Navigating Vegetarianism – The Soy Debate & Dizzy Spells

September 12, 2012 · 40 comments

By the way, I auditioned for Aida last night.

If you’re familiar with the show, you know there is only role I could possibly land, so my chances for a part are slim. I can’t focus on anything until I hear about callbacks.

Aaaaanyway, I’m more than several weeks into my vegetarian diet, and I’m still obviously navigating the waters.

I’ve been having some issues lately. As I lamented to my mama, she said “Why don’t you blog about it? Those people may have some ideas.” Psh, okay, Mom.

She really does always know best.

Lately, I have been experiencing some strange dizzy spells. Not the “my blood sugar is low” effects (I’m well versed with those from my childhood), and not the “I just got up too fast” birde but something a little different. I’ll be simply laying down on the floor with Chloe and suddenly feel dizzy. Or laying on my bed for a minute and feeling like the room is spinning. Weird, right?

I’ve definitely been eating enough — if anything, I’ve been overdoing it. And I haven’t made any drastic changes to my workout regimen. I did some research, and the best I could come up with was my anemia as the culprit. I was anemic long before I went vegetarian, and I’m wondering if my iron levels are dipping too low. The dizziness has been better since I’ve started taking iron supplements, but they’re not completely gone yet.

The thing is, in my “pre-veggie” diet, I really wasn’t eating all that much meat then, either. I’d have chicken sometimes and turkey most often, but I rarely ate red meat.

Any ideas, kids? Do I need to join Veggies Anonymous and find the answers to all my problems?

On that note, I had a conversation with Candice, the nutritionist behind fitmixer. Since we just started up Boot Camp #3, new meal plans were distributed, and I was speaking with her about vegetarian adjustments. I asked for advice and her take on the hormonal issues involving too much soy intake. She had an interesting answer for me:

“The best source that matches meat as far as amino acids are eggs.  Soy is a good choice as well, and for me, the verdict is still out on the hormone debate.  It is not a proven fact about hormones and soy; it is an opinion floating around out there without real true scientific studies behind it.  The best study is your own personal self and how you feel it effects you.  Other non-meat protein options include milk, nuts, cheese, yogurt, protein shakes, protein bars etc (you probably know them all).  Bottom line, include eggs and egg whites in your DAILY meals to get great essential amino acids and choose protein sources that you enjoy eating.”

Once again, the people at fitmixer rock my world. I like that she encourages me to eat more eggs.

Go ahead, twist my arm.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 robfiasco @ run 2 the hills September 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

i could watch that animated gif over and over again. and I think I will.

hope your audition went well!
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2 Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian September 12, 2012 at 11:11 am

I’ve been eating plenty of soy for years and years and haven’t experienced anything weird because of it. It’s pretty much a staple in my diet, along with eggs (like you mentioned), greek yogurt, almond butter, etc. I’m sure with some experimenting and adjustments you’ll find the veggie-fied diet that will work for you!
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3 Angela @ Health's Angel September 12, 2012 at 11:11 am

I wish I had some advice for you, but I’m not full-on vegetarian. I’ll be interested to read what other vegetarians have to say about it. Thanks for including that little tidbit on soy. I always go back and forth with whether or not to watch my soy intake. I love veggie burgers and protein bars but I don’t want to overdo it with the processed soy. I guess I’ll just have to pay attention to how I’m feeling!
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4 Erica { EricaDHouse.com } September 12, 2012 at 11:14 am

Spinach is a great source of Iron! I started taking Iron Supplements a few months ago when I realized my energy levels dropped dramatically and I’ve felt way better since then (it also helped keep my monthly visitor on track).
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5 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 12, 2012 at 11:43 am

thankfully, I do eat a lot of spinach!

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6 Kristen September 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm

With Spinach, you do have to be careful of Oxalic acid. Even though it has iron and calcium, the oxalic acid prevents your body from absorbing much of it, and can actually deplete your body of other minerals! Cooking spinach helps with destroying some of the oxalic acid, but it’s hard to get rid of all of it. Beans are also considered to be a good source of iron. When I was vegetarian, I made it a point to eat beans at least 3 times a week, and that seemed to really help.
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7 Kaitlin @4loveofcarrots September 12, 2012 at 11:26 am

I stay away from soy, I try to limit my consumption to one serving a day and it is usually in the form of protein powder. My mom got breast cancer due to have too much hormones and at the time she was eating a ton of soy, whether or not that was the true cause of her breast cancer I will never know but I tend to take those precautions seriously because of my moms history and to potentially decrease my chances of getting breast cancer.
I however do not know why you are so dizzy all the time, maybe you arent getting enough water?
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8 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 12, 2012 at 11:44 am

I have been doing a really good job of hydrating! So I scratched that from the list of possibilities.

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9 Kate September 12, 2012 at 11:56 am

Being anemic, you may already know this, but you’re gonna wanna combine that iron supplement (or any iron intake) with a source of Vitamin C, which helps promote iron absorption by the body. It could be as easy as taking your iron supplements with a glass of OJ. Hope that helps!
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10 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

you got it! I typically down it with some jugo. :)

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11 Caryln September 12, 2012 at 12:09 pm

In the past month my mom and a classmate were both struck with dizzy spells. They both went to the doctor and it ended up being fluid in their ears. Just a thought, it may not be related to dietary changes!
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12 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm

with all my sinus issues, it could most definitely be an inner ear issue.

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13 Katie @ Peace Love & Oats September 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm

eggs are great, I’ve been trying to eat more because I’m also anemic and they are a great source of both protein and iron.

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14 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 12, 2012 at 1:39 pm

love. eggs. not having them in my diet would make it so hard for me to go vegan.

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15 Kim September 12, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I used to suffer from anemia and get those dizzy spells a lot. A few things that have helped me: slow FE – actually the only iron supplement that the body can apsorb (my doc told me regular iron supplements just get peed out). Cook everything in a cast iron skillet – the iron from the skillet actually gets in your food (cook your eggs in here). Eats lots of spinach and leafy greens (kale smoothies!), lots of vitamin C. And lastly, I would warn about soy. I went vegan for a few months and loaded up on the soy. It severely messed with my periods, hormone levels, acne and mood swings – that stuff can really mess with your estrogen production. Hope that helps!
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16 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm

…and I already have so many issues in that department. I’ll be paying attention to it!

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17 Kim September 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Sounds like you have some good old fashioned vertigo! I went through the exact same thing after I went through an on and off battle with my sinus problems for an extended period. If you have sinus issues – it is most likely that. I went to an allergist and took a steroid to get rid of it – it was benign positional vertigo. If it gets worse or lasts longer than a week or two I would see someone – otherwise it should go away. Mine did – hallelujah – but mine was pretty severe by that point. Good luck!
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18 Hayley @ Running Down the Runway September 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I’ve been vegetarian for about a year and I was just like you- neverrr ate red meat and only chicken and turkey occasionally. I know I need to incorporate more whole eggs into my diet (still stick to egg whites most of the time) I still do have dizzy spells every once and a while- but its definitely not from eating enough! Also, do you eat fish?? I usually have salmon 3-4 times a week at dinner. Sooo i guess that makes me a pescatarian?

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19 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 12, 2012 at 4:15 pm

ohh, yeah, I haven’t been including fish in my daily regimen!

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20 Sam @ Better With Sprinkles September 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I would not need encouragement to eat eggs, whether I was vegetarian or not (I’m not). So tasty and versatile!
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21 Laura September 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm

I mentioned to you last time that I got my Doctorate, well it happens to be in Audiology (the treatment and diagnosis of hearing loss and balance disorders) so I do have a professional side to this but not a vegetarian opinion.

In any case, what peaked my interest was the fact that you are feeling as if the room is spinning. That spinning sensation is a symptom of something, whether its your recent dietary change or something else that happened at around the same time. I would check in with an Ear, Nose, and Throat doc if it persists because your balance system is located in your inner ear. They can run some tests and have a balance assessment done (pretty easy–I do them all the time on patients) and you would most likely find out what is going on. Just my professional opinion.

Just out of curiosity–have you had any colds or infections lately? and how long does the spinning last?
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22 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

interesting!! they come and go pretty quickly — it only happens for a few seconds. I get sinus infections pretty often, since I have really bad allergies. I had one in July.

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23 Laura @Running Maryland September 13, 2012 at 9:41 am

Because it sounds like it is linked to your sinuses I would definitely check in with an ENT. They can also address your iron issues too. It is never natural to feel like you are spinning and sometimes the fix is simple.

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24 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey September 12, 2012 at 9:24 pm

That happens to me sometimes too, and I just like to pretend it’s not happening because Ihave NO idea why it happens.
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25 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 13, 2012 at 9:40 am

welp, I’m glad I’m not alone. :)

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26 Katie @ Talk Less, Say More September 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I used to be considered mildly anemic. I started taking iron supplements every other day and last time they took blood they said I wasn’t. It may be worth looking into.
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27 Amber K September 12, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I feel horrible if I eat soy. I can barely pick myself up off of the couch. And I get a mind fog with it similar to what I experience with gluten. Everyone is different, so it might be affecting you and it might not. The only way to really know is to cut it out for awhile and see how you feel. If you feel the same, it probably isn’t the culprit. But it’s certainly worth a try!

Hope you can figure it out. Because life is too short to not feel well.
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28 Sarah B. September 12, 2012 at 11:09 pm

I hope your audition went awesome! I actually was low in iron early on in college because I hardly ever ate the meat they served at the d-hall — unless it was chicken fingers/nuggets. In that case, all bets were off. But I took iron supplements and, fortunately, it got me back on track.

I hope you figure out the culprit, girl!
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29 Kelsey September 12, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I am doing the fit mixer Bootcamp now and I love it! Great support and the products are good too.
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30 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 13, 2012 at 9:41 am

YAY! I’m glad you’ve joined the club!

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31 Ashley L September 13, 2012 at 8:44 am

First, I love your blog. I’ve been reading for months now. Second, congrats on becoming a vegetarian! I have been one for 2.5 years now and I feel infinitely better all around. As far as the dizzy spells, I am anemic. It runs in my family. I recommend getting your iron levels checked. Mine dip down when I up my work outs (like now while I am training for a marathon) so my doctor told me to take iron supplements. I definitely get light headed and dizzy and know when my iron levels are too low. Especially when working out or going from the ground up, like squats or even just standing up too fast. As far as the soy, I do enjoy tofu, but I try to cut out all the added soy in products like veggie burgers, protein bars, etc. Soy seems to be added to everything! I always bur organic tofu too. And I try to limit my tofu consumption to maybe 4 or 5 times a month. But that is just what makes me feel best. Hope this helps you out!!

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32 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

Thanks, Ashley! I hate that veggie burgers have so much soy in them.

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33 Christina September 13, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Hi Alyssa! I’ve read your blog for quite some time now but don’t think I’ve ever commented! I’m a pre med student so issues of health always get me thinking! Is the dizziness only happening when you’re laying down? If its only happening while you’re in a certain position it could be BPPV, benign positional vertigo, or another inner ear/ vestibular problem. Obviously other internal issues such as anemia or lack of protein could be the issue but I would investigate a little further if it’s only happening when you’re laying down. And I love that you are into theater…I did so many plays growing up and I love reading about your experiences!!

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34 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 14, 2012 at 8:34 am

Christina, you rock. And thank you for all this.

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35 K September 14, 2012 at 3:49 am

I’ve been a vegan for almost 3 years now and I have done a LOT of research on vegan nutrition. Here is a list I bookmarked awhile ago about vegan sources of iron: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/iron.htm. As for soy, there is so much conflicting information! One thing I have read consistently though is that fermented soy is better than non-fermented, and minimally or not processed soy is better than heavily processed. So, tempeh (fermented) is better than tofu (not fermented), but tofu (minimally processed) is better than soy protein isolates (heavily processed). And always make sure your soy is organic and not genetically modified! Hope that helps!

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36 Alyssa @ Life of bLyss September 14, 2012 at 8:33 am

thank you for all this info, K! I’m definitely going to put it to use.

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37 Kara September 15, 2012 at 2:58 am

I know you probably don’t want to hear this, however, you need to get your blood drawn. I’m in medical school and we’ve had to learn about this. While I’m not saying taking iron tablets is bad, they are bad for you when you do not have an iron deficiency. I’m talking organ damage, joint pain, fatigue, susceptibility to infections, etc. Not ingesting enough protein or zinc can also give you these side effects. Some people may also be more susceptible to being anemic due to genetics, so perhaps the only way you weren’t anemic was because you consumed an excessive amount of iron before becoming a vegetarian (I don’t know this about you though). I think if you want to continue this diet long term, you should find out what you are lacking so you know what supplements or foods to focus on. I know how much of a pain it is to pay to find out what you need instead of trying new things at home, but I think it is the smart idea if you want to continue a vegetarian diet. Also, please note that I am NOT diagnosing you in any sort of way because that would be practicing without a license, which I do NOT yet have.

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38 Alissa September 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I was about to say the same thing as Kara. Iron supplements aren’t good for you if you aren’t anemic. Definitely go and get some blood work! Good luck!! :)

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39 Michelle January 28, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Do you get dizzy just when you do certain movements? If not related to movements, I suggest removing soy for a couple weeks and/or keeping a food log with allergy testing.. I developed an intolerance to soy a year ago out of the blue. Soy is in SO MANY things. It makes me dizzy and not feel well. Ige blood testing showed nothing so an intolerance rather than a clinical allergy. I now eat whole foods to avoid soy and cross contamination. Good luck!

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40 Jenni August 13, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Hi i just came across this post and was wondering if you ever found out what was wrong? I get those exact dizzy spells and i feel like i am really high or something, lol. Its definitely scary though. I have recently gone vegan and this has happened twice in the last month. I do eat more soy now though, so im wondering if thats the problem. Thanks!

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