For those of us who follow an organic or vegetarian diet, claims about the wonders of soy are everywhere. But one woman is stepping out to say that soy not only offered little benefit to her health — it was downright destructive. Read on to learn more about what The Hidden Dangers of Soy author Dianne Gregg experienced in her personal life, and beyond, with the so-called “wonder food” that is soy.
Adrienne Rayski interviews Dianne Gregg
Adrienne Rayski: What prompted you to write The Hidden Dangers of Soy? Did you personally experience a negative reaction to soy — and how much of it were you eating at the time?
Dianne Gregg: When I reached menopause, I read ads that said “Soy Serves Up Healthy Benefits and Relieves Menopausal Symptoms”. That is when I started to include soy protein drinks for breakfast, and protein bars for snacks. I always ate everything in moderation and played racquetball three times a week. For eight years, I was constantly nauseous, bloated, and was gaining weight. I knew something was wrong but the doctors said it was nothing and to accept that I was getting older.
In April 2003, I had a soy burger for dinner — and that’s what did me in. The next morning I was rushed to the hospital because I thought I was having a heart attack – but I went into anaphylactic shock. After four days in the intensive care unit, the doctors said it was food poisoning. I didn’t agree. I weighed 150 pounds — more than I weighed in my ninth month of pregnancy! My usual weight was 118 pounds.
I stayed home for two weeks because I was afraid to drive. When I was feeling better, I had my soy protein drink and was out the door. Ten minutes later, I started feeling weird but not bad enough to go to the emergency room. I came home and looked up soy allergy on the Internet – and sure enough, I had almost every symptom listed! The scary thing is, if I didn’t research soy, and I died in the emergency room, the doctors would never have known why. After extensive research, I was amazed at what I learned and decided to write this book to get the word out.
Adrienne Rayski: Do you believe all the claims about soy being a superfood if you do NOT have an allergy to it?
Dianne Gregg: Soy is not what it is cracked up to be. We hear so many wonderful things about soy, but people need to be aware that the possible benefits are outweighed by the risks. The major problem is that soy is in over 60% of the foods on supermarket shelves. It’s nothing but cheap filler. But, you have to know what to look for because it’s not always listed on the label. This is where the challenge comes in.
Everyone is under the assumption that in Asia, everyone is healthy. They have a very extensive fermenting process to remove the soy toxins. And, they use it more as a condiment because they eat more vegetables and pork. The never feed babies soy formula. The only safe soy is miso, natto and tempeh, and even this should be eaten in moderation. The Western version is a very quick process and the toxins are not removed.
How this all came about is, soy was used to feed animals. When the animals were starting to get sick, and offspring were deformed, they decided that instead of dumping the oil they would pass it on to the elite as a health food. Today, it costs more than dairy products. This is a big business! The worst would be soy infant formula because it contains phytoestrogens that can disrupt reproductive development, allergies, early puberty in girls, and breasts in boys. In fact, Britain and New Zealand have already discouraged the use of soy formulas without a doctor’s recommendation.
Cancer survivors are now being told to eliminate soy from their diets because it can enhance the growth of tumors. Do you remember the caution about women going off hormone replacement therapy because of the increase risk of breast cancer?
It also can cause hypothyroidism because soy inhibits thyroid function. As a matter of fact, Dr. Christine Northrop, author of The Wisdom of Menopause, is a big soy promoter and she now has hypothyroidism. Oprah has hypothyroidism — she too is a soy promoter, and Dr. Northrop is her consultant. Is this a coincidence?
Adrienne Rayski: Besides the obvious, what should people avoid if they’re trying to cut soy from their diets?
Dianne Gregg: To name a few…it’s found in vegetable oil, shortening, lecithin, baby food, margarine, dessert mixes, mayonnaise (I can only use Hains Canola Mayonnaise), canned tuna (I only buy StarKist Chunk Light Low Sodium – all the others have soy in them and they are listed on the label), baked goods (I have to make my own from scratch), soups, salad dressings, crackers, frozen dinners, cereals, snack foods, and fast food.
Adrienne Rayski: How difficult was it to find support from the medical community while doing research for your book?
Dianne Gregg: There were some experts that didn’t endorse the book because I didn’t bash the soy industry enough, but that was not my intention. I want to challenge the audience to try to eliminate soy and see if they don’t feel better. The endorsements I did get were in complete agreement with me and found that I had a very compelling story. They have also helped many people with health problems and encourage their patients to remove soy.
Adrienne Rayski: Did you cut soy from your diet on your own, or was it advised by a doctor?
Dianne Gregg: I cut soy out of my diet on my own – and that was the most difficult thing to do. When I go to the grocery store, I pick up an item, read the label, and put it back on the shelf. It’s a real chore for me. I have to cook all my meals from scratch. I learned to substitute ingredients from recipes. It really changed my lifestyle tremendously. I can’t eat out at restaurants unless I call first to see what ingredients are on their menu, and sometimes the chef’s aren’t sure.
My doctors did not advise me – in fact, after the hospital fiasco, I called every doctor that treated me and told them I diagnosed myself and I wanted a refund. They chuckled. When it was time to visit my gynecologist, I informed him of my soy allergy and he said he never thought about that. I told him any patients that complain about the same symptoms as I did, to advise them to remove soy. He thanked me and said he would definitely tell his patients.
Adrienne Rayski: Do you still suffer from ailments related to this?
Diane Gregg: I have never felt better! In eight months, I went back to my normal weight and to this day, I don’t have any problems. I have never suffered bloating and water retention. The only time I may feel nauseous is if even though the label doesn’t contain soy, it could be contaminated through processing. I take a Benadryl and the nausea goes away.
I will admit that after a year of feeling great, I decided to make stir fry vegetables with a teaspoon of teriyaki. And, of course, at 3:00am, I woke my husband because my throat was closing up. I took a Benadryl and we went to the emergency room. Needless to say, I was okay, but I never tried anything like that again! Now, I carry an Epi-Pen just in case.
Adrienne writes for special-interest magazines and has worked on the production of women’s lifestyle channels at AOL as well as at E! Entertainment Television. She graduated from CUNY Baruch, where she served as the editor-in-chief of the award-winning student newspaper The Ticker.