Welcome back friends. I’d like to continue on the topic of reducing our exposure to toxins with today’s blog and a discussion about a very common herbicide: glyphosate.
What is glyphosate?
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is the most commonly used herbicide in the world. The goal, of course, is to kill weeds that harm the growth of crops like wheat, corn and soy. However, glyphosate doesn’t just kill weeds; it kills all plants, bacteria and fungi. It does this by disrupting their shikimate pathway. (In short, this pathway enables them to grow). You may be wondering, if glyphosate kills all plants, how do the crops survive? Great question. Certain crops have been genetically modified, meaning their DNA has been altered, so they can withstand glyphosate. These “Roundup ready” crops include corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, cotton and alfalfa.
Why is glyphosate a problem?
According to the industry, glyphosate is not harmful to humans and animals because we do not have the shikimate pathway. However, we do have bacteria in our gut that use this pathway, and these bacteria are affected by the consumption of food that contains glyphosate residues. Ah yes, the plot thickens.
The bacteria in our gut are extremely important for our health! Here are just a few things these bacteria do for us:
- aid digestion
- make vitamins
- fight foreign pathogens and support our immune system
- make amino acids
- This is super important, especially for kids with autism, because these amino acids are used for detoxification (which we know children with autism already struggle with) and they are also used to create hormones and neurotransmitters, which allow our brain and body to function optimally.
If our gut bacteria are compromised, so are all these beneficial functions that they perform for us!
Research has also uncovered that pathogenic bacteria like Clostridium and Salmonella, have developed somewhat of a resistance to glyphosate, whereas beneficial species are have been harmed.
How is glyphosate related to autism?
It is well known that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is strongly associated with an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Research has shown that consumption of glyphosate can inhibit liver function and cause ammonia to build up in our blood stream. This build up of ammonia is linked to ASD.
Have you heard of leaky gut? Well, glyphosate is a potential culprit here too
because research has shown that it can actually cause our intestinal lining to become permeable or porous. A leaky gut means that food, bacteria, viruses and toxins are not well contained. They can enter the bloodstream and potentially affect other organs, including the brain. Leaky gut has been linked to ASD.
Lastly, I’ll mention that glyphosate has been linked to impairments in intestinal peristalsis, which are the wave like muscle contractions that help move food and waste down through our digestive tract. Damage to this process could lead to things like SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth), acid reflux and constipation, which is one of the most common gut issues among kids with autism.
It’s important to consider that most of these studies were done on lab animals the results beg the question, would we find the same results in humans? I will note that the World Health Organization deems glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans“, meaning it probably causes cancer. This is because there is convincing
evidence that glyphosate causes cancer in animals.
How can we combat glyphosate damage?
#1 The first step is reduce our exposure and this can be done purchasing organic and non-GMO foods when you can.
- By law, organic foods cannot be treated with glyphosate. And organic foods are never genetically modified so going organic is a double whammy. For more info on GMOs, check out my blog here. And read on to learn about which foods are sprayed the most so you can get the biggest bang for your buck by buying organic.
- I also love this list of certified “glyphosate residue free” products. This is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Some of my favorite brands have joined this list which is so exciting to see.
#2 Purify your drinking water.
- Glyphosate can also be found in our drinking water, so using a quality filter for your water is a great way to limit exposure. I recommend the Berkey system for top of the line water filtration and you can check out my blog on reducing toxins in your drinking water here. Another (less bulky) option is Clearly Filtered, and they offer a variety of pitchers and filters as well.
#3 Take a quality probiotic.
- Since glyphosate can really harm our gut bacteria and no one’s diet is perfect, it is a good idea to find a quality probiotic that can help mediate any gut issues. Studies have shown that spore based probiotics, probiotics containing Lactobacillus plantarum TIFN101 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG may help fortify the integrity of the gut lining so glyphosate. You may also want to replace the specific bacterial species that are most susceptible to glyphosate, including Enterococcus, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species.
