Food intolerances of all kinds are rampant with the very first frequently becoming apparent when a formula fed infant demonstrates an allergy to commercial milk based formula.
The typical recommendation by a conventional doctor in this case is to put the baby on a soy based formula such as Isomil or ProSobee. About 25% of American babies are fed soy infant formula according to the website of Dr. Sears.
Elemental infant formula might also be suggested, but these are usually reserved for preterm infants and those with specific medical problems such as severe allergies to both milk and soy. Elemental formulas also tend to be foul tasting compared with milk or soy based formula and babies tend to reject them for this reason.
Many parents make the switch to soy formula in haste hoping to ease the digestive discomfort their child is experiencing on milk formulas not realizing the full implications of their decision.
In some cases, parents may never even try a dairy formula at all if a milk allergy already runs in the family. There is no evidence that using soy formula reduces the risk of a dairy allergy later, however. For this reason, the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of soy formula in infants who are potentially allergic to cow’s milk. Milk based formula should still be the first choice even in those situations.
Why Soy Formula is So Dangerous for Babies
The primary problems with soy formula are threefold: trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid and worst of all: phytoestrogens.
Trypsin inhibitors are proteins found in plentiful amounts in soybeans that inhibit digestion and absorption of nutrients. They are large in size and require application of high heat for appreciable periods of time to neutralize.
The industrialized process of producing soy infant formula deactivates the majority of trypsin inhibitors. Unfortunately, some remain and even in low amounts, they have been found to prevent normal growth in rats. Given that a baby’s brain grows at its most rapid rate the first year of life, growing to about 75% percent of adult size (it is 25% of adult size at birth), even a slight retardation of growth could be devastating to development of the brain and nervous system.
Phytic acid is an organic acid, which like trypsin inhibitors, is present in large amounts in soybeans. Phytic acid is present in the outer portion of all seeds and blocks the absorption of critical minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and particularly zinc.
Unlike other seeds, soybeans have extremely high amounts of a type of phytic acid that is particularly resistant to deactivation. Researchers testing soy formula in 1967 found that soy formula caused zinc deficiency in every single infant who received it.
Zinc is known as the intelligence mineral because it is critical for optimal development and functioning of the brain and nervous system. As a result, deficiency of this nutrient in infants at a time when the brain is growing at its most rapid rate could have lifelong implications and possibly reduce IQ.
Phytoestrogens or isoflavones represent the most serious problem with soy infant formula. These estrogen-like compounds have the potential to disrupt baby’s hormonal system for life.
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation:
Toxicologists estimate that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day. By contrast, almost no phytoestrogens have been detected in dairy-based infant formula or in human milk, even when the mother consumes soy products. A recent study found that babies fed soy-based formula had 13,000 to 22,0000 times more isoflavones in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula.
Flooding of an infant boy’s bloodstream with female like hormones has the potential to cause serious developmental problems at puberty. During the first few months of life, a baby boy has testosterone levels that could be as high as that of an adult male. This “testosterone surge” readies the baby boy’s hormonal system for puberty both for normal development of the sexual organs and also patterns of male behavior.
Could soy infant formula be responsible for the increasing problem of boys where physical maturation is delayed or even completely absent with retarded development of the sexual organs?
Baby girls fed soy infant formula may suffer negative hormonal impact as well from early soy exposure. In a 2010 study, time-to-menarche was assessed in 2,884 girls. Those girls identified as early soy fed via soy infant formula had a rate of menarche in early adolescence (before age 12.5) that increased by 42%.
Early sexual development in girls can herald serious problems with the reproductive system later in life such as unexplained infertility and breast cancer.
Research from 2012 published in Biology of Reproduction’s Papers-in-Press describes the effects of plant estrogens found in soy on the mouse oviduct. The study was specifically designed to model the effects of soy-based baby formula on human infants. The results of the study suggest that exposure to estrogenic chemicals in the womb or during childhood has the potential to negatively affect a woman’s fertility as an adult.
Organic Soy Formula No Protection from Soy Dangers
Some parents mistakenly believe that genetically modified soy is the main problem and that buying organic soy formula is protective for their infant.
Nothing could be further from the truth. While organic soy formula does indeed provide a better quality source of soy, organic soy still has the same problems as GM soy – trypsin inhibitors, high levels of phytic acid, and large amounts of hormone disrupting plant estrogens that can devastate baby’s development and hormonal system.
Parents wishing to provide the highest quality formula for their baby should breastfeeding not be an option should consider a homemade formula from grassfed raw milk. Most babies allergic to commercial dairy formula surprisingly have no problem with a homemade raw milk formula and in the rare case where a dairy allergy presents with the homemade milk based formula, a hypoallergenic formula based on homemade broth and pureed meat can be utilized.
Click here for detailed recipes and a comprehensive training video illustrating how to make either the milk based or hypoallergenic formula.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
The Tragedy of Soy Infant Formula