Roundup-Ready Wheat - Leaky Gut Anyone?



Glyphosate was hailed as the answer to all agricultural woes when it was released onto the market as under the brand name Roundup® by Monsanto in 1974. The USA-based company has since developed, via genetic modification, a number of cereal and legume crops that are in their words " Roundup® ready".

This essentially means that farmers can fill their tractors full of this chemical and spray their crop of wheat, corn or soy and the weeds will die but the crop won't.  Seems like magic doesn't it? No more back-breaking hoeing of weeds from sunup to sundown, not to mention having to PAY for labourers to actually do this job on a  regular basis ( I always wonder how much those tractors actually cost - in dollars and in materials?  dollars that COULD be spent employing people whilst saving on coal-based technologies as well - but I guess that is another blog!)

Since its creation,  Monsanto has argued that glyphosate is harmless to humans because our cells don’t have the shikimate pathway, which it inhibits. However, our gut bacteria DO have this pathway.

These are the very same good guys that talk to our immune system (80% lies right behind the gut),  make some of our vitamins ( like B12 and K and biotin), and also make some of our " feel good" neurotransmitters such as GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid), serotonin and dopamine - up to 75% are made by our good fellows - this is how they communicate to each other when they are happy and well. Not so when they are threatened or in a constant kill-off phase. I always like to say to my patients that the fastest way to feeling down is to peeve off your gut microbes - they stop communicating with each other and hence stop releasing those neurotransmitters that are vital to our brain health and general well-being.  I wonder how many people on SSRI drugs for depression ( Selective Serotonin Re-uptake inhibitors) or even those addicted to various substances ( dopamine deficiency) actually have an unhappy gut microbiome ( essentially the environment where your microbes live). What is glyphosate doing to your gut bugs?

But, enough of our gut microbes for now... Lets just talk gluten intolerance and allergy (aka Coeliac disease).

Coeliac disease is a frank gluten allergy that tends to have a genetic component.  It now affects 5 % of the human population. The incidence of this immune disease has been rising sharply in the few decades- an incline that can be correlated to the same rise in use of glyphosate on our crops.

 Have a look at this graph published in the peer reviewed journal Interdisciplinary toxicology:

glyphosate and thyroid graph


Characteristics of coeliac disease include the impairment of one of our many detoxification pathways, utilising the cytochrome P450 (CYO450) enzyme pathway. These enzymes are crucial for the detoxification of environmental toxins in our bodies, activating vitamin D3, metabolising vitamin A, and maintaining bile acid production from our liver ( which then assists with digestion of dietary fats). Glyphosate is known to inhibit these CYP450 enzymes. 

This chemical also has strong abilities to chelate (essentially leach out) out many important minerals from our bodies, including iron, cobalt, molybdenum, copper and other rare metals. Those with Coeliac disease also have trouble with retention of these minerals in their bodies.  If this wasn't enough, glyphosate also depletes essential amino acids such as tryptophan, tyrosine, methionine and selenomethionine in our bodies. Again, those with coeliac disease also have trouble absorbing these essential amino acids:

When you consider the important roles all these vital nutrients play in our well-being and health, it is small wonder that this is an incredibly toxic substance to have, in any amount, in our  bodies:

(NB - this is not in any way a comprehensive list)