What foods should I prioritize organic to avoid glyphosate?
Even though it’s important to choose organic in order to avoid glyphosate, that doesn’t mean every single food has to be organic, especially considering that organic foods may be difficult to find in your area or may cost more. Here’s some helpful information to help you prioritize which products would be best to purchase organic versus conventional.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases its list of the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” each year, listing which conventional veggies and fruits have the highest and lowest amounts of pesticides. For 2020, the Dirty Dozen’s top three culprits are strawberries, spinach, and kale. This makes sense when you think about it. Berries and leafy greens are not protected by anything, they have no skin or peel. Whatever gets sprayed on them will be absorbed easily.
On the other hand, the top three for the Clean Fifteen include avocado, sweet corn, and papaya — purchasing these crops non-organic may be worth the lower cost. But remember, corn is common GMO crop so I’d recommend going organic for that. Remember, if the produce has a protective shell, especially one that isn’t typically eaten (think banana or pineapple), then it may be worth saving your money and just buying these items non-organic. An even better, more affordable option may be to grow your own veggies if possible! This is also a great way to engage the kids in a fun, outdoor activity.
Get friendly with frozen
Frozen organic fruits and vegetables are an alternative option to fresh. They can be cheaper and just as nutritious. Many frozen fruits and veggies are picked and immediately frozen for maximum nutrition. I always like going with frozen for those fruits or veggies that tend to go bad quickly because I know they won’t go bad in the freezer. I also rely on frozen during busy weeks when meal prep is wish and a prayer because then if I don’t get to it, I’m not wasting my money. I’ve also noticed that the cost of fresh produce tends to fluctuate more depending on if the item is in season or not. So if you’re craving strawberries but they aren’t in season, opt for the organic frozen and save some money.
Grains and Beans
For grains, including pasta, rice, oats, and breakfast cereal, it is a good idea to prioritize organic over conventionally grown products. Grains are very heavily sprayed right before harvest because the glyphosate is used to dry out the grain. This means higher glyphosate resides in our food and our bodies. The EWG has found alarming levels of glyphosate in nearly every conventional grain-based and oat-based product, including cereal, granola, granola bars, etc. However, in organic products, the levels of glyphosate are below the limit the EWG recommends.
As I mentioned above, soy and canola are two “Roundup ready” crops. In the coming weeks, I plan to do an in-depth blog on my favorite cooking oils but until then, I recommend avoiding vegetable oils like soy and canola oil and opting for extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil instead.
In terms of animal products, including meat, dairy, poultry, eggs, etc., prioritizing organic is important. Why? Because when an animal is exposed to a toxin, that toxin often makes its way into the meat or milk supply, which means when we eat those foods regularly, we are consistently exposed to these toxins.
Conventionally raised animals are often given growth hormones to make them bigger, producing more meat or milk per animal, which means more money for the farmer. Animals may have been given antibiotics to prevent or treat illnesses and infections. On conventional farms, animals may be exposed to pesticides or herbicides like glyphosate. They may be fed genetically modified, glyphosate-laden feed like alfalfa, corn or soy.
Everyone has different capacity when it comes to buying organic products. If you want to avoid glyphosate, I recommend asking yourself one question to determine where you can maximize your dollar. Ask yourself – what foods does my family eat the most? What foods are you continually buying week after week? These are foods you should prioritize organic. If your family eats a lot of cereal, that may be a big source of glyphosate and buying organic cereal would help put a dent in your overall glyphosate exposure. If you eat a lot of produce, then you will probably want to focus on organic options for the items on that Dirty Dozen List. Prioritizing like this can really help you stretch your dollar and get the biggest health bang for your buck.
Are you concerned about glyphosate and its impacts on your child? Let’s talk. There are testing options we can explore to assess bacterial imbalance, leaky gut and overall toxin exposure.
Psst, follow me on Instagram too!