We all have the family member or friend that won’t seem to stop shouting from the rooftops, “non-organic food is killing us all!”. Those same people have an obsession with the company Monsanto and its grip on the entire agricultural industry. As much as we may not like to hear that the conventionally grown fruits, vegetables, and meats we eat are much more dangerous than we thought, it’s starting to look as if this might be true.
The main problem with non-organic foods in regards to human health are the use of pesticides made with glyphosate. Herbicides that use this chemical first came into the market in 1974. It is commonly known as Roundup. Roundup was marketed as a completely safe herbicide that could be used in near unlimited amounts. Since the 70’s, herbicide resistant weeds have started to develop and the use of this pesticide has increased 100-fold. Although there have been many calls for the reduction or banning of glyphosate-based herbicides due to worries of toxicity to humans, it is only now after nearly 50 years of use that the industry may have to start acknowledging the dangers of this chemical. Let’s dig into why that is.
Glyphosate Increases Our Risk Of Cancer
A new meta-analysis has recently come out. Researchers looked at epidemiological studies that specifically followed people exposed to high amounts of glyphosate and looked at their cancer risk. Specifically, risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma (NHL) was assessed. On average exposure to glyphosate increases our risk of NHL by 41%. This really hit home when I read it, as my wife Beth had NHL a few years ago. It’s what got us into this whole health journey we are on. If you want to learn more about that check out our recent podcast.
While we are not naive enough to just blame the Roundup soaked foods we were eating for Beth’s cancer, the link cannot be ignored. Monsanto (maker of Roundup) repeatedly says that their products have no association with cancer and that it is completely safe for humans. According to the research on animals and the links we make with human exposure, this simply is not the case.
While we don’t have data on humans that looks at direct mechanistic causation of cancer from glyphosate, we do have data from mice and rat studies. Much of this data can be used to look at potential mechanisms in human exposure.
Glyphosate Lowers The Immune System and Causes Inflammation
Glyphosate can work to lower our immune function by disrupting the bacteria in our gut. This study was done in rats, which have comparable responses in their guts to humans. Anxiety and depressive behaviors also increased with the alteration of gut bacteria.
This study showed that pesticides of many kinds, including glyphosate based ones inhibited the production of T-cell derived cytokines, an important marker for immune function.
These changes in cell production and gut bacteria work to cause chronic inflammation of the gut, causing inflammatory bowel diseases.
It Causes A Disruption Of Sex Hormones
The endocrine system regulates all of our hormones. This includes hormones that help us sleep, regulate our metabolism, stimulate healthy sexual function, and every other important process in the body. In several rat studies glyphosate was shown to cause big disruptions to the production of sex hormones in particular.
This study showed a big decrease in testosterone and sperm count with rats given soy milk. Soy is a crop that is drenched in herbicides.
This study shows an increase in estrogen receptors and mammary gland growth, leading to mast cell proliferation.
Glyphosate Increases Oxidative Stress
An important mechanism for the causation of cancer is an increase in oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals to antioxidants in the body. When this imbalance skews towards an increase in free radicals, our healthy cells sustain damage over time.
Cancer has been linked to an increase in oxidative stress. Glyphosate is being shown to be a potent activator of stress pathways. In this study it was shown to overstimulate the antioxidant system in response to a surge of free radicals in the body after exposure to glyphosate.
By now it should be clear that glyphosate is bad news. The problem is, glyphosate is something that is completely entrenched in our current agricultural system. The main crops we grow like soy, corn, and grains are absolutely soaked in this stuff. Not only are we exposed to glyphosate when we eat these foods, but it comes through in conventionally raised meat as well. Cows, pigs, and chickens are all fed grain that was sprayed with Roundup. The only way to avoid these chemicals are to get certified organic meat and veggies, or from a local farm whose practices you can get to know. Try checking out the farms around you or even growing some of your own food. Your body will thank you.
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Elliot Steele is a Primal Health Coach based in Chelan WA. He strives to empower those looking to regain their health after a lifetime of misinformed practices. This is the essence of Steele Back Your Health, to truly learn how to be healthy with sustainable habits. Check out the coaching and blog page for more info!