By Lorette C. Luzajic
It never crossed my mind that soy - a favourite health food - might be toxic and dangerous. It wasn't the first time. Bottled water, margarine, and gluten grains all come to mind. But soy? The wonder bean?
I was faithful to the plant. I'd been a vegetarian for five years and though I now enjoy the multitude of benefits and gourmand delight that meat and seafood offer, I trusted in plants. Soy was something I'd celebrated, along with everyone else in Vancouver, in my hippie years. Later, even the men in my life enjoyed my "I Can't Believe it's Not Meat" stir fries. After moving back into the omnivore's diet that nature gave me, I still loved miso soup for breakfast and made an effort to regularly enjoy soy proteins.
Who didn't? Even Dad's got soymilk in the fridge- it's great for preventing prostate cancer, right? Even people who never got used to the taste- or shall I admit tastelessness- of soy added it in hopes of reaping the benefits of those amazing nutrients. Isoflavones, genisteins, lectins, saponins, and phytoestrogens- don't these wonderful names signal a whole host of cancer fighting, heart disease preventing, cholesterol-lowering miracles?
What if I said that those fancy words are actually toxins and the soya bean is naturally loaded with all of them? What if I told you that big business soy ran campaigns like Soy 2000 to convince us that these antinutrients were beneficial? What if I told you that soy is not a complete protein, is not widely used in Asia, and is incredibly dangerous for human consumption? What if I told you that the Food and Drug Administration lists soy as a poisonous plant?
The thyroid is a tiny butterfly-shaped gland in the throat. The rate of thyroid problems in North America is epidemic, especially among women. It's so common to have a thyroid disorder that it's easy to forget that's not the natural state of being. Because the thyroid regulates the entire endocrine system, the metabolism, and more, it's a very important body part. The most common disorder is hypothyroidism. This means the thyroid does not produce very much thyroid hormone, and the resulting quagmire of ailments is distressing to say the least - exhaustion, overweight, depression, hair that is dry, falls out, or won't grow, brittle nails, anxiety, skin disorders, feeling too hot or too cold all the time, menstrual problems, metabolic disorders, recurring infections, immune system fall-out, and a whole lot of other fun stuff. Untreated thyroid problems, or a thyroid that responds poorly to lifestyle change and medication, are gateways for a whole host of Hellish things from fibromyalgia to cancer.
When I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism many years ago, it was something of a relief, despite the fact I was not thrilled to have a chronic and serious gland problem. But even less thrilling was the depression that had always hovered around me- I'm a cheerful, festive sort of person, and the unshakeable melancholy didn't seem like me. Worse still was the unexplainable weight gain and the exhaustion and picking up every last cold and flu and Bell's Palsy, a lovely thing that damages the facial nerves and has given me the lopsided features some find sexy, and my 'sneer'. Finding a reason for this slew of complaints that forced me take medical leave from work gave me hope for a vibrant future, or at least one I could make the best of.
The doctor suggested a few ways to support my health in addition to simply popping pills. I was mildly surprised that I was told to avoid soy foods. I learned the word 'goitrogen,' read a bit about thyroid-suppressing foods. I stopped eating all soy foods but didn't make a big deal- I also learned that peanuts, broccoli, and cabbage all have thyroid suppressing properties. Those were good healthy plants, too, just something to avoid the way fibromyalgia patients should avoid nightshade plants or celiacs should avoid wheat. Nothing more.
One day, my godchildren's mother was over, and she asked if I thought soymilk was safe for the kids. Safe? Never thought about it. The vegan girl in the circle said enthusiastically, "yes, of course," without question, which bothered me straight off the bat. Soymilk is way modern and loaded with sugar. For those reasons alone, I would have to say I wasn't sure. Julie borrowed a couple of my nutrition books. I had no idea whether soy was bad for everyone's thyroid or just mine, so I said I'd look it up.