Soy and Thyroid, Probiotic Side Effects, Bladder Infections

May 16, 2010 3 min read

Oy, the Soy!

There has been a long-standing debate among health care providers as to whether or not soy impacts the thyroid gland negatively. Even in the alternative world of medicine the debate is heated. Some doctors tout soy as a super-food that will cure hot flashes, build bones and reduce breast cancer risk. Such claims are simply not supported by scientific evidence.

Why would soy harm the thyroid?

Soy contains phytoestrogens and too much estrogen is thought to lower thyroid function. In and around menopause women are especially at risk of developing hypothryoidism. Prior to menopause, women stop ovulating at every menstrual cycle until they stop ovulating altogether and reach menopause (defined as the cessation of menstruation for one year). When a woman ovulates she produces progesterone. If she doesn’t ovulate, no progesterone is produced. This leads to an imbalance of estrogen relative to progesterone or estrogen dominance. Now add a lot of soy to this picture and the thyroid gets a huge hit of estrogen.  

And what do you, the consumer, do when you are faced with yet another controversy? Is there a middle ground where soy is a healthy food choice for some?

These days soy has taken over supermarket shelves for the vegan and vegetarian crowd. Soy cheese, tofu turkey, soy drinks, soy yogurt, soy protein bars, even soy lattes! Some people ingest huge amounts of soy food, and that may be the problem. I am not aware of any culture that consumes such large daily amounts of soy products. Even in Okinawa where people live long healthy lives, soy is only a small amount of their diet.

I recommend no soy foods for hypothyroid patients, at least for a period of time.

So, while there are disagreements about whether soy is a true health food or toxic to your thyroid, keep in mind that if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism, it is worth a try to stop soy and see if you feel better.

Here are my recommendations:

  • If you do have hypothyroidism, discontinue soy products for 3 months to see if that helps balance your system.
  • If you do eat soy foods stick with fermented soy – tempeh, miso, tamari, natto. These forms are more easily digestible.
  • Make sure soy products are organic and not GMOs (genetically modified organisms)!
  • Keep in mind that the thyroid gland is positively and negatively impacted by the foods we eat. Eat healthy foods and avoid processed carbs and raw cruciferous vegetables.
  • Exercise and do your best to decrease unnecessary stress in your life.
  • Some people are allergic to soy.  Pay attention to your body and see if you experience gastrointestinal upset after eating soy.

Probiotics Side Effects

Probiotics are those healthy critters (bacteria) that live in our small intestine. Many doctors recommend that patients take probiotics following a course of antibiotics, which kill off the friendly bacteria along with the targeted bacterial infection.  Often people take a probiotic supplement because they have a deficiency or need help with a digestive disorder, or they take the probiotics as part of a supplement program.

However, what is less known is that some people experience side effects. Usually, they are gastrointestinal symptoms including bloating and excess gas. This is due to an overactive immune system against an influx of bacteria—even though they're the good guys. If you think this pertains to you stop the probiotics and see how you feel.

Forskolin for bladder infections

Researchers at Duke University now believe that bacterial infections of the bladder can return even after antibiotics. It seems that the bacteria retreat into the deeper cells and can cause recurring bladder infections. Forskolin is an herbal extract from the Indian coleus plant. The Duke study showed that forskolin flushes out the deeper infection making a follow-up treatment with antibiotics more successful. Many companies will offer this herb; however it is best to stick to trusted companies to insure you're receiving quality products.

However, so far no study has shown that forskolin will work for a serious bladder infection. If a bladder infection gets out of hand it can lead to kidney damage. Work closely with your health care provider if you wish to try forskolin alone without antibiotics.