Written By: Kevin Cann
One of my big caveats to all of my clients is stressing the importance of nutrient dense foods. This is for a number of reasons. For one, nutrient deficiencies drive hunger. This is a survival benefit. Our body will continue to tell us to eat until it has all of the nutrients necessary to complete its daily tasks, which is the other major reason I stress the importance of nutrient dense foods. We need nutrients to help run every system in our bodies. Also, these nutrients give us the firepower to fight oxidative damage and keep us living a healthy life.
Is the modern lifestyle slowly stripping away our abilities to get nutrient dense foods? Genetically modified foods (GMO) take up the majority of the shelf space in our modern supermarkets. Modern farming practices are also stripping the soil of key nutrients as well as adding new chemicals into the mixture. Just as modern foods are new to our body’s ecosystem leading to many different health issues, the same is true for the ecosystems of the foods that we eat.
One of the most common chemicals used is glyphosate. Glyphosate is an herbicide, and in fact it is one of the first herbicides that crops are genetically engineered to resist. This is likely to increase its prevalence in our food products. There is much contradictory evidence out there on whether glyphosate is safe for human consumption or not. This can be expected as big money corporations use glyphosate to increase their crop yields.
You might know glyphosate by another name. Roundup is a popular product that contains this chemical. Studies have been looking at the effects glyphosate has on humans. One side of the argument claims that glyphosate alone may not be harmful to humans, but when combined with other chemicals such as polyoxyethyleneamine (POEA), as seen in products such as Roundup; it can be harmful to humans.
Ingesting greater than 85mL can cause serious health issues including death. Other ailments associated with the ingestion of glyphosate mixtures are respiratory distress, gastrointestinal distress, kidney issues, liver problems, and skin irritation (1). Ingesting this amount of glyphosate is only seen in cases where it was intentional.
Monsanto argues that glyphosate is harmless to humans because we do not contain the shikimate pathway. The shikimate pathway is a metabolic pathway used by bacteria, fungi, algae, and parasites. We may not contain this metabolic pathway directly, but our gut bacteria do. We have more bacteria in our bodies than we do human cells. This may be the case of big companies twisting science around to keep maximizing profits at any cost.
There are a lot of interesting health trends that began to occur at the same time we began to use herbicides such as glyphosate. Autism rates have been one major health concern that continues to get worse with the increase in glyphosate usage. This is just a correlation and does not show causation. This correlation warrants further investigation to glyphosate’s potential role in the increase in autism that we are seeing.
Stephanie Seneff, a researcher at MIT, has been doing a lot of fascinating research on this topic. In one of her presentations she showed if the current trend in the rise in autism continues, by 2032 50% of the children in the United States will be diagnosed with autism (2). She also shows correlation between glyphosate usage and breast cancer.
Current research has shown that glyphosate negatively affects our gut microbiome by suppressing our p450 enzymes (3). This research is showing that the negative effects of glyphosate are not to our human cells, but to our gut bacteria. Our p450 enzymes are responsible for protecting us from foreign materials that enter the system. This leaves us susceptible to damage from environmental toxins. This research suggests that this decrease in p450 enzymes and increased vulnerability to environmental toxins can lead to Alzheimer’s, cancer, autism, heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases of Western society.
Impairment in p450 enzymes is hypothesized to be an issue in patients with Celiac’s Disease (CD). This is due to the increased usage of glyphosate in wheat products as well as some of the other similar characteristics that CD patients share with inhibited p450 production. This includes deficiencies in vitamin D, iron, cobalt, copper, and manganese, as well as deficiencies in tyrosine, methionine, and selenomethionine (4). Again, this is nothing more than mere correlation, but an interesting correlation none of the less.
This is not the only hypothesized issue with glyphosate. There is conflicting research out there on whether glyphosate resistant plants contain mineral deficiencies. These are GMO crops that are engineered to resist the damage that could otherwise be caused by the herbicide. Glyphosate can then bind to nutrients and decrease their availability.
Also, when glyphosate binds to minerals and is consumed by animals, it will pass through the digestive tract undigested and be redistributed through the feces of that animal. This is one way that GMO plants and glyphosate can be redistributed to clean soil. These mineral deficiencies can also make the animals sick much like we can see in humans. This leaves us with a nutrient deficient food supply.
Our guts are not the only thing that has a microbiome. Our soil also has a microbiome. Herbicides and fungicides, and other chemical products used to protect plants alter this microbiome. This alters the available minerals and nutrients that the soil will pass along to the crops since certain strains of bacteria and fungi are responsible for giving the crops their nutrient content. This may be one explanation to the rise in nutrient deficiencies that we are seeing.
Current research is looking at how to manipulate the soil to best increase plant health and the nutrient density of foods (5). It looks as if the soils surrounding the roots and the roots themselves have this two way street of nutrient exchange that current farming practices may be altering in a negative manner.
We need to make changes to our current farming practices to before we go too far and cannot go back. Modern herbicides and fungicides are destroying the microbiome of our soil and decreasing the available nutrients in our food supply. There are also interesting correlations between diseases of Western society and the widespread use of the herbicide, glyphosate. There is no risk from avoiding glyphosate by eating only non-GMO foods, but may be a great reward in the end.
Try to buy local organic produce and meats when you can. It is always a good idea to visit the farm and look into the farming practices yourself to make sure you are getting what you think you are getting. In the end your long term health may thank you.