The Dangers Of Soya For Ladies

By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer

This is my true story, nothing altered.  These are facts,as they relate to my experience, my opinions based on what I have read and felt. I am relating them to warn other young health-conscious women who are unwittingly harming themselves.

In 1989, I graduated from high school in Texas and couldn’t wait to hit the big college city. One of the changes I wanted to make was to eat healthier. Once I moved to health-conscious Austin, Texas, I began to fortify my body with the best and healthiest foods I could find.

Tofu was the main ingredient in every healthy dish and I bought soya milk almost every day and used it for everything from cereal to smoothies or just to drink for a quick snack. I bought soya muffins, miso soup with tofu, soybeans, soybean sprouts, etc.

All the literature in all the health and fitness magazines said that soya protected you against everything from heart disease to breast cancer. It was the magical isoflavones, the estrogen-like hormones that all worked to help you stay young and healthy. I looked great, I was working out all the time, but my menstrual cycle was off.  At 20, I started taking birth control pills to regulate my menstrual cycle.

In addition to this I began to suffer from painful periods. I began to get puffy, it was as though I was losing my muscle tone.  I began to suffer from depression and getting hot flushes.  I mistook all this for PMS since my periods were irregular. By the time I was 25, my periods were so bad, I couldn’t walk.

The birth control pills never made them regular or less painful so I decided to stop taking them. I went on like this for another two years until I realized my pain wasn’t normal. At 27, my gynecologist found two cysts in my uterus. Both were the size of tennis balls. I went through surgery to have them removed and thank God they were benign. The gynecologist told me to go back on birth control pills.

I didn’t.  In 1998, he discovered a lump in my breast. Again, I went through surgery and again it was benign.

It was Cancer
In November 2000 my glands swelled up and my gums became inflamed.  Thinking I had a tooth infection I went to the dentist who told me that teeth were not the problem. After a dose of antibiotics the swelling still did not go down. At this point I could feel a tiny nodule on the right side of my neck. I told my mother I had thyroid trouble. She thought I was being silly. No one in the family suffered from thyroid trouble.  Going on a hunch I saw a specialist who diagnosed me with Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma.

After a series of tests he told me it was cancer. My fiance and I sat stunned. We were not prepared and I was so scared. We scheduled surgery right away. The specialist told us that it would only be after the operation that a pathologist would be able to tell us for sure if it was cancer. They found a tumor in my right lobe composed of irregular cells and another smaller tumor growing on the left, so the entire thyroid was removed.

They told me that after undergoing radioactive iodine I would be safe and assured me that I could live a long life. After treatment I began to search for the cause of all these problems. I never once thought it could be all the soya I had consumed for nearly ten years.

After all, soya is healthy.  I came upon a web page that linked thyroid problems to soya intake and the conspiracy of soya marketed as a health food when in fact it is only a toxic by-product of the vegetable oil industry. This was insane; after all, the health and fitness magazines had said nothing about soya being harmful.

I visited a herbalist who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1985. She informed me that soya was the culprit. She had a hysterectomy due to cysts and other uterine problems. A few months later another acquaintance who had consumed soya came down with thyroid cancer. A girl in England I met through the Internet in a thyroid cancer forum had just undergone surgery and she was only 19.

What was going on????  Breast cancer is linked to estrogen. What mimics estrogen in the female body, SOYA!

But I never suspected soya because until now I never once found a single article that stated soya could be dangerous. Women who took soya prior to thyroid problems will continue to take it after if they are not aware of what soya actually does, what it contains and how it reacts in the female body. I think this is the reason that women with thyroid cancer often develop breast cancer later.

My co-worker is big into soya and I see her losing hair and gaining weight despite a walking workout during her break and after work, and apples and oranges for lunch. She just had cysts removed from her uterus too. I warned her to stay off soya. I referred her to websites but until it is on the evening news on all four networks, women will suffer. Since the thyroidectomy, I do not touch soya, haven’t for two years.

Dear readers, please use my story in any way you can. There are so many young girls who are consuming soya because they think they are taking care of themselves, and women taking soya because they want to be healthy.

