 

Die, M. D., Bone, K. M., Williams, S. G., & Pirotta, M. V. (2014). Soy and soy isoflavones in prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials. BJU international, 113(5b), E119-E130.

Chavarro, J. E., Toth, T. L., Sadio, S. M., & Hauser, R. (2008). Soy food and isoflavone intake in relation to semen quality parameters among men from an infertility clinic. Human reproduction, 23(11), 2584-2590.

Vanegas, J. C., Afeiche, M. C., Gaskins, A. J., Mínguez-Alarcón, L., Williams, P. L., Wright, D. L., … & Chavarro, J. E. (2015). Soy food intake and treatment outcomes of women undergoing assisted reproductive technology. Fertility and sterility, 103(3), 749-755.

Tsuchiya, M., Miura, T., Hanaoka, T., Iwasaki, M., Sasaki, H., Tanaka, T., … & Tsugane, S. (2007). Effect of soy isoflavones on endometriosis: interaction with estrogen receptor 2 gene polymorphism. Epidemiology, 18(3), 402-408.

Saeidnia, S., Manayi, A., Gohari, A. R., & Abdollahi, M. (2014). The Story of Beta-sitosterol-A Review.

Messina, M. (2010). Soybean isoflavone exposure does not have feminizing effects on men: a critical examination of the clinical evidence. Fertility and sterility, 93(7), 2095-2104.

Chen, M., Rao, Y., Zheng, Y., Wei, S., Li, Y., Guo, T., & Yin, P. (2014). Association between soy isoflavone intake and breast cancer risk for pre-and post-menopausal women: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies. PloS one, 9(2), e89288.

Do you become flushed or itchy after eating or drinking…everything? You could have histamine intolerance

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Histamine 101

Histamine is an organic compound made by your body that’s responsible for initiating immune and inflammatory responses…and about a million other functions that we don’t have time to discuss here.

What do itchiness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, and skin rashes have in common? They’re all provoked by histamine! Some people have allergies and some don’t because of the responsiveness of their histamine production to external influences. Anaphylactic allergies to things like peanuts and shellfish are also triggered by histamine release, but from specific immunoglobulins called IgE antibodies.

However, this isn’t a blog about seasonal allergies or anaphylactic allergies, it’s about not being able to drink wine and eat smoked meats! It’s about getting a skin reaction after eating just about anything. Why does this happen??? It’s called “histamine intolerance”.

Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance results from a lack of degradation of histamine and a build up of histamine from foods that, well, produce histamine. Your body can become intolerant to histamine because there’s just so much of it! Histamine is broken down by two different enzymes in the body: diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT). Reduced activity of either enzyme can cause symptoms of elevated histamine, such as: hives, itching, rash, flushing, headache, diarrhea, heartburn, and asthma. Histamine can be found in foods and it can also be formed by the bacterial fermentation of foods. But, you thought saukerkraut and kombucha were good for you?! Not if you have histamine intolerance. Here’s the kicker: some foods are both histamine producers AND DAO inhibitors! Unfortunately, that’s the case for red wine, which also contains sulfites. Sulfite sensitivity can look exactly like histamine intolerance, and can also be due to a deficiency of degradation enzymes.

So what are these histamine-producing foods already!?

  • Alcohol
  • Pickled or canned foods – like sauerkraut, peppers, pickles
  • Matured cheeses
  • Smoked meat products – salami, ham, sausages, jerky
  • Shellfish
  • Beans and canned legumes– chickpeas, soy beans, peanuts
  • Nuts – walnuts, cashew nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Vinegar
  • Citrus- like tomatoes
  • Dried fruits
  • Artificial colouring- found in candies, desserts, cereals, sodas, juices etc.
  • Preservatives- like sulfites
  • MSG

Other tips for reducing histamine production:

  • Avoid canned foods
  • Aim to eat fresh foods, rather than preserved foods
  • Don’t leave foods out of the fridge for long periods of time, pack your lunches with a cold pack
  • Ensure that your kitchen is always kept clean to minimize bacteria exposure
  • Everyone has their own histamine threshold; you may need to experiment to find yours

How will you know if you have histamine intolerance?

  • You experience any of the symptoms listed in this blog (hives, itching, rash, flushing, headache, diarrhea, heartburn, and asthma) after eating/ drinking the above foods
  • Your symptoms may decrease after taking over the counter anti-histamine medications
  • You are sure you do not have anaphylactic allergies, and other allergies have been ruled out by a doctor

Print off the list of foods and keep it on your fridge. When you eat them, write down your corresponding symptoms and watch for patterns. Remember that your threshold may not be reached until after eating the foods for several servings or several days.

Book an appointment with Dr. Sumner HERE

References:

Maintz, L., & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(5), 1185-1196.

Jarisch, R. (2011). Histamine intolerance. Aktuelle Dermatologie, 37, 1-8.

Wöhrl, S., Hemmer, W., Focke, M., Rappersberger, K., & Jarisch, R. (2004, September). Histamine intolerance-like symptoms in healthy volunteers after oral provocation with liquid histamine. In Allergy and Asthma Proceedings (Vol. 25, No. 5, pp. 305-311). OceanSide Publications, Inc.

Schwelberger, H. G. (2010). Histamine intolerance: a metabolic disease?. Inflammation research, 59(2), 219-221.