I wrote this over the holidays, but I never got around to posting it then. I still really want to share these thoughts with you though, so I’m posting it now.
The short version of the story: Soy and I don’t get along.
The long version of the story…
If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I have a slight pumpkin pie obsession. I made at least 10 pies over the holidays, and devoured them all myself. Instead of waiting for bananas to ripen for my banana pumpkin pie or cooking up a stove-top pumpkin pudding, I got lazy and turned to the simplicity of silken tofu.
During November and December I ate way, way too many tofu pumpkin pies, and finally my body had had enough.
Whispering, telling, SHOUTING! Our bodies try to be subtle–little hints here and there. We don’t always listen. My body whispered to me in the form of little doubts and mental reminders that soy should be a sometimes, not a staple.
When we ignore the gentle nudges, our bodies become more adamant with gentle shoves and shakes. My face had a few mini breakouts and my tummy wasn’t feeling too spectacular.
If we continue on in our unperceptive ways, our bodies resort to shouting at our seemingly deaf ears. After two days of feeling like a bloated balloon, I had had enough of this shouting match and was ready to listen to what it had to say.
My body reacted to soy with terrible bloating and very poor digestive flow. Soy sensitivity can cause a number of symptoms including gas, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, or diarrhea (a.k.a. nothing pretty). My discomfort came on slowly. For a week or so I didn’t notice a thing. But eventually all that tofu caught up with me. Here’s a helpful article about soy sensitivity if you’re curious.
The good news is that it may have taken a couple of weeks to trigger my soy-related symptoms, but after just two days of soylessness I already felt SO much better! You can be sure I’ll be staying away from the tofu for a while (or forever).
I know many others who have adopted a soy-free diet and feel much better after leaving behind those little beans. For some reason I just never thought I was one of those people. My body had other ideas though, and I need to respect it and be perceptive to it.
Don’t fear the fermented beans! I didn’t write this with the intention of making you afraid of ever eating tofu again. Many people can eat soy without angering their digestive systems, and even I could probably eat it from time to time without feeling too bad. Moderation is probably a good idea when it comes to soy products, and it’s definitely something that I was forgetting in my pie-gobbling fury.
Is it restriction? I’ve heard people say that cutting out foods like gluten and soy when you don’t have a true allergy is just another form of food restriction. I understand that perspective, but on the other hand, when I feel bloated then I don’t really want to eat anything. Cutting out soy seems to be optimal for my digestion and overall physical well-being. I’d rather avoid one food and be able to eat all the others with more enjoyment than feel bloated and uncomfortable constantly. In the end I think this choice is enabling me, not restricting me.
I also don’t think that soy is in any way necessary for a healthy diet when there are so many other plant-based protein sources out there.
The true moral of this soy-filled story is to be aware of what your body is saying before it has to shout at you.
Since this was in December, I’ve now been soy-free for over a month and still feeling good. I’ve also been exploring the gluten-free thing, and that seems to make me feel better as well. So in the pursuit of optimal digestion, my diet and recipes will be shifting in the gluten-free and soy-free direction.
And my friend Rebecca (a gluten-free pro) over at StrengthandSunshine.com recently posted an awesome guide to gluten-free flours with a DIY oat flour how-to, so if you happen to be a gluten-free newb like me, or just GF-curious, then you should definitely check it out. Plus all her recipes are gluten and soy free!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on food sensitivities. Have you ever ignored your body’s clues because you really wanted that slice of bread, or that scoop of ice cream, or that piece of pie?
