If ever you were looking for the scientific rationale as to why foods grown organically are not only imperative to our health but how pesticides are indeed a “gateway,” for modern disease; then these next two blogs (in this glyphosate series), will assist you greatly.
We do realize that there is a lot of detail here. Yes, mostly because we kept geeking out and in our excitement, we wanted to try and distill crucial research papers for you. Some of you may wish to follow-up reading these papers yourself, (fair warning, some are 150 plus pages), we would encourage you to do so though if you’re inclined as we simply could not include all of the physiological pathways of destruction, outlined between glyphosate and modern illness.
As mentioned in our introductory blog Glyphosate – What Is It Exactly? glyphosate is an incredibly potent and dangerous component of the widely used herbicide Roundup. We gave an overview of Glyphosate and how it wheedles its way into our daily lives. We discussed how glyphosate has also managed to work its way past health and safety regulations especially in the US by passing a 90-day test with no side effects. However, we are seeing evidence of major health effects after those 90 days, seen in lengthier studies on cattle and other animals exposed to glyphosate.1 According to researchers, glyphosate is possibly, “the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies.”2
Monsanto has argued for decades that glyphosate is harmless to humans because it inhibits the Shikimate pathway in plants. As far as science tells us to date, human cells do not go through the shikimate pathway. However, in humans, glyphosate acts through our gut bacteria and we now know that humans have 10 times the number of gut bacteria than cells in our bodies, and all our gut bacteria have the shikimate pathway. When looking at our DNA, it is estimated that any individual only contains about 2% of their own DNA while the other 98% is microbial DNA. So, yes we are more bugs/bacteria than we are human!!
Feeling a little dirty? 😅
The importance lies in the fact that – if the microbial DNA of our bacteria is damaged or not functioning at a good standard, then 98% of our makeup is also substandard.
Back to the shikimate pathway…
Via this pathway, our gut bacteria produce essential aromatic amino acids (AA and no matter how clever our bodies are, they cannot create AAs. Therefore they are ‘essential’ and so too are our gut bacteria. It’s a win-win scenario. We can’t make amino acids ourselves but we can eat them and we rely on own our bacteria to then activate them for us.
Amino acids, often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, are compounds that play many critical roles in your body. They are needed for vital processes like the building of proteins and the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. There are about 20 different amino acids but only 9 are considered essential. These are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. We mention these because you will see some of them discussed with the health effects of glyphosate or you may have heard of them when reading about deficiencies or health challenges.
The best sources of essential amino acids are animal proteins like meat, eggs, and poultry. When you eat protein, it is broken down into amino acids, which are then used to help your body with various processes such as building muscle and regulating immune function.
The gut bacteria cannot make essential AAs on their own because they need to get them from food, and instead may in turn create toxic phenols (aromatic compounds that can be seriously irritating to the human body, especially long term) such as P cresol; and Stephanie Seneff a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a world-leading expert on glyphosate, describes these toxic phenols as a “wrecking ball” for our DNA, fats and cell membrane.2.
Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects “beneficial or helpful” bacteria, allowing pathogens or harmful bacteria to overgrow and take over. At that point, your body also must contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens.
Through destroying gut bacteria Stephanie Seneff states that glyphosate sets in motion two key problems:
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially minerals and essential amino acids)
- Systemic toxicity
It makes much more sense now doesn’t it when experts discuss how our gut bacteria, when inhibited, can lead to many adverse outcomes like1:
- weakened immune system function,
- neurological disorders,
- systemic toxicity
- depletion of micronutrients like Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Sulfur and Cobalt
In this paper Seneff describes it like this3:
“There are multiple pathways by which glyphosate could lead to pathology. A major consideration is that our gut bacteria do have the shikimate pathway and that we depend upon this pathway in our gut bacteria as well as in plants to supply us with the essential aromatic amino acids, tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine. Methionine, an essential sulfur-containing amino acid, and glycine are also negatively impacted by glyphosate.
“Furthermore, many other biologically active molecules, including serotonin, melatonin, melanin, epinephrine, dopamine, thyroid hormone, folate, coenzyme Q10, vitamin K, and vitamin E, depend on the shikimate pathway metabolites as precursors.
“Gut bacteria and plants use exclusively the shikimate pathway to produce these amino acids. In part because of shikimate pathway disruption, our gut bacteria are harmed by glyphosate, as evidenced by the fact that it has been patented as an antimicrobial agent.”
“Our gut bacteria are incredibly important for many of the processes and pathways in our body. A study published in the journal Entropy4, argues that: “glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, soy, wheat, soy, canola, cotton, alfalfa, and sugar beets enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.”
1. As a Gut Microbiome Disruptor
Gut bacteria form a protective layer over our cell walls. Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of these microbes’ functions and lifecycles. What’s worse, as we stated above, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow.
Glyphosate disrupts the shikimate pathway in our gut bacteria. Studies show that pathogenic strains of gut bacteria, like Salmonella and Clostridium, were resistant to glyphosate exposure, while glyphosate attacked beneficial strains like Enterococcus, Bacillus, and Lactobacillus.4-6 Glyphosate may even compromise antibiotics’ ability to fight pathogenic E. coli and Salmonella.7
This disruption causes a leaky gut resulting in inflammatory bowel diseases. Glyphosate allows toxins through the blood-brain barrier. Leaky gut and a leaky blood-brain barrier led to dangerous exposure to neurotoxins and metals in the brain2. Low-grade encephalopathy (damage or disease that affects the brain, usually leads to altered mental state and behaviour.1Gut dysbiosis is linked to many health problems, including obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, ADHD, type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and IBD … just to name a few.8-14
Seneff and Samsel3 state in their joint paper that,
“Glyphosate is a likely cause of the recent epidemic in celiac disease. Glyphosate residues are found in wheat due to the increasingly widespread practice of staging and desiccation of wheat right before harvest. Many of the pathologies associated with celiac disease can be explained by the disruption of CYP enzymes. Celiac patients have a shortened life span, mainly due to an increased risk to cancer, most especially non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has also been linked to glyphosate. Celiac disease trends over time match well with the increase in glyphosate usage on wheat crop.”
Recently, farmers started applying an extra dose of Roundup to wheat right before harvest, as a “pre-harvest desiccant.” Some people wonder if their perceived non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is actually their bodies responding to the high glyphosate levels. This would require testing gluten vs no GMO gluten and also determining if the individual were also sensitive to other GMO foods or glyphosate-containing foods like corn, soy, etc.
As we said earlier biologically active molecules, including serotonin, melatonin, melanin, epinephrine, dopamine, thyroid hormone, folate, coenzyme Q10, vitamin K, and vitamin E, depend on the shikimate pathway metabolites as precursors. Dopamine for example suppresses thyroid-stimulating hormone, and therefore dopamine insufficiency can lead to an overactive thyroid and potential burnout of the thyroid gland. 15
This problem is compounded by the fact that thyroid hormone itself is derived from tyrosine, one of the three aromatic amino acids that are negatively impacted by glyphosate through disruption of the shikimate pathway. The thyroid gland also depends critically on selenoproteins as antioxidants.16 Glyphosate’s depletion of both selenium and methionine will lead to reduced bioavailability of selenoproteins. It is conceivable that all these factors working together can explain the strong correlation of glyphosate application to corn and soy with thyroid cancer as well as the association between maternal thyroid disease and autism. Many studies discuss how low maternal thyroid function predicts autism in the fetus.
2. As an Enzyme Disruptor
As we have outlined, glyphosate works by disrupting EPSPS, a specific plant enzyme in the shikimate pathway. At high levels, glyphosate inhibits key enzymes—including the cytochrome p450 enzyme. The CYP family of enzymes has been identified in many organisms, including animals, plants, bacteria, and even a few viruses. Within humans, CYP enzymes are mainly found within the endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria of liver and kidney cells.
These membrane-bound proteins are involved in the3:
- metabolism of many harmful substrates, such as drugs and toxins.
- important in the synthesis of many beneficial substrates, such as steroid hormones (such as oestrogen and testosterone) even the conversion of testosterone into estrogen, fatty acids, and sterols (such as cholesterol and bile acids)
- serum sulfate transport, meaning sulfate supplies to the gut may be disrupted.
- they also activate Vitamin D.
Typically, these enzymes break down these toxins, but glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of these drugs, foodborne chemical residues, and environmental toxins.
A recent study17 on rats showed that both males and females exposed to Roundup had a 50% reduction in hepatic CYP enzyme levels compared with controls. CYP enzyme dysfunction impairs the liver’s ability to detoxify xenobiotics. Glyphosate for example greatly increases the toxicity of arsenic and aluminium through chelation (binding to), which promotes uptake by the gut and enables these toxins to get past the gut barrier more readily.
Glyphosate also depletes glutathione (GSH) our body’s chief antioxidant and glutathione S transferase (GST) is a critical enzyme for the liver.18
Inactivation of cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes (which contain heme pigment (chrome and P) plays out then as impaired heme synthesis and several studies have demonstrated an association between autism and impaired heme synthesis. Impaired biliary excretion leads to increased excretion of heme precursors in the urine, which is also a biomarker of multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome.3
As we have discussed by inhibiting our gut bacteria glyphosate depletes the body of micronutrients like Sulfur. This mineral is needed to store sugar outside of the cell, and without this storing of sugar, it builds up in the blood. As we know too much sugar in the blood, equals diabetes and this is one way that researchers suggest glyphosate is contributing to the rise in diabetes.3 Further to that they discuss that Type 1 diabetes in children is associated with a decrease in Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and an increase in Clostridium, in the gut. These same pathologies are also found in gut bacteria from poultry fed Roundup-Ready feed. 3 The increased incidence of diabetes in the US is strongly correlated with glyphosate usage on corn and soy.
This blog is continued in 8 Ways Glyphosate Derails Our Health – Part 2.
Yours in Health
Bach. Chiropractic, Bach. App Clinical Science
Registered internationally, no longer practicing as a chiropractor in Australia.
Research Assistant and Student
Barcelona College of Chiropractic
1 Séralini, G-E. et al. Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements Environmental Sciences Europe 2011, 23:10 doi:10.1186/2190-4715-23-10.
2. Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease. Joe Mercola. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx
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