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Being diagnosed with an underactive thyroid set me researching the problem. What I found was that there was a probable link between the soy products I had consumed for over 30 years and thyroid problems.
Although many women routinely use soy products, they should be made aware that this may be damaging their body, and may later affect their life, in more ways than they think.
Soy products are found in a multitude of foods and supplements. Menopausal women find soy to be helpful in dealing with their symptoms.
However, a growing number of women in their 50's and above are now suffering from diseases of the thyroid. One product that causes damage to the thyroid is soy. Is there a link between the two?
A lifetime of healthy eating may now be causing rpoblems for a generation of women. Whilst many doctors and researchers are aware of the problem, for the most part, the general public is not.
During the 1970's, beef and other meats were quite expensive and many housewives eked out their meals using textured vegetable protein, commonly know as TVP. Available in granules (like mince) or shaped in small chunks, it was a soy protein which absorbed the flavour of the foods it was being cooked with. There were even proprietary brands, such as Beanfeast, which offered a complete dehydrated meal, simple enough to reconstitute and cook. Varieties included curry, chili and spaghetti sauces.
Nutritional awareness and the ever popular idea of losing weight were also pushing for less meat in the diet as a way of cutting animal fat consumption. Less dairy and more vegetable and plant protein was their mantra.
Meanwhile, vegetarianism was also becoming more mainstream, so there were further demands for non-animal products, and a whole range of meat substitute products were coming onto the market, all made from this perfect ingredient.
Those who for ethical reasons found it distasteful to consume animal flesh could now enjoy burgers and sausages made from soy.
Many people were also consuming soy without even realising it. Lecithin was being used as an emulsifier in a wide range of prepared foods. It made things more palatable. If you check labels on canned and packaged goods, you will often find lecithin listed. It is also found in one of the most consumed comfort foods in a lot of peoples lives - chocolate. It also gained popularity as a supplement to assist weight loss.
So, even without realising it, hundreds of thousands of people were happily consuming small or larger amounts of lecithin on a daily basis.
In the 21st century, many of the housewives and mothers of the 1970's are women in their 50's or older; they have either gone through, or are in various stages of menopause. For some, who shy away from the idea of using drugs made from the urine of pregnant mares to alleviate their hot flashes and otehr menopausal symptoms, natural soy products seem to offer the perfect answer. Advertisements, on the television, show carefree women enjoying lives made easier by these and leaving behind the maladies suffered by their predecessors.
So what is my point?
Unfortunately, all this healthy eating has a downside. I am one of an ever enlarging circle of 50+ year old women who are now suffering from thyroid problems ... and one of the biggest culprits aggravating the thyroid into acting up is soy protein.
How can this be? How can something that we were all thinking was doing our bodies good, actually have been making us sick?
I am now on a Synthroid drug, Levoxyl, yet even on .75mg dosage, my testing still shows borderline for underactive thyroid, and even now occasionally, the drug still causes my heart to race. I began on .5mg dosage, for a while first, in order to get my body accustomed to the drug. I will probably now be taking it for the rest of my life.
On the plus side, it is helping me lose the 100+lbs that I put on over a 16 month period almost 20 years ago, and in speaking to others who have had simiar problems of rapid weight gain and a later underactive thryoid diagnosis, this seems to be one of the benefits of treatment. A slow weight loss over a period of time.
One lady reported that both she and her sister had gained weight for no reason, all of a sudden. When they were diagnosed as suffering from underactive thyroid, and placed on Synthroid, both lost weight without any change in their diet or activity levels. This lady reported a 75lb loss in a 2 year period, adn her sister lost 45lbs in only a few months.
On the other hand, my 67 year old mother has had numerous problems and after having her dosage raised again and again, is now on medication to slow her thyroid activity as she is now having to eat constantly and is unable to keep any weight on.
Researchers might tend to point to the fact that since mothers adn daughters, or siblings, get the disease that it is an hereditary disease. I feel in my case and my mother's, that is is something dietary, and that we ate ourselves into a problem by our over consumption of TVP and other soy-based products.
It is too late for my mother and me now, and for thousands of others, but I feel that women need to be made aware of the risks and can then make their own choices. There should eb labels on soy products, and foods containing soy, warning of the possible effects of long terms use, so that women can research this and decide if it is a risk they are willing to take.
Now that you have read this, what can you do to find out more? For starters, talk to your doctor and ask them what they know about this. You can also go online to do further research. Some useful addresses are:
The Mayo Clinic
The Swedish Medical Center
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
American Thyroid Association
Thyroid Foundation of America, Inc.