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Why Glyphosate Exposure Matters

By Jessica Wilhelm, August 15, 2019

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Why Glyphosate Exposure Matters 

Glyphosate is the most widely used agricultural herbicide applied to agriculture fields, forests, lawns and gardens to manage weeds.  Glyphosate is considered a non-selective herbicide, meaning it will kill most plants. If it will kill most plants, can you imagine its impact on the ecology of our microbiome and our overall health?

There are hundreds of products that contain glyphosate, but Monsanto’s original herbicide called Roundup (introduced in 1974) is a primary source of the chemical glyphosate.  Ranger Pro Herbicide and Eraser Max are additional products that contain glyphosate. Monsanto also patented its genetically modified seeds that resist its herbicide, Roundup, offering farmers a convenient way to spray fields with Roundup without affecting crops. This also explains how genetically modified foods are also often high in the chemical glyphosate.

How Am I Being Exposed to Glyphosate?

The reality is that everyone living in modern society is exposed to glyphosate to some degree because it is a part of our environment. Most people are overexposed to glyphosate daily through diet and/or lifestyle choices.  Risk factors for glyphosate exposure may include living in a rural area, drinking unfiltered or contaminated water and eating a diet primarily of conventional (non-organic) produce and processed foods.  The Environmental Working Group recently tested popular processed foods and glyphosate was detected in all wheat-based foods, including dry pasta from Barilla, cereals such as Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and General Mill’s Wheat Chex.  Popular oat-based products including Cheerios, Quaker Oatmeal and Nature Valley granola bars were tested and contained glyphosate. 

Glyphosate can also enter the body by inhalation or direct contact with the skin. Inhalation and direct skin contact may result in higher levels of glyphosate in the body. Therefore, working in the non-organic farming industry, professional gardeners, Landscapers, Groundskeepers have a greater risk of glyphosate exposure. In addition, applying Roundup™ on your home lawn and garden greatly increases risk of both glyphosate inhalation and direct skin contact.

Health Risks

High levels of glyphosate exposure are associated with an increased risk for developing endocrine system dysfunction such as thyroid dysfunction, neuro-degenerative conditions such as Dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Studies have shown a correlation between glyphosate applied to dietary sources of corn and soy with an  increased rate of autism. Glyphosate has been linked to cancer by California state scientists and the World Health Organization.  Because glyphosate binds calcium, studies have found that this toxin can accumulate in bones. It is suggested that the reason glyphosate causes chronic health conditions is through its impact on the gut microbiome, chelation of metals, methylation pathway dysfunction, and reduced activity of the liver enzymes that support healthy detoxification. 

Glutamate Toxicity and subsequent Manganese Deficiency

Manganese is a mineral found in a wide variety of plant-based foods and plays a role in glutamate metabolism, healthy bone formation, collagen production, and helps protect cells from free radical damage.   Glyphosate may deplete manganese which impairs the breakdown of glutamate, the most excitatory neurotransmitter in the body, that has the potential to be neuro-toxic and contribute to headaches, anxiety, irritability, etc.  

Glyphosate and the Microbiome

The human intestinal tract contains up to 100 trillion microbial cells, most of which are found in the large intestine. These microorganisms are crucial for proper digestive and immune system function. Gut microorganisms break down undigested carbohydrates into short chain fatty acids, which are readily absorbed in the colon. The most important of these fatty acids is butyrate which is utilized by colonic cells. Acetates are fatty acids used by the muscle tissues, and propionates are used by the liver.

Intestinal microorganisms also play a role in synthesizing vitamins such as vitamins B and K, as well as metabolizing bile acids, sterols, and other compounds. Resident microflora also help protect the human host from disease by out-competing small numbers of more virulent organisms.

However, in the gut, glyphosate disrupts the balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria which allows for the growth of pathogens, such as C. difficile and/or opportunistic (potential pathogens) bacteria including Pseudomonas, Citrobacter,  and Klebsiella species.  Imbalances in gut flora can contribute to symptoms of gut stress such as gas, bloating, bowel irregularities and/or trouble digesting food.  Experiencing recurrent urinary tract or yeast infections, as well as chronic skin conditions (i.e.Eczema, psoriasis, acne) is also an indication that the GI tract is out of balance.  The development of  irritable bowel conditions and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, autoimmune conditions, and mood-related conditions can also occur. 

Mood-related conditions associated with an imbalance in the gut microbiome may be related to the fact that the GI tract manufactures a large portion of our neurotransmitters from the proteins we eat in our diet. Serotonin and GABA our main calming neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) are made by gut bacteria. Approximately 95 % of serotonin is made in the gut and is a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin. 

Beneficial gut bacteria are crucial to a healthy mood and sleep cycle because of their shikimate pathway, a metabolic process that produces tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin and melatonin.  However, when healthy gut bacteria are exposed to glyphosate, it causes them to die off which disrupts this pathway and can lead to tryptophan deficiency.  This can lead to mood imbalances and an altered  sleep/wake cycle due to decreased serotonin and melatonin production.

Ways to Reduce Glyphosate Exposure

To avoid glyphosate exposure, remove processed and fast foods in your diet and choose certified organic foods and/or locally grown organic foods. Glyphosate use is prohibited on organic crops. Even better when your organic foods are locally grown, whole, and unprocessed as organic foods can come into contact with conventional foods in transit. Shop your local farmers market. This allows you to meet your farmers and ask what pesticides they use on their produce. If they are not organic, ask them specifically if they use Roundup or glyphosate-based products on their fields.

Grow your own food if possible to ensure no glyphosate is used. An herb garden containing your favorite organic herbs are a great place to start. Herbs are some of the easiest things to start with and can even be grown in pots from a balcony. The human body is composed of two-thirds water.  Water is required for every cell, organ and tissue to transport oxygen and nutrients around the body, and to regulate temperature. Aim to get half your body weight in ounces of filtered water daily. Several water filters including the Zero Water filtered jug, Big Berkey water filters and the Aqua Pail are capable at filtering up to 100% of glyphosate.

Curious about whether or not you have been exposed to glyphosate? Wellnicity offers a simple at-home urine test to help monitor your exposure while also providing detoxification regimens if exposure is confirmed.