Rebecca Pytell says
Why didn’t you tell me this!? Well you know I’m a Celiac and have a severe soy allergy. When I have soy in large amounts like tofu dishes I used to make, my throat closes up, when I have it in smaller amounts (in processed things), my stomach freaks out. I think I was actually "sadder" finding out about this allergy than having to go gluten-free, hahahaha! Soy is such an odd food too. I totally support eating fresh edamame and fermented soy. But other processed and modified forms I don’t think are very beneficial in the first place. I was still a "real" soy newbie when I discovered my allergy anyway and never even got to try tempeh! And soy is in everything! Even packaged tea bags. It’s a tricky one, but I’m so glad you’re feeling better! I’m always here for you my friend! XOXO(P.S. thank you for sharing my post!!!!!) <3
Natalie Thomas says
I’ve just been experimenting with it all for a while so I could be sure it was the culprit before writing about it. I definitely don’t have that severe of a reaction, for me it just builds up slowly. I would probably be fine with small amounts because I used to eat it occasionally, but why? I’ve found that soy lecithin and those sorts of things don’t really effect me much. Now I’m agreeing with what you said many posts ago about soy free marshmallows, and I really want someone to invent those because that’s what i miss the most 🙂 haha It just got me thinking that if soy-free can make me feel a lot better then what else is possibly affecting my body negatively? That’s why I’m giving the GF thing a go too. Neither have been too, too hard. I’m coming around to your way of baking/cooking 🙂 Much love to you <3
Make your own marshmallows.
Hi Natalie,I’m so excited to hear that your recipes will be heading in a GF and Soy-free direction! I absolutely love your current recipes, and I am so happy that I found your site – I identify with you on many levels. I’m already vegan and started eliminating most soy products (except for very occasional tempeh and sprouted tofu) when I learned about all the hormone and other effects of GMO, non-organic, non-sprouted/fermented soy. Then, over the holidays, I made my first machine bread recipe which had vital wheat gluten and whole wheat flour in it. For the next few days, I struggled with major headaches/migraines – something that I have been battling on a sliding scale of daily/weekly/bi-weekly for about a decade. Because I hadn’t had bread (accidentally – forgot to buy it!) in about a month until this machine bread, I made a connection and decided to research it. Apparently, many people that do not fall under the Celiac’s diagnosis and are turned away by doctors, still have wheat/gluten sensitivities that show themselves as "unrelated" symptoms like headaches, foggy mind, joint pain, extremity numbness, etc. (http://www.celiaccentral.org/non-celiac-gluten-sensitivity/introduction-and-definitions/). That was all I needed to see in order to cut wheat and gluten out of my diet, especially with all of the fabulous GF flour alternatives, which are way more nutrient dense! I have only had one headache since the "gluten-induced meltdown of 2015," and to me, that is proof positive of the above information!Also, I can’t remember exactly where I read it, but it is possible that the genetics of modern wheat and gluten, whether from splicing genes or just cross-breeding naturally, have changed too fast for the current state of human digestion – which is why there are so many more occurrences of these allergies/sensitivities, especially in the highly processed Western world.
Natalie Thomas says
I’m so glad you like the recipes, and that you can relate to the nonofficial intolerance thing! My reactions to various foods like soy and wheat always seem to be digestive related, but the headaches and migraines sound terrible too. It’s awesome that you made the connection so quickly, it took me a while to realize what was causing my issues. I love tuning into my body and making these connections. There are SO many alternatives out there for wheat, and I am thoroughly enjoying experimenting with GF flours and such. It’s not so hard really, and neither soy nor wheat are at all necessary to be healthy. I haven’t tried any hard-core bread making yet, but the GF muffins and pancakes and cookies I’ve made have all turned out just as good as their glutinous counterparts. I’m definitely not missing wheat one bit!I haven’t researched gluten intolerance as much as the soy, but I never knew there could be so many different symptoms. I think I’ve heard the thing about modern wheat genetics too somewhere sometime, but I don’t remember where either 🙂 hahaThank you so much for sharing, and I’m glad you’re with me on this gluten-free journey! Much love to you <3
That’s interesting, I know many people avoid soy but I never experienced any side effects. I have a maximum of 1 serving of soy a day though. To be honest, my body deals with soy much better than any other legume 😀 so being vegan, I wouldn’t have too many protein alternatives if I left it out. But I’m glad I learned more about soy sensitivity so I can take it into account if anyone in my family experiences those symptoms! Thanks for a great article!Lucie
Natalie Thomas says