It is so unfair that the information about the dangers of soya isn’t more widely circulated. It is sad. There are many out there who feel this way and it is a terrible blow when you realise you are not as healthy as you thought and that the information that you depended on was wrong. Oh! Soy, No Joy, No Ploy!

Same story
I remember reading the same story in the Sunday Island paper (Sri Lanka), dated April 20, 2003, about a lament of an experience on consuming too much soya products by a graduate student living in Texas. The story is highlighted in my book “Healthy Lifestyles and Longevity”, (pages 113-115).

Eminent Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics from Peradeniya University had commented that one should not rely on the findings of a single individual, unless double blind studies are conducted by the researchers on Soya products. I defended this lady by stating that soy being an omega 6 type of polyunsaturated oil, containing linoleic acid may have been the cause for the problem, taken in excess. It has been shown that if mice are fed with linoleic acid (LA) for six weeks or more, they tend to develop breast cancer.

This lady has been enjoying soya products contained in everything from cereal to smoothies, soya muffins, miso soup with soya, soybeans, soya-sprouts, and you name it, on regular basis. Obviously, she has been consuming cancer producing linoleic acid in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats, contained in the above consumed foods. Soya is essentially a polyunsaturated fat which contains 16% of saturated fat, 23% of monounsaturated fat, and 54% of polyunsaturated fat, of which 12% is linoleic acid. Imagine how much linoleic acid she would have consumed in her food, over the years.

My menstrual cycle was off?
Soy contains biologically active phytoestrogens, a plant derived; weaker form of oestrogen that some scientists believe replaces the body’s stronger form of oestrogen secreted by the ovaries. If a girl takes excess soy products daily, it is most likely that the oestrogen level in the blood may be high enough to prevent her normal regular menstrual cycle occurring. In the natural process oestrogen is secreted for about 21 days of the cycle, preparing the womb inner lining (endometrium) for the next period. It is customary for doctors to recommend brides who go on their honeymoons coinciding with the next period, to advise continuing the contraceptive pill to delay the anticipated menses. If soy products are consumed in excess it is understandable for a girl to have very irregular scanty periods or no periods.

Excess oestrogen in the body will cause puffiness, abdominal cramps (due to clot retention in the womb), and hot flushes because oestrogen gives you warmth due to dilatation of blood capillaries. It is said that girls are most warm during the mid-month (ovulation) period, which attracts the opposite sex to copulate at this time of egg formation when the oestrogen is most primed up.

PMS (Pre-menopausal Syndrome) occurs just before attaining menopause, at the ages about 45 to 50. How come this girl at the age of 25, ever think of PMS.

This lady in question complains that she had an ovarian cyst about the size of a tennis ball and that was removed. Obviously, it was just an innocent cyst which is not uncommon during the reproductive period of most ladies. Why attribute this to taking too much of soy products? If soy products are so dangerous, she should suffer from ovarian cancer and not an innocent cyst.

In 1998, this lady has had an innocent breast cyst removed. If there is a link between breast cancer and soy products, this lady is lucky to have escaped with an innocent cyst.

This lady whether she takes excess soy products or not, has a tendency to form cysts in various glands, seems to be a genetic pattern.

Soy and Breast Cancer
There are concerns about the health value of soybeans, claiming research studies link phytoestrogens in soy with infertility, breast cancer, and thyroid toxicity. These phytoestrogens, or plant oestrogens, in soy may actually lower the body’s own production of oestrogen, as mention before, and increase levels of plant oestrogen, and increase breast cancer risk.

A September 2002 report published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention of a study of 144 postmenopausal Chinese women in Singapore found that oestrogen levels were 15% lower among individuals in the top 25% of soy protein intake. In this regard soy did not influence to increase the eostrogen level in the blood. Asian women living in India and Sri Lanka (where soy makes up a significant part of the diet) have serum levels up to 40% lower than Caucasian US women. Furthermore, Chinese and Japanese women living in Asia have a fivefold lower breast cancer risk than do white American women.

Soybean contains phytoestrogen genistein. This chemical has oestrogenic and anti-oestrogenic properties depending on the dose and time of life when received. In some studies it has been shown that genistein stimulate the growth of human breast cancer cells, whilst other studies has shown that genistein can inhibit growth of cancer cells. In 2002, Anna Wu and associates at the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California published research in Carcinogenesis showed that women who consumed soy at least once a week in adolescence had a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer, while women with a high soy-consumption in both adolescence and adulthood showed the lowest risk of breast cancer.

Sri Lankan ladies use soy sauce in every dish almost, but the incidence of cancer of the breast is much lower than Western women.

So, one could explain that this lady who complains about the dangers of soy suffered only a breast cyst, in spite of her taking large quantities of soy products during her adolescence and adulthood.

Soy and Thyroid Problems
As for thyroid problems, in a 2002 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, authors Daniel Doerge and Daniel Sheehan found in rat studies that genistein consumption reduced the synthesis of thyroid hormone by up to 80%. The authors concluded that additional factors, such as iodine deficiency among others, are necessary to cause “overt thyroid toxicity”. In some cases, infants fed soy formula have suffered from goiter, but the effect is generally reversed by adding iodine or switching the baby to cow’s milk.

If you have a diagnosed or undiagnosed thyroid problems, or history of autoimmune disease, over consumption of soy iso-flavones can potentially trigger a thyroid problem.

A recent study found that as millions of Americans- have an undiagnosed thyroid condition. The vast majority of thyroid patients are women over 40. It is observed that these people have been consuming soy iso-flavone supplements in vast numbers.

It is possible that this lady’s immune system may have dropped and the isoflavones consumed in large amounts may have caused the thyroid problem.

Furthermore, a seven year study published in the British Journal of Cancer (July 2002) on soy and stomach cancer in Japanese men and women found significant reduction in the risk of stomach cancer among men with high soy consumption.

Hormone related cancer
Soy Foods- which include tofu, soymilk, soybeans, soy nuts, miso (soy paste), tempeh, are particularly relevant in their effects on hormone related cancer. “There’s a strong biological basis for thinking that soy might lower the risk of prostate cancer,” says Mark Messina, a soy expert who is an adjunct professor at Loma Linda University in California and a consultant to the soy industry.

In Asia where tofu and other soy foods are a regular part of the diet, prostate cancer rates are low; the isoflavones in soy foods seem to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in animals and test tubes.

Soy contains flavones (anti-oxidant), which are biologically active phytoestrogens, a plant derived; weaker form of estrogen that some scientists believe replaces the body’s stronger form of oestrogen at oestrogen receptor sites in the breast, thereby reducing the probability of developing cancer. Several human and laboratory studies have suggested that soy consumption early in life may help protect against breast cancer later in life. It is also found that taking soy products may increase the risk of cancer in women who have already had breast cancer.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently announced results of research suggesting that soy foods and soy supplements may promote the growth of recurrent breast cancer on women who have had been treated for breast cancer. On the contrary, soy foods seem to prevent cancer of breast on women before menopause, who have had no history of breast cancer.

The study director, William G.Helferich, a professor of food and science and human nutrition, reported that his study suggest that highly processed isoflavone as in soy products may pose a risk to postmenopausal women who are consuming them as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy.

Clearly, soy and its phytoestrogenic components can affect human health and not always necessarily for the good. By the same token, there is no need to frighten people away from a source of protein useful in lowering cholesterol that may also reduce the risk of certain cancers.

It is very important that one balances the omega 6 fats such as, consuming soy products, with an equal or more amount of omega 3 fats, daily.
Omega 3 foods are: Fish, prawns, Oysters, Scallops, Lean lamb, lean beef, Linseed oil, Mustard seed oil, Canola oil, Walnut oil, baked beans, Red kidney beans, Mushrooms, Dark green leafy vegetables, Seaweed, and many others.

As the saying goes, “Eating in moderation” goes well with consuming soy foods. Do not be a fanatic and over-consume any health foods.

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