5 Ways Soy Upsets Hormone Balance

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

A table full of soybeans. Most soy products are not real food — most are highly processed and genetically modified.

Soy has been incorrectly passed off as a healthy food for a long time. Soybean oil, soy milk, and even tofu are a staple in the lives of many people, especially vegetarians. However, most soy products are not real food — most are highly processed and genetically modified. In my opinion, the marketing of soy as a health food is probably one of the greatest bamboozles of all time.

5 Ways Soy Upsets Hormone Balance

One of the issues concerning soy is its high level of phytoestrogens — compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. Soy contains two primary phytoestrogens, sometimes called xenoestrogens, genistein, and daidzein. Both compounds are known to disrupt the endocrine system in males and females. [1] These, and all, estrogen compounds are classified as isoflavones.

Isoflavones are estrogen mimickers that increase estrogenic activity. This may be helpful at times for relieving symptoms in menopausal women. [2] However, more often than not, isoflavones block and replace naturally-produced estrogen, an action that many experts believe is cause for concern. So what happens when things get out of balance?

1. Causes Premature Menstruation

Girls are reaching their first menstruation at earlier ages, now more than ever. Fifty years ago, it was common around a girl’s 13th birthday. Now it’s hitting girls under 10. Studies on young female rats suggest soy is a contributing factor.

2. Leads to Gynecomastia

If this doesn’t scare men away from soy, nothing will. Gynecomastia — male breast enlargement — has been tied to soy consumption. [3] [4]

3. Kills Libido

Introducing estrogenic foods like soy into their diet can cause men to experience a loss of sexual desire. [5]

4. May Cause Infertility

Soy may be a factor behind male and female infertility. [6]

5. Linked to Breast Cancer

There’s no denying the connection between xenoestrogens and breast cancer. Considering that breast cancer cells require stimulation via estrogen, it may be a wise idea to keep your consumption of estrogen and estrogen-like compounds in check, from all sources, including soy. [7]

Soy: A Toxin in Disguise

Perhaps the biggest problem with soy is we’re not fed this product in small amounts. Soy is a cheap, subsidized ingredient used in processed foods in the form of oil, thickeners, flavor enhancers, stabilizers, preservatives, and nutritive fillers. Check the ingredients, if you’re eating processed food, you’re probably eating soy.

Is Any Soy Good?

Fermented soy, like tempeh and natto, can be really healthy since the goitrogens and nutritive inhibitors are significantly reduced. Regardless, keep in mind that most soy, even fermented, is likely to be GMO. When it comes to non-organic and unfermented soy, I’ve personally added it to my “avoid” list.

What are your thoughts on soy? Do you eat it? If so, what types of soy foods do you use? Please share with us your thoughts in the comments!

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References (7)
  1. Janice Barlow, RN, NP, Jo Ann P. Johnson, MPH, and Lacie Scofield, MSPH. Early Life Exposure to the Phytoestrogen Genistein and Breast Cancer Risk in Later Years FACT SHEET on the PHYTOESTROGEN GENISTEIN. Breast Cancer and the Environmental Research Program.
  2. Cheng G, Wilczek B, Warner M, Gustafsson JA, Landgren BM. Isoflavone treatment for acute menopausal symptoms. Menopause. 2007 May-Jun;14(3 Pt 1):468-73.
  3. Valladares L, Garrido A, Sierralta W. Soy isoflavones and human health: breast cancer and puberty timing. Rev Med Chil. 2012 Apr;140(4):512-6. doi: 10.4067/S0034-98872012000400014.
  4. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. "Soy Infant Formula." 2012. 7 Mar. 2016 .
  5. Siepmann T, Roofeh J, Kiefer FW, Edelson DG. Hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction associated with soy product consumption. Nutrition. 2011 Jul-Aug;27(7-8):859-62. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2010.10.018.
  6. Chavarro JE, Toth TL, Sadio SM, Hauser R. Soy food and isoflavone intake in relation to semen quality parameters among men from an infertility clinic. Hum Reprod. 2008 Nov;23(11):2584-90. doi: 10.1093/humrep/den243.
  7. Russo J, Russo IH. The role of estrogen in the initiation of breast cancer. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2006 Dec;102(1-5):89-96.

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