What is Glyphosate and How to Detoxify Glyphosate
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States and has been used in the agricultural industry for decades. Glyphosate is effective at killing bugs, weeds, and grass.
How does glyphosate kill weeds? It stops a specific enzyme pathway called the shikimate pathway. This seven-step metabolic pathway is used by plants and many microorganisms like bacteria, algae, fungi, protozoans. When the shikimate pathway is inhibