How Do Modern Industrial Agricultural Practices Affect Your Gut?

We as a society are hunting witches – not the kind that cast spells, of course, but the kind that cause digestive distress. From dairy to gluten, nightshades to high fiber/low fiber, we’re trying to pinpoint the major culprits that lead not just to dysbiosis and digestive disorders, but all manner of interconnected diseases…

Chronic illness, skin disorders, depression and anxiety, inflammation, risk for life-threatening diseases…

They’ve all increased at the same exponential rate as the Westernization of our diets and lifestyles. Less moving, more chemicals. Less whole foods, more processed foods.

The intersectionality of our justice systems, health systems, and social systems can be hard to track. Nothing is one-dimensional, one-sided, or happening in a vacuum.

So while we know that the chemicals used in modern industrial farming practices are detrimental to the world at large, and we know that endocrine disruptors hiding in the chemicals of our own household goods are signaling a torrent of internal changes in our bodies…

We’re only just beginning to research the disruption to our gut microbiomes caused by the chemicals surrounding us.

The trouble is that without specific biomarkers, it’s hard to pin down real causes for digestive distress because the gut is influenced by so many factors, and in turn influences so many other processes.

Since so many have given up gluten due its gliadin proteins, the wheat germ agglutinin, amylase trypsin inhibitors, FODMAPS, and the cascade of inflammatory events caused by the release of zonulin, researchers have been better able to isolate what is causing discomfort in people who don’t have celiac disease.

And here we arrive at an important intersection.

Glyphosate is a Disaster on its Own

Quickly, let’s go over what glyphosate is. It’s an herbicide most notably found in Monsanto’s RoundUp, the subject of much controversy as its effects have been poisonous to crops, fish, people, and animals. 

Glyphosate is used to kill weeds that compete with grass crops – like wheat, for example. 

Its usage has been linked to ADHD, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, kidney disease and failure, hypothyroidism, cancer, colitis, depression, heart disease, and many more 

Applying glyphosate to dry wheat crops improves the ease with which they can be harvested… which means it gets used quite a lot, as it cuts down on harvest time and expense.

Now, some studies have claimed that because glyphosate can’t affect the metabolic pathways of cells in mammals, and therefore it’s okay to ingest it in trace amounts. (Excepting, of course, all of the obvious problems it has caused.)

But the effects of glyphosate on the gut microbiome weren’t studied, and as we know, the bacterial composition of the digestive tract has far-reaching impacts on every aspect of human health.

Glyphosate and your Gut 

When studied, however, glyphosate in the body most certainly changes the microbial composition of the microbiome.

Particularly in early life, glyphosate ingestion can hamper diverse production of bacteria, leading to low immunity and likely antibiotic prescriptions for recurring maladies, which supports a cycle of microbe-killing.

In mice, this correlated with anxiety and depression-like outward symptoms.

Studies have also shown that the microbiome composition that results from glyphosate exposure is very similar to the compositions that accompany disorders like reflux disease, obesity, colon cancer, severe inflammation, and celiac disease.

And finally, exposure has also been known to promote pathogenic bacteria, allowing them to crowd out beneficial commensal bacteria like Lactobacillus and butyrate-producing bacteria, weakening our immune response and allowing fatigue to take over.

In short, without more research, it’s difficult to confirm the genesis of gut-related diseases brought about by glyphosate ingestion – but it’s clear that they’re related, and that your gut’s bacteria doesn’t care whether the amounts on wheat are trace or not.

Especially because glyphosate is also used on corn, soy, and legumes – the cash crops that form the foundation of the Western diet.

If you weren’t already avoiding these foods, your gut microbiome is as good a reason as any to start. 

Corn, soy, wheat, and to a degree legumes, are likely to have come into contact with glyphosate unless otherwise specified. Support your gut with healthy whole foods and pre- and probiotics. 

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.