By now you know that your gut houses trillions of microorganisms. Most of these microorganisms are beneficial to our health. They aid in digestion, vitamin production, regulation of the immune system and inflammation, regulation of bone metabolism, and production of neurotransmitters that affect our mood and brain health. Among this community of microorganisms, there are also opportunistic bacteria and yeast. In small numbers, these so-called “bad” microorganisms are harmless. However, if they overgrow and start to overpopulate the gut microbiota it can lead to dysbiosis, inflammation, and associated disease conditions. By nourishing and supporting the beneficial bacteria, their abundance will naturally crowd out and prevent the overgrowth of opportunistic organisms. It is when the beneficial bacteria become compromised, that the opportunistic organisms will overgrow and start to dominate the gut.
It is well known that antibiotics can affect this critical balance of organisms in our gut microbiota. But so can numerous other things, including the herbicides used when farming our food.
Which do you think is more likely to damage your gut bacteria? Antibiotics or consuming foods that have been sprayed with the weed killer known as Roundup?
You might be surprised to learn that even though antibiotics can certainly have a negative effect on the gut microbiota, consuming conventionally grown foods sprayed with Roundup can actually be more damaging.
Antibiotics kill off ALL bacteria. When you take an antibiotic it not only targets the bacteria that is causing your infection, but also the bacteria in the gut microbiome. Antibiotics don’t discriminate, they eradicate the beneficial bacteria as well as the opportunistic bacteria.
Roundup works differently. The main ingredient in Roundup is a chemical called glyphosate. When glyphosate was originally developed by Monsanto in the 1970’s it was patented as an herbicide. However, it was then discovered to also have antimicrobial properties and Monsanto was later awarded a patent for glyphosate as an antibiotic. The antibiotic property of glyphosate is one of the primary ways it kills off the weeds and unwanted plant life. However, glyphosate is selective in the bacteria that it kills. Research indicates that glyphosate appears to preferentially kill off beneficial bacteria, like bifidobacterium and lactobacilli, allowing for an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria. Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are two of the most important bacteria for plant health and human health.
So unlike antibiotics that kill off both the beneficial and opportunistic bacteria, glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup targets the beneficial bacteria while allowing the opportunistic bacteria to flourish.
Roundup has been the most widely used herbicide in the United States since 2001. Not only is it sprayed on the plants that we directly eat but also on the crops that our livestock eat. In animals such as pigs, cows, chickens, the glyphosate accumulates in the flesh that we then consume. In particular, it gets concentrated in the collagen of animals. Getting more collagen in our diets is the number one reason why we consume bone broth! Research has confirmed that glyphosates alter the gut microbiota of animals and there is growing evidence that it also disrupts our human microbiota. Until glyphosates are banned in the US, as they have been in many EU countries, for the sake of your gut, avoid them as best you can.
How to avoid glyphosates?
- Try to eat organically as much as possible to minimize exposure to Roundup and other herbicides whose primary ingredient is glyphosate. Foods most heavily sprayed with glyphosates are:
- soy, wheat, rice, corn, almonds, apples, apricots, asparagus, cherries, and dates
- Avoid genetically modified foods. GMO foods are plant or meat products that have had their DNA altered in a laboratory. Most GMO foods grown in the US are “Roundup Ready,” meaning they can withstand spraying of Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide and live, while weeds around it die. In turn, GMO foods can have a higher residue of glyphosates.
- Look for labels. Besides looking for USDA Organic labels, also look for labels such as NON GMO Project Verified label and the newest Glyphosate Residue Free labeling.
We have known for many years that antibiotics can damage gut microbiota. However, if you have to take an antibiotic to overcome an infection, it is generally only for a short period of time. Eating prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods and/or taking a probiotic supplement after taking an antibiotic can help to re-establish a healthy gut microbiota. Unfortunately, if you are not careful about what you eat, you can be exposed to glyphosates on a daily basis causing an ongoing and unrelenting assault on those precious bacteria that make up our gut microbiome. Even a probiotic with billions of bacteria will have difficulty maintaining a healthy gut microbiome under a constant barrage of glyphosates.
If you want to take a deeper dive into all the ways the gut and your digestion affect the health of your bones, please check out my free webinar “Is your gut holding your bones hostage”. Click here to go to the webinar.
Please reach out if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consult to talk about how to get your gut healthy!
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