I didn’t recognize it at the time, but looking back at pictures in my twenties and thirties, I realized I carried too much weight around my hips. Add persistent bloating to otherwise slender limbs, and these pictures signaled something was wrong.

Alternative health physicians link excess estrogen in females to too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight. It affects our genes and how the body stores excess fat.

How I Transitioned to Soy

For several decades, I've had a close relationship with nutrition and healthy living. This led me into a career in nursing and personal fitness training.

In my early teens, I lost my appreciation for sugary foods, and I became an avid reader of articles about the latest health breakthroughs. I chose plant-based substitutes where possible and for a long time, I thought about becoming a vegan.

Eliminating cow’s milk was an easy dietary change to make in my mid-twenties. My husband and I suffered from severe lactose intolerance, so dairy milk wasn't the healthiest choice for us.

I had to find a milk substitute for my breakfast routine of oatmeal cereal or smoothie, so I transitioned to what many experts recommended and what I believed would be a smart and health-conscious decision - soy milk. 

Oh boy, was I wrong!

Calcium-fortified soy milk is touted by some experts as the best, most nutrient-rich substitute for cow's milk despite some research to the contrary. Other popular substitutes include almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk.

The Facts About Soy

The true health benefits of soy are a hot topic of debate. For decades, its controversy as a superfood has been questioned. Investors who gain from soy profits have also been accused of funding studies with deceptive claims of soy's benefits. Yet, there's no denying the growing body of independent studies that point to soy’s effect on estrogen balance and fat cell growth.

Estrogen is the female sex hormone which is responsible for regulation and development of the female reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics. Estrogen balance is critical to fat loss. Too much estrogen, a condition called estrogen dominance, leads to toxic levels of fat gain, bloating, and tumors. Soy contains high levels of plant estrogens called isoflavones, which are similar to human estrogen. In modest amounts, consumption of soy affects estrogen levels in both men and women.

It is very difficult to avoid plant estrogen. Soy additives and derivatives pop up in almost every packaged food. In addition, consumers are constantly exposed to estrogen-like compounds in foods containing growth hormones, pesticides, and herbicides.

Why I Quit Soy

I quit soy for multiple health reasons, but the number one reason was knowing soy was not helping but harming my health. Just prior to quitting, I read an article that described the role of soy in promoting hormone imbalances becoming the leading cause of breast cancer and uterine cancer.

My other important reasons for quitting soy:

Worrisome changes in my menstrual cycle that indicated the beginnings of uterine growths such as ovarian cysts or fibroids.

• Difficulty losing weight around my hips.

Chronic indigestion

• Severe bloating

Constipation

Not only did I quit eating soy products, but my husband quit too. He knew soy would increase his risk of developing health issues, which made the decision for him easy. The risks of consuming too much soy for men include prostate cancer, obesity, breast development, and insulin resistance.

Key Health Changes Since Quitting

I saw significant health changes within two months of eliminating soy from my diet. This was a reassuring sign that quickly confirmed soy’s role in my health woes.

I was excited to see these improvements:

• Reduced PMS such as bloating, abdominal pain, and indigestion

• Return to my normal three-day menstrual pattern

• Reduced water retention

• Less bloating throughout the day

• Weight loss in stubborn areas

• Smaller waistline

Quitting soy and learning about all the estrogen-like compounds in packaged foods was crucial for me. Making this dietary change made me feel more in control of my body. I also added more resistance training to my workout program, which likely sped up my results.

Tips and Recommendations

Take steps to educate yourself about the sources of estrogen in foods. Also, find out the facts on how soy affects health. Most people are exposed to food estrogens without knowing it.

Be in tune with your body and watch for red flags. If you are a pre-menopausal woman with estrogen dominance, you likely have a few of these symptoms:

• Chronic PMS

• Excess body fat around the hips

• Difficulty losing weight

• Issues with infertility

• Uterine fibroids

Endometriosis

Ovarian cysts

• Breast enlargement

• Mood changes

Soy products saturate the food market. They are in infant foods, seasoning packets, and condiments. Soy is also used in animal feed, so the residual isoflavones remain in meats.

Consider these recommendations:

  • Choose a low-carb diet. Sugars feed cysts and cancer cells while inducing fat storage.
  • Take folic acid, a probiotic, and a B complex to reduce soy’s negative effects.
  • Take mineral supplements such as magnesium and zinc.
  • Increase fiber intake, mainly leafy and cruciferous vegetables, flax seeds, oats and chia seeds.
  • Consume other milk alternatives, such as almond milk or coconut milk, instead of soy milk.
  • Choose organic meats.
  • Choose fermented, non-GMO soy products.
  • Avoid unfermented soy products.
  • Manage stress.
  • Sleep (aim for 7-8 hours at night).

The hardest part of my no-soy journey is finding good replacement options. And dining out now means avoiding most Asian foods and always questioning restaurant waitstaff about meal ingredients and preparations. Still, I am overjoyed with my decision to give up soy and have not cheated once.