It’s great that you’ve experimented enough to know which protein sources work best for you. I was probably consuming a little more than one serving per day, but after a while even that was too much. Having had an eating disorder and restricted my body for many years my digestive system isn’t the strongest either. It seems like food and diet is often a matter of trial and error 🙂 Thanks for reading <3
Being Vegan you should know by now that protein requirements is overated.. Your body gets all the protein it needs from all whole plant based foods (Tofu and most soy are cooked to death and processed to death anyway) 🙂
I wish you success on your Journey
Bianca @ ElephantasticVegan says
Great article on learning to listening to one’s body 🙂 I don’t think I have any problems with soy, but I’ve been reducing my soy intake anyways. Moderation is key, so I started to drink only nut-based milks (I love almond milk). I don’t like soy milk as much as nut milks anyways, so that’s an easy one. I eat tofu only once every week oder every few weeks and sometimes tempeh. This is working for me now pretty well. According to a breath test, I do have a very mild fructose intolerance, so I’m trying to reduce my fructose intake, but this ones really difficult because I don’t want to give up on ANY vegetables or fruits 🙂
Natalie Thomas says
Thanks Bianca! I agree, it’s all about moderation and not eating too much of any one thing. It’s just fascinating how different each of our bodies are. I love almond milk too, it’s my go to. If I was a good vegan cook I would make my own…but I don’t 🙂 hahaOh wow avoiding fructose would be SO hard for me! I love my fruits so much! But I have found that my body isn’t really a fan of a fruit-based diet anyway, so I’m trying to reduce my fruit intake a bit as well and focus more on grains and cooked starches. It always sounds much harder to reduce or eliminate foods from your diet than it actually ends up being 😀
Hadel Toma says
I live off soy and potatoes and my body feels so good.
That’s awesome, I’m so happy you found what works for YOU 🙂
This makes so much sense! I’ve been having concerns about soy being related to my bloating and I’ve gone on-off it the past few months. I think I definitely feel better when I’m off it. Currently gone a little overboard with three soy lattes a day (I drink a lot of coffee!) and I think this is what happened to you! Slow build up and then just painful bloating. Top left side of my abdomen hurts (small intestine) so I think it’s an allergy. Thank you for writing this – hits the nail on the head! I’m so sad that I have to give up soy now though as I’m lactose intolerant too 😭
YES! It sounds like you are experiencing something very similar to what I went through. It definitely seems to be a cumulative effect with me and soy as well, which makes it harder to pinpoint the problem sometimes. I am so happy you found this post and it resonated with you. But almond milk is SO yummy and easy to switch too, that’s what I make all my matcha lattes with. Good luck finding soy-free alternatives and I hope you feel much better soon <3
Thank you for the reply Natalie! I used to make my own Almond Milk and that was delicious, but tedious. Definitely time to switch back. The cumulative soy issue is so interesting because I too don’t have a problem with small amounts and then bam! Bloat city. Thanks for the post! x
Laura Palomo Baena says
I found your post because after a couple of days eating some tofu (cooked and spiced), my stomach was so bloated that I didn’t know what could be until I realised the only thing I was eating those days that I usually don’t eat was tofu. So I’ll try not to consume too regularly or try tempeh, etc.
Thank you for the post!
I am so happy you figured it out! Yep, it can definitely get you…always an experiment with food😊
I’m gluten-free in Japan.
We have amazing roasted sweet potatoes everywhere here. Like at every convenience store. I enjoy mine by dipping in a creamy tofu or soy yogurt. This is a daily obsession and means I’m consuming a lot of soy.
I would prefer to dip the sweet potatoes in Greek yogurt, but I try to be dairy-free as well. I find the dairy makes me gassy and bloated.
Anyway I’m still super bloated all the time and after reading your old article it seems the soy may be the culprit.
Thanks for the info. Only now need something new to dip my potatoes into!!!!!!! What will it be…
It’s definitely worth a try! I find diet/health is always one big experiment, so good luck to you and I hope you can figure it out. Do you have good dairy-free yogurts there by chance? They are becoming more common and really tasty imo so maybe give that a try 🙂
Jyneal Flad says
This morning I looked up if soy could be giving me stomach aches and your article popped up. I have been a vegan for a year and of course, my favorite of the alternative milks is soy. I have been having symptoms and was hoping it was other parts of my diet, but after cutting those things, I still had issues. I am sad because I will now try at least cutting down on soy 🙁
It could be the soy, definitely something to experiment with! Try almond or cashew milk, I like both even than soy so hopefully one will work for you 🙂
THANK YOU for this post! I recently did a 6-week body challenge and my coach gave us all high-protein meal plans. As a vegan, my only options were tofu, tempeh, or seitan. I can’t cook tempeh or seitan well so I opted for versatile tofu.
