A SCIENTIFIC literature review by Canadian researchers from the University of British Columbia concludes that “glyphosate may be a critical environmental trigger in the etiology of several disease states, including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.”
In the introduction to their study, the scientists said, “The prevalence of digestive disorders has increased globally, as countries have adopted a more ‘Westernised’ diet pattern.
“A Western diet, characterised as high in fat and refined carbohydrates, can also be defined as a product of increased technology and industrialisation.
“Modern farmers rely on agrochemicals to meet the needs of a growing population, and these chemicals have shifted the Western diet’s chemical composition.
“While the number of individuals choosing to live a wheat-free lifestyle without a celiac disease diagnosis has increased, clinical trials have shown that gluten from wheat is not responsible for causing symptoms in healthy individuals suggesting that something else is inducing symptoms.
“The herbicide, glyphosate, is applied to wheat crops before harvest to encourage ripening resulting in higher glyphosate residues in commercial wheat products within North America. Glyphosate inhibits the shikimate pathway, a pathway exclusive to plants and bacteria. Glyphosate’s effect on dysbiosis was not considered when making safety recommendations.
“[In this paper], we evaluate the literature surrounding glyphosate’s effects on the gut microbiome and conclude that glyphosate residues on food could cause dysbiosis, given that opportunistic pathogens are more resistant to glyphosate compared to commensal bacteria.
“However, research on glyphosate’s effects on the microbiome suffers from numerous methodological weaknesses, and these limitations make it impossible to draw any definitive conclusions regarding glyphosate’s influence on health through alterations in the gut microbiome.”
Through undertaking their review, the scientists concluded that “glyphosate may be a critical environmental trigger in the etiology of several disease states, including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.” They noted however that research methodologies were sometimes weak and that more robust long-term research was needed.
They said, “Glyphosate exposure, either through active ingredient alone or commercial herbicide formulations, has the potential to induce dysbiosis by creating an imbalance between commensal members of the gastrointestinal microbiome and opportunistic pathogens.
“Glyphosate may be a critical environmental trigger in the etiology of several disease states associated with dysbiosis, including celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
“Glyphosate exposure may also have consequences for mental health, including anxiety and depression, through alterations in the gut microbiome.
“However, the research surrounding glyphosate’s effects on the gut microbiome also suffers from numerous methodological weaknesses including artificially high-doses, insufficient duration, proprietary ingredients and an over reliance on animal models. Future long-term studies examining physiologically relevant doses in both healthy and genetically susceptible populations are warranted to determine the real risk posed to human health.”
The review assessed the following areas:
Glyphosate targets types of bacteria present in the gut microbiome
The review found that recent studies have highlighted the potential cytotoxic and carcinogenic effects of glyphosate both in vivo and in vitro (Van Bruggen et al., 2018). In addition to direct toxicity, it is possible that glyphosate could influence health through secondary means via the gut microbiome, which harbours trillions of microorganisms living as a functional ecosystem.
Glyphosate exposure induces gut dysbiosis
The review findings suggest that high-dose glyphosate exposure may promote opportunistic pathogen expansion in the gut microbiome. In addition to increasing inflammation and oxidative stress, reduced butyrate levels influence intestinal motility (Walter, 2008), which has been associated with a host of digestive symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhoea and reflux (Martinucci et al., 2014). While these studies suggest that glyphosate alone may induce dysbiosis, in practice, crops are sprayed with glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH), which contain many additives in addition to glyphosate. These additives, alone or combined with glyphosate, could have differential effects on bacterial communities present within the gut.
Commercial herbicide adjuvants further drive dysbiosis
The review findings suggest that herbicide adjuvants may induce alterations to the gut microbiome and may have a synergistic effect when used in combination with glyphosate.
Pre and post-natal glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicide exposure may influence early microbiome development
The scientists findings suggest that exposure to glyphosate, either alone or in a commercial preparation, at doses previously deemed safe for human health, may have profound effects on microbiome development and may be an environmental trigger in the development of celiac disease.
Glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicide exposure may alter behaviour through changes in the gut microbiome
Exposure to Roundup® is associated with increased anxiety and depression-like behaviours in mice, correlated with decreases in Corynebacterium spp., Firmicutes (Lactobacillus spp.) and Bacteroidetes (Aitbali et al., 2018). Research focused on the gut-brain-microbiome axis is in its infancy, and much remains unknown in this rapidly developing field. However, given that mood disorders are often comorbidities associated with digestive diseases, understanding the implications ubiquitous environmental toxins, including glyphosate, may have on the gut microbiome and behaviour is of vital importance.