Monday, June 24, 2013

Soy protein: A case study

I work with many clients to help them get healthy and to learn what food is best for them personally.  Below is a case study from a client I have been working with for 2 years who wanted to try a cleanse-stye diet that included soy protein shakes.

Client history:

Client began working with me in May 2011.  She was 54 years old and had hip and knee pain whenever she sat for any period of time and did not sleep very well.  Her energy level was also pretty low and she noted feeling "blah".  I recommended the client adopt a paleo diet and instructed the client on foam rolling, stretching, and activation of the appropriate muscles.  We began strength training 2 times a week for 30 minutes a week on top of the foam rolling/stretching/activation program.  Within the first month, her pain was gone and energy levels improved.  She also noted an improvement in her mood and happiness.

Other relevant history:

Client complained of poor sleep and leg cramps while sleeping in late 2012.  I discussed the research on magnesium and she began supplementing with Jigsaw Magnesium w/SRT.  Sleep improved and leg cramps went away.

Client inquired about trying a 3 week cleanse that included soy protein shakes 3 times a day for 1 week, 2 times per day for the next week, and 1 time a day for the last week.  I discussed the issues with the proteins in grains, legumes, and dairy and how soy protein would be a concentrated form that could have deleterious effects, but that they would not be major and going off the soy protein would eliminate any issues.

Client entered our session and stated that she started having intense hip pain whenever she sat or was supine for any period of time.  It was affecting her sleep and she had to take 2 advil to fall asleep.  I asked her when this started and she stated that it started 6 days ago.  I asked her if she started taking the soy protein shakes and she said she had been taking 2 per day for a week.  I asked her if she had experienced any GI distress at any point and she stated that she felt burning in her gut for the first couple of days but it went away.  I asked her if she had consumed the shake yet today and she said yes.  I told her to cease the soy protein shakes and we decided to continue the cleanse with egg protein as she has never had any issue with egg protein.  I followed up with the client by text message the next morning and, when asked if removing the soy helped, she replied, "Amazingly. yes.  I had minimal discomfort last night."  She stated that the discomfort had improved by about 70% that night and 95% within a couple of days.  She said she was surprised it was the protein and that she was only humoring me by stopping it.


It has been my opinion for some time that most people have a dosage of offending proteins their digestive tract can tolerate before they begin to cause problems, particularly autoimmune issues and GI distress.  With processed foods it is very easy to meet most people's tolerance level of the storage proteins in grains and legumes, and the casein in dairy because processed foods are loaded with soy and wheat.  These foods in their natural, unprocessed form either have protective aspects such as fiber that help mitigate the damage the proteins cause or, in the case of milk, the protein (Casein) is not altered in a way that makes it more damaging via pasteurization.  In a concentrated supplement, these proteins seem to be not tolerated well in some people.  In discussions with other clients, I believe any legume source of protein will tend to cause problems, particularly pea protein.  In this instance it appears the soy protein probably triggered some form of autoimmune reaction after a couple of days of shakes at a dosage of 2 times per day.  There is a potential confounder in this analysis as the shake she consumed also contained potassium iodide at an unknown dosage.  Arthritic hip pain has been implicated as a bromide detox symptom and supplementation with potassium iodide has been shown to increase bromide excretion via the urine.  I believe the dosage to be in the 400-600mcg range based on the ingredient list which would provide around 300-500mcg of iodide.  In my experience with iodine, this option cannot be discounted in this case nor can soy's action as a goitrogen.