  • Vitamin D: Calcium absorption ( strong bones and teeth), cancer protection ( bowel cancer risk increases by up to 30% if Vitamin D levels are low, melanoma protection), immune modulating - can boost your immune system, but may also "calm" an over-active immune system as found in autoimmune disease such as  multiple sclerosis) , antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, blot clotting, cardio protective, increases tyrosine activity (crucial for thyroid function), blood sugar balance ( diabetes protective)
  •  Vitamin A: Thyroid hormone conversion,   embryonic development, eye health, cancer protective towards ovarian, uterine, cervical cancers and lymphoma, maintenance of a healthy skeleton, skin maintenance, anti-oxidant, synthesis of our stress and sex hormones, healthy white cell production, enhances iron utilisation in the cell, nerve health ( helps with maintenance of the myelin sheath surrounding our cells - the very one that is affected in multiple sclerosis)
  • Iron: Formation of haemaglobin.,  the main oxygen carrier in our red blood cells. It is also required for the conversion of glucose to energy, the production of enzymes, hormones, new cells, amino acids and neurotransmitters. The immune system also needs iron to help us defend our bodies. The thyroid gland relies on this mineral to convert inactive T4 to the active T3. Low iron compromises this pathway as it interrupts the formation of the enzymes that are crucial for this process to occur.
  • Cobalt: Essential for the production of vitamin B12 ( the "co" in cobalamin stands for cobalt!), red blood cell protection and myelin sheath regeneration. 
  • Molybdenum: Production of energy within our mitochondria.  It also "turns on" our antioxidants - helps us mop up free radicals;  an excess of which have been linked to premature ageing and even cancer. Molybdenum also helps our bodies metabolise toxins and get rid of waste products.  
  • Copper: Formation of red blood cells, and nerve cells. Strengthens the immune system. It also helps form collagen, a key part of bones and connective tissue. Copper may also act as an antioxidant, reducing those free radicals that can damage cells and DNA. Copper is also vital to thyroid health. 
  • Tryptophan: This is the precursor to our "happy"  neurotransmitter, serotonin. It is one of the 20 essential amino acids which our bodies can't manufacture, so must either be ingested or made by the bacteria in our gut. Lack of this vital nutrient is associated with depression. 
  • Tyrosine: Crucial for the manufacture of both thyroid hormone. It also is required in the production of dopamine, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. It may also help with energy production and your memory!
  • Methionine: Also a powerful antioxidant and as such helps fight free radicals in the body as well as slow the ageing process. Formation of collagen, which is known to help enhance the condition of skin, hair, and nails. Strengthens the immune system,  Crucial for absorption of selenium and zinc. Methionine also helps the body produce SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-methionine), which has been used to treat psychiatric illnesses, infertility, liver problems, premenstrual disorders, and musculoskeletal conditions. 
  • Selenium: Crucial for thyroid hormone activation and it also is one of the most important minerals to keep those antioxidants chugging along!
  • Phew......and these are only the ones that have been investigated! How much more will glyphosate find to inhibit?

Is it small wonder that with the increased use of glyphosate in our agriculture has come an increased incidence of thyroid cancer, kidney disease, coeliac disease, infertility, recurrent miscarriage and birth defects and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The following graph ( from the same journal as above) I found even more alarming:

glyphosate and thyroid cancer chart


Governments around the world are beginning to take note with the Dutch banning all glyphosate use at the end of 2015. France and Brazil are said to soon follow (In Australia and the US - it's "spray away"!)

 Of course glyphosate is also sold in every garden and hardware store that you care to enter - mostly under the trade names Roundup® and Zero ®. 

It's often tricky to convince anyone to give up the use of something that is sold so readily. But you could try and convince the gardener in your life to try the weed dragon. It can always be the next Christmas/birthday/Father's Day gift!

Alexandra ~naturopath, nutritionist~ 


  • Deaths from Parkinson's disease (ICD G20 & 332.0) plotted against glyphosate use on corn & soy (R=0.9006, p≤5.063e-07) and % GE corn & soy planted (R=0.9676, p≤2.714e-06). Sources: USDA:NASS; CDC. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson).
  • Hospital discharge diagnosis (any) of celiac disease ICD-9 579 and glyphosate applications to wheat (R=0.9759, p≤1.862e-06). Sources: USDA:NASS; CDC. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson).
  • Deaths due to intestinal infections ICD A04, A09; 008, 009 with glyphosate applications to wheat (R=0.9834, p≤3.975e-09). Sources: USDA:NASS; CDC. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson).
  • Thyroid cancer incidence rate plotted against glyphosate applied to U.S. corn & soy crops (R=0.988, p≤7.612e-09) along with % GE corn & soy crops (R=0.9377, p≤2.152e-05). Sources: USDA:NASS; SEER. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson).
  • Number of hospitalizations for acute kidney injury plotted against glyphosate applied to com & soy (in 1000 tons). (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson).
  • End stage renal disease deaths (ICD N18.0 & 585.6) plotted against % GE corn & soy planted (R=0.9585, p<4.03e-6) and glyphosate applied to corn & soy (R=0.9844, p≤3.704e-09). Sources: USDA:NASS; CDC. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson).
  • Deaths from Parkinson's disease (ICD G20 & 332.0) plotted against glyphosate use on corn & soy (R=0.9006, p≤5.063e-07) and % GE corn & soy planted (R=0.9676, p≤2.714e-06). Sources: USDA:NASS; CDC. (Figure courtesy of Nancy Swanson).
  • Osiecki, H ( 2014) The Nutrient Bible, 9th Edition AG Publishing, Eagle Farm, Australia.