PCOS can be boiled down to a problem with the body’s endocrine system that’s both genetic and environmental…and absolutely not your fault. The medical community doesn’t know much about PCOS and where it comes from, unfortunately, due to a lack of funding. And, of course, without a good understanding of the problem, there isn’t a quick one-stop-shop cure.
So, many Cysters like us are left with challenging symptoms like irregular periods, infertility, acne, hair loss, fatigue, mood swings, weight gain, and more. Luckily, you CAN reverse your PCOS and heal your symptoms naturally and that’s exactly what we discuss here at PCOS Weight Loss!
One of the main factors that can help you achieve symptom relief is changing up your diet. On The Cysterhood App, we have hundreds of delicious, PCOS-friendly meals and snacks with mindful ingredients. You’ll see there that I all the recipes are gluten and dairy free, so lots of members ask about other potentially inflammatory foods, like soy.
The answer is trickier than it seems. Many boast the health benefits of soybeans, but for women with PCOS soy, for some, could have adverse effects that could worsen symptoms. Here are my thoughts on soy and PCOS:
Soy and PCOS
When you start the process of healing your PCOS naturally, diet is a big piece of the puzzle. As you’re auditing your diet and food choices, your milk sources may come up with some red flags. Your protein sources as well, especially if you’re vegetarian. The urge may be to reach for soy milk or tofu, but that may not be the best choice for everybody.
What Is Soy?
Soybeans are a nutrient-dense protein source used mostly as milk or meat alternatives. For people on vegetarian diets, soy is usually a part of their daily routine as a high-quality protein source. However, there has been a lot of controversy about the risks vs. benefits of consuming a lot of soy.
Food Sources of Soy
- Soy Sauce
- Soy Milk
- Tofu and Other Meat Alternatives
- Soy Flour
- Soy Nuts
Is Soy Bad For PCOS?
There seems to be research that suggests that soy is both helpful for women with PCOS and harmful for women with PCOS. So, which is it? Of course, every body is a little different and you should always do your own research and test out what feels right for your body.
This is because there is mounting evidence that soy can disrupt your hormone balance, specifically your estrogen levels, if you cannot eliminate it properly.
There are other concerns for soy and PCOS I’ll list below, but, as I said, look at the research yourself, speak to your doctor, and consider eating soy in moderation, if you choose to add it to your diet. You can find our favorite protein sources and PCOS-friendly foods on The Cysterhood App. A PCOS diet does not have to be bland and boring!
Downsides of Soy For Women With PCOS
GMOs and Over-processing
One of the main problems of soy foods is how they’re produced. Soybeans are often genetically modified, making them GMOs. I try to steer clear of genetically modified foods (of course, who could be perfect at that?!) because research shows they usually have fewer nutrients and the chemicals could be endocrine disruptors.
Beyond the GMO issue, soy products are often over-processed. They can contain a lot of additives and fillers, along with salt, sugar, and unhealthy fats. If you do end up keeping soy in your diet, make sure you’re choosing less processed versions.
You can learn more about my thoughts on soy and vegetarian diets for PCOS here.
Soybeans themselves are thought to also be endocrine disruptors. Soy isoflavones have a similar structure to estrogen. Because of this, soy nutrients can bind to estrogen receptors and cause estrogenic activity. Since some Cysters have estrogen dominance already, and if you know you do, I don’t recommend you eat soy products or other foods that could raise your estrogen levels.
Learn more about removing endocrine disruptors from your lifestyle and diet in this episode of our podcast A Cyster and Her Mister!
GI Problems and Inflammation
In my experience, many women with PCOS have a soy sensitivity. Much like dairy and gluten, soy intake can trigger an autoimmune reaction. This then, can lead to inflammation, digestive problems, and an overall reduction of gut health.
Since other parts of PCOS contribute to gut issues too, try to understand what your triggering foods are by process of elimination. Symptoms of poor gut health could include headaches, joint pain, weight gain, food sensitivities, constipation, diarrhea, and more. In our post about the relationship between gut health and PCOS, you can find more helpful info on this exact topic!
Reduced Thyroid Function
There are four main types of PCOS (find out yours HERE), and one of those involves an underperforming thyroid. (AKA hypothyroidism.) In fact, women with PCOS are much more likely to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism than a healthy person. You can learn more about the connection between PCOS and hypothyroidism here.
But, what does this have to do with soy? Some studies show that those who consumed soy had a reduction in thyroid function. Of course, as women with PCOS, we want to do everything we can to promote thyroid health. So, regularly eating something that could potentially lower your thyroid gland’s power may not be best for your PCOS, especially if you have hypothyroid..
Research has found that soybeans may actually be an antinutrient. If you’re not familiar with this term, it means that the compounds inside soybeans may actually prevent your body from properly absorbing vitamins and minerals from food. However, cooking soy can help reduce the negative antinutrient effect.
Potential Health Benefits of Soy for Women with PCOS
- Can help lower bad cholesterol levels and raise good cholesterol levels
- May help decrease blood pressure and blood sugar
- May help reduce the risk of heart disease
- Can improve bone health
- Can help improve fertility
- May alleviate menopausal symptoms like hot flashes
- May reduce the risk of cancer
Decide if soy is right for you and your PCOS healing journey using this post!
As you can see, the research is split on whether or not soy is a good choice for women with PCOS. However, if you choose to eat soy, make sure you start small and evaluate how your body reacts. Ensure it doesn’t worsen any symptoms or bring new ones! For more support and information on naturally reversing your PCOS, download the app, browse the rest of the blog, and listen to the A Cyster and Her Mister podcast weekly. As a community, we can overcome PCOS!