There has been expansive growth in the agricultural food industry over the last 50 years with the advent of GMO’s, industrial pesticides and herbicides like Roundup – glyphosate, there has also been an explosion in cancer rates of all kinds, autoimmune conditions like celiac and thyroid disease, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory disorders, chronic fatigue, and heart disease.
The increased amount of GM foods in our food supply has left many questioning their impact on not only our environment but our health. And until there are more concrete answers about the effects of GM foods on our health, more and more people are choosing to avoid these foods altogether, and are looking for ethically grown, non-GMO and certified organic options.
Knowing the pivotal role that symbiotic gut bacteria play in the overall health of the human body has allowed us to start to consider the factors that proliferate, protect or harm it, including environmental elements like GMOs and pesticides.
Current research around the use of pesticides and the effect of genetically modified foods on human health is still evolving. Scientists have not determined whether GMOs pose long-term risks to human health, and because of that, labeling laws around foods that have been genetically modified have only very recently been established.
While there is still some uncertainty around the effect of genetically modified crops, one element we need to consider is the use of toxic pesticides that also are involved with GM foods. Yes, research is just emerging on GMOs and health in general, but preliminary studies have shown a correlation between glyphosate (the active ingredient in the common industrial pesticide, Roundup, which is used on GM crops), and detrimental changes in the gut microbiome.
Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide in industrial agriculture. It is also found in many of our everyday garden products. It has grown in popularity thanks to it being one of the only herbicides that many widely grown genetically engineered crops are tolerant to. It is also most commonly used to ripen foods right before harvest, which makes it a useful tool for growers looking to sell perfectly ripe fruits & vegetables to our grocery stores, any time of year.
While research around this pesticide is still limited, in 2017 the World Health Organization announced that glyphosate was ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ and linked it to growing tumors in mice and rats. Beyond cancer, we’ve also seen studies showing its ability to change the balance of the microbiome in a negative way. Because exposure is ongoing, the toxic effect and change to the gut, manifest over time, potentially creating long-term changes to the makeup of our microbiome.
Preliminary studies are showing the detrimental effect glyphosate has on gut bacteria. This research is still limited due to the fact that the impact of herbicides like glyphosate on gut health is subtle in nature, with believed symptoms and changes to microbiota evolving with long-term consistent exposure. Therefore, much of the research just needs more time.
That said, researchers looking at gastrointestinal (GI) bacteria in chickens found that beneficial bacteria were more susceptible to the pesticide and harmful bacteria more resistant, when exposed to high levels. Additionally, we’ve seen studies linking glyphosate as a causal factor in the rise of both gluten intolerance and celiac disease, both of which are intricately intertwined with the health of our gut and makeup of microbiota. Finally, we have studies today that show how glyphosate interferes with a specific biochemical pathway involved with synthesis of amino acids proteins and while this pathway is not found in humans, it is a pathway found in the bacteria in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Therefore when exposed, glyphosate inhibits the growth of many beneficial bacteria in the gut, resulting in dysbiosis.
You can protect your gut microbiome with these 3 tips:
- Be a conscious consumer
Purchase foods that are either organic or non-GMO. To be sure you’re buying and eating these foods, look for certification. This ensures you’re buying food free from synthetic pesticides and genetically modified ingredients.
- Garden Organically
If you like to plant a large garden and grow your own produce, try and be mindful of organic gardening practices, avoiding popular weed killers and fertilizers that could contain pesticides harmful to your gut. If you frequent a local farm or farmers market, have the conversation with the growers around their farming practices to learn if they are using organic products or synthetic.
- Protect your Gut Proactively
There are a lot of environmental exposures in our everyday lives, but the more you know the more you can proactively take a stance towards protecting your health. While completely avoiding GM foods or foods grown with pesticides is not always an option, protecting your gut is.80% of the immune system’s cells are found in the intestinal tract and our gut is the gateway into many more serious health conditions in our body. Ensuring it remains balanced is critical to your long-term health. A broad spectrum probiotic helps support intestinal flora health and your natural defences as well as your digestive health, helping protect you against unwanted pathogens.
For more information about protecting your gut integrity and boosting your immunity please contact one of our Naturopaths at Orange Health. Let then guide you on your journey back to better health – Naturally.