What's The Deal With Soy

rena williams wellness

Ohh the noise. 

There’s a lot of it isn’t there?! It seems to be a bit of a controversial food, that soy. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? What does it do to your thyroid? Is it disrupting your hormones? How much consumption is too much?


How do you navigate the aisles + those cleverly worded marketing labels to decide which soy products, if any, are right for you?


Soy in the Market

According to the US Department of Agriculture, 94% of all soy grown in the US is genetically modified. In Canada, that percentage is slightly lower, hovering around 90%. 

Genetically modified foods, including soy, contribute to many health issues. More recently, a particular herbicide used in genetically modified crops has several studies showing its link to many diseases and disorders such as depression, autism, digestive conditions, inflammatory disorders and auto-immune disorders, like celiac disease and gluten sensitivity.  Glyphosate, this herbicide, has not been found in organically grown soy.


Soy is one of the most heavily processed foods on the market. Because it's cheap to produce and can be made into many additives + variations like soy isolate protein and soy protein concentrate, soy lecithin, soy flour, it’s used in the manufacturing of many food products. You’re likely to find these variations in things like imitation meat, protein bars, veggie burgers, conventional chocolate, boxed cereal, conventional ice cream, tofu and most soy milk.  


Soy and Your Health

Soybeans naturally contain enzyme inhibitors like phytic acid. These inhibitors make absorption + assimilation of nutrients difficult. If these anti-nutrients aren’t broken down in food preparation, absorbing the nutritional nourishment of your meal will be extremely limited.


Soybeans need to be soaked, cooked and fermented for these anti-nutrients to be broken down as much as possible. Fermentation increases the bioavailability of the nutrients and minimizes adverse effects that soy is known for. Things like hormone disruption, fertility issues, digestive issues and nutrient malabsorption. 


Are There Health Building Forms of Soy?

Absolutely. Soybeans alone are not necessarily a bad food. It depends on the quality of the seed (organic, non-GMO) and how the soy is prepared for food use - soaked, cook + fermented. Given this, the types of fermented soy you’ll typically find available are: 

tempeh, miso, natto and tamari

These fermented soy products are made with minimal processing. This helps improve their digestibility, and the minimal processing keeps soy more in line with the whole food philosophy of food being as close to its natural form as possible. 


What About Soy Milk?

The majority of soy milk on the market (including organic) is made from the processed forms of soy, including isolate proteins and concentrates. Also, the soy is typically not fermented. So the breaking down of anti-nutrients to improve nutrient absorption isn’t happening.  


If you choose to buy soy milk, read the ingredient list. It should be super short - filtered water + whole organic soybeans. Always look for whole organic soybeans, so you know it’s made from the whole bean rather than a form of soybean. There’s only one soy milk company I’ve found that meets this criteria. Their ingredient list is super short - water + organic whole soybeans. Their website feels pretty transparent. They discuss how they address the enzyme inhibitor issue, where their beans are sourced, how the beans are quality controlled and tested. 


Here’s The Takeaway

If you are choosing to eat soy make sure it’s organic, non-GMO and fermented. Eat it in moderation. In my experience with clients and studies I’ve read, those who’ve had adverse effects to soy were consuming non-fermented forms and consuming it daily. 


Now I’d love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on soy? Love it? Hate it? Where are you on the soy fence? Share with me in the comments below. 


What Causes Eczema?

What Causes Eczema

part two of a four-part blog series


Nothing is more disconcerting than feeling self-conscious and (literally!) uncomfortable in your own skin.


I didn’t know why it was happening. I just knew that I wanted it to stop. Without clear-cut answers on the cause, I felt like I was grasping at straws trying anything and everything to make my eczema go away. 


Hippocrates said all disease begins in the gut and in my studies over the years I’ve recognized that there’s a lot of weight to that statement.


One of the things I wished I would’ve known when I was struggling with eczema is what causes it, or even knowing how closely it’s linked to the health of my gut.


Today I wanna share my insights with you. So you might not have to suffer as much as I once did. 


Healthy Guts + Eczema

We have about 100 trillion bacteria in our body. Most of this bacteria lives in our gut. Having the right balance and ratio of good (friendly) to bad bacteria is important. This balance determines how well we process and break down food to fully absorb vitamins + minerals that our cells need to thrive. How well we break down and process food shows up in many areas of our health, including the health of our skin. At the root of this, a healthy gut balance supports a strong immune system, digestive system and our ability to manage inflammation. All three play a critical role in healthy skin. 


These good bacteria line our intestinal tract and are key at preventing our digestive cells from damage. One of the most common forms of that cellular damage is what’s called leaky gut syndrome. 


Strong Gut Lining + Eczema

To help keep our digestive lining strong, we have what are called tight junctions. These junctions are bonds that hold our digestive cells together, creating an impermeable barrier. This barrier comes in really handy when our digestive system is at work (when we’re eating). At certain times this gut lining can become weak or permeable. When your gut lining becomes permeable, you start to experience symptoms associated with leaky gut syndrome. For many, this manifests as skin issues, including eczema. 


How Does Your Gut Become Permeable? 

Think of your gut lining like a window screen. When it’s properly installed, apart from air and dust, very little is coming through that screen. Imagine if the screen had a tear or hole in it. The screen is now permeable, allowing flies and other irritants to come in. This window screen is like your intestinal lining. When the lining is permeable, larger undigested food particles end up in your blood stream. Your immune system then goes on high alert, attacking these irritants because it treats those particles as foreign. And they are in a sense because undigested food particles don’t belong in your bloodstream.


Apart from genetics and environmental triggers like pollution, physical or emotional trauma, a leaky gut is the third and the most important factor that determines whether an autoimmune disease like eczema will manifest. 


What Causes Your Gut Lining to Break Down?

There are many factors. This is why the cause of each eczema case is challenging (but not impossible) to pinpoint and successfully treat. The key triggers to a leaky gut are chronic stress, dietary choices, antibiotics and other medications and allergies.


Our brain and gut are in constant communication. What happens to one affects the other. Stress disrupts our good to bad bacteria ratio in the gut. So if you’re stressing about an event, whether it’s something current or an old event stuck on replay in your mind, those stressful thoughts will impact the integrity and health of your gut just as much as your food choices. 


When your gut becomes permeable, you absorb less vitamins and minerals, which also contributes to the problem of eczema. We need vitamins and minerals to have a healthy immune + digestive system and manage inflammation which will support gorgeous healthy skin. 


Is it Possible to Repair a Leaky Gut?

It totally is. First recognize and then remove the things that are irritating your body, while your immune system is in that high alert, overreactive mode. These irritants can be anything from high stress environments or people, certain food items, etc.


Then to improve and strengthen your skin long term, rebuilding and rebalancing your gut health are also important. These steps will minimize eczema being an uncomfortable and problematic part of your everyday. 


Next up in parts three and four of this blog post series I’ll share what to do and what not to do when dealing with eczema. 


In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Was there an insight that hit home for you? Share with me in the comments below.


To healthy gorgeous skin,

read part one of the four-part series here
read part three of the four-part series here
read part four of the four-part series here