Soy Can Cause Migraines

After I posted that tofu made me stupid — made me slower on a reaction-time test — a reader named Ann, who lives in Florida, said she had discovered that her migraine headaches were caused by soy. How she discovered this:

I was 49 years old and in that hot flashes stage of life, had read that soy could help alleviate them and tried a soy capsule not at a meal, immediately noticed sinus pressure and itchiness.

So I started reading all labels and eliminated soy from my diet and my migraines and sinus headaches went away! The hot flashes eventually went away on their own. I was losing whole days every month to the migraines. Every now and then the soy sneaks in at a restaurant but not as bad as before. Whenever anyone says they have migraines I always suggest looking at soy. Regretfully my daughter has the same issue, but she has way fewer headaches after eliminating soy.

I used to blame a lot of my headaches on allergies, never thinking it could be something I was eating. At age 60 now, my cholesterol numbers are excellent and I weigh 122 pounds when so many of my friends are overweight.

I asked how long it had taken to discover this.

I had been having migraines for years, 10-20, but in the mid 90s they got worse (could have coincided with more soy in food).  Saw a doctor but he just prescribed imitrex which helped but did not prevent them. He never suggested looking for a food cause. It was dumb luck or divine intervention that I tried that soy capsule in 2001 or 2002. I am often amazed at how much better I feel health wise since then. Since soy is in so much processed food my diet is very basic “real” food. Raw fruits and veggies, plain nuts, fresh meat, real cheese, eggs, yogurt, any desserts I make from scratch with real butter. I’m always excited when I find a cracker that doesn’t have soy since that’s usually my bread substitute.

Let me repeat part of that: A doctor she saw because of migrains did not suggest trying to find an environmental cause. The same thing happened to a woman I wrote about for Boing Boing. Her doctor just prescribed one drug after another. Her migraines turned out to be caused by cleaning products. Not knowing that migraines often have environmental causes is like not knowing the germ theory of disease.

Few soy eaters realize the dangers of soy, as far as I can tell. I wrote to one of them, Virginia Messina, a nutritionist who has said “there is no reason to believe that eating soyfoods is harmful to brain aging.” She has not replied.

A long list of possible migraine triggers (from the UC Berkeley health service) does not list soy, although it does mention soy sauce. It says soy milk should be safe. In a 2006 interview,  one headache doctor recommended avoiding all soy. In the comments to this, a woman says:

SOY is the biggest trigger for my migraines.  For years I suffered daily from migraines but after watching EVERYTHING I eat and reading all labels and avoiding SOY as best I can I am doing better.  The biggest problem is that SOY is in everything!!!!  I think one day they will find out how bad it is for us.

Imagine that. Putting something that damages the brain in everything.

3 Responses to “Soy Can Cause Migraines”

  1. Crystal Says:

    It may be worth noting that soy was one of the first things to be genetically modified, or so I’ve been told. That might be why it’s being put into so much, if they developed cheap and pest resistant varieties with high yields, the usual aim of any GM program. For that reason I like to avoid all but the organic, non GM versions.
    Another crop I believe is modified is corn, since, having loved it and eaten it frequently growing up, suddenly in the mid 90s I found it was not digesting properly, if at all, and causing issues because of it. Funnily enough, when I find organic heirloom varieties, I have no such problems and it’s like when I enjoyed it as a kid again.

    Seth: very interesting point.

  2. M J B Says:

    wheat > leaky gut= soy > leaky vessels??? Especially if GMO soy. I try to avoid all GMO grains and I gave up wheat several years ago and my GERD disappeared
    permanently in just two weeks! I now buy flour from a company that uses only
    organic ancient Einkhorn wheat. I still eat very little of my home made bread.

  3. Jenny Says:

    A coeliac (therefore not eating gluten anyway), 2 years ago I developed a serious inner ear infection, and was put onto IV augmentin and ppi. Within 48 hours I was reacting to soy in mayonnaise, with immense stomach bloating. I was going from a flat stomach to looking as if I was 6 months pregnant, in 20 – 40 mins, and it was taking at least 30 hours to go down.

    It took me long time to realise it was the soy – I kept thinking it was the egg to start with.

    I still react to soy, but now it’s as if it were gluten – causing stomach cramps for days and some bloating. The only variant that does not cause a problem is Japanese fermented soy sauce – it can’t be some cheap substitute. I don’t eat it very often though – I suspect if I had it regularly I would react more.