Following that meal plan, I ended up eating a block of tofu every day. After four weeks of misery, I had enough. Apparently my coach didn’t know that tofu was made from soy and that soy can wreak havoc on digestion, especially protein digestion. (How ironic – and super fun being the lab rat for that study.)
After being off the meal plan for two weeks, my body is still recovering.
I couldn’t agree with you more – LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! We shouldn’t ignore the signs our body gives us when it’s in distress, and we shouldn’t always listen to those we see as experts.
We are the experts of our bodies.
Joshua Howard says
Great article! Thank you for sharing your experience! I have been avoiding soy for 2 years. It causes the problems with digestion.
It definitely did for me, I’m glad you figured that out for yourself too 🙂
I’ve read this post twice over the last 3 weeks and still have a hard time digesting it. 😉
Tofu has caused the most god awful gas in me. I can’t control it. WHAT’S AN ACTIVE VEGAN TO DO?!
Even the smallest amount is awful. I don’t know that soy milk has the same effect though. Just tofu itself. I have a block of tempeh in the fridge I’m willing to experiment with but I love tofu and I feel like I’ll be missing it more than I ever missed cheese! I’m sad but I know you’re right, we have to listen to our bodies. And right now mine is shouting from the mountain tops! And I just a tofu taco before this. Is seitan going to be okay? I haven’t had a issue in the past, that I noticed at least. Maybe it’s just a matter of time. I’ve been vegan since 2012, and not being able to eat tofu honestly feels like a game changer. We’ll see… one day at a time trying to transition away from it.
p.s. tofu pumpkin pie sounds fantastic! 🤤
Aw I’m sorry you are going through this! But yes listening to what our bodies tell us is always the priority imo even if the transition is hard. I don’t really have any great substitutes for tofu, but perhaps just get your protein from other sources. Good luck with experimenting, we are so much more adaptable than we think and I hope with time you won’t miss it😊
Lynn Chapman says
Glad to see this article, I’m not allergic too anything that I know but I tried eating tofu and immediately my stomach felt horrible. I felt bad for two days after that but what’s weird is I can eat soy sauce and not feel bad at all but. I tried eating tofu several times same reaction. So weird. Thanks for this article very informative
Soy can definitely be a testy one, your response sounds even more acute and sudden than mine. Our bodies are alway talking to us, just a matter of learning to listen 🙂
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You might peek at Yahoo’s home page and see how they create news titles
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Vickie Lopez says
Thank you for your article! It popped up when I did a search on Soy Curls and gas/bloating. I just started using Soy Curls in a few recipes and fell in love with the texture. I’m also guilty of using a lot of tofu in my cooking (puddings, tofu scrambles) and noticed after tofu scrambles that I had a little gas and was going to the bathroom a lot. When I made a few dishes using the Soy Curls, I noticed the gas again and more bloating and going to the bathroom. It dawned on me that I might have an issue with soy and it sure sounds like I do based on what I’m reading. I hate giving up my recipes since I (and my husband) enjoy the dishes with tofu and soy curls. Would you recommend me just backing down on the frequency? Do I need to give them up forever? Is there an enzyme supplement that I can take (like Beano) that would help?
I’m reading this on my toilet because I ate tofu for a few days in a row and I think I’m dying…oh God, this is bad🤦♀️
Oh no! Hope you feel better soon, and yes maybe try avoiding the soy for a bit😬
After eating three meals in two days laden with tofu and tempeh and then feeling terrible last night I finally googled my issue…glad to have found this. I don’t loooove tofu but it is a nice alternative to beans every once in a while but after yesterday…I can say goodbye and thank it for its service…back to black beans!
It’s not the easiest food on some stomachs, sorry you had to learn that the hard way but I am glad you realized the issue! Ha hope the legumes work out much better Stacy🤗🤗
I sorta had suspicions about soy milk… But I thought, nah, it must be something else causing me problems. Well, I just had glass of my favorite soy milk (on a completely empty stomach), and within a minute I had pretty strong stomach pains, along with a concert of gurgling sounds coming from my innards. On a notion, I thought I’d Google and see if there was anything about soy milk causing digestive woes. I thought maybe some ‘rare allergy’ stuff might come up….but woah! It’s very clear that soy ain’t friendly to lots of people.
Just a few months back I had to cut out (my staple) almond milk. I just happened to stop drinking it for a week, and immediately my thoughts and dreams became so placid!! For years my dreams were ‘loud’, virtually psychedelic chaos. All these years, I thought it was just me, but I did a little research and it seems almonds have stimulant properties. I don’t know what’s in them, but since I took them out of my diet my sleep, dreams and daytime thoughts have been so much more mellow and clear. (What a Godsend! I haven’t felt like that in years!!!) I guess I was just over-consuming almonds – not just as milk, but in gnola bars, roasted almonds etc.
So, since I’m also lactose intolerant, I guess it’s water, teas and juices from here on out….
I just ate a whole bunch of tofu today, and came home from work and took a nap. I havent done that for a while. I felt so fatigued and felt like I got hit by a truck. I also had gas, and was bloated. Going to definitely stay away from it for a while.
Definitely could be the soy/tofu! Maybe experiment with it, I hope you feel better❤️
I get bad bloating and cramping with insane gas if I eat silken tofu… I seem to be able to tolerate sprouted. I had dental surgery and thought I would try the silken since it’s so soft… I’m currently dying🥺 big mistake
Hi thanks for sharing all of these posts. I’m thinking tofu may be my culprit also. Wondering besides the lower G.I. distress, did you or does anyone else get wicked heartburn from tofu? 🤔
Trying to find the trigger food….ugh. Thank you
I didn’t experience that myself, but we are all different so absolutely possible! Its all part of the digestive system. Hope you can figure it out Linny 🙂
So glad you posted this. I get the cumulative thing too which makes it easier to disbelieve. “But I could eat it last week! Must be something else”. But no, soya is the culprit. I’d love to know the mechanism! Used to be able to eat soya every day but not these days. What’s changed??? Bodies are too unpredictable for my liking!
I’m so glad I came across this article. I have basically been living a mainly soy free life for years. I did the vegetarian and then vegan thing in the early 2000’s (when options were no where near as amazing as today!) but I did the seitan, tofu,soy milk alternative because that was simple to find then. I’ve never enjoyed milk, unless it was in a recipe, or added, but never straight.
It’s been probably 15+ years since I considered the vegan thing, and have actually been on a more plant based diet which has been wonderful for my body. (Soy & mainly gluten free.) I love the nut and coconut milks.
Recently I was looking for meat alternatives (instead of making my own vegan patties), and I found the soy protein chicken. Though I want to keep it soy free, I figured what the hell, I’ll try it.
The past two nights I’ve felt this bloating & yes, gas- and it’s sucks! I’m glad I now know the culprit, as I suspected. No soy for this bod.
Thanks for the article!
I will highly recommend homemade black bean, millet & quinoa ‘burgers’- I made those for a week and felt great, plus millet is a wonderful source of protein. No bloats there.
Every Body handles foods differently, read the labels, stay tuned into how your body feels after eating and eat what makes you feel best- that’s what I’m sticking’ to!
Elissa Weiss says
Thanks for article about tofu and soy. I recently made a self discovery that I could not tolerate soy. I had numerous attacks with painful spasms and uncontrollable explosive diarrhea. Whenever I back tracked it was a food with soy. My GI and nutritionist agreed. Now I avoid it like the plague and read labels on everything. I would like more info on soy intolerance.
Gary Boutin says
So where is your soy pie recipe, I can’t find it. Can you share it with me.
That was another blogger’s recipe, I honestly do not remember which one anymore it was so many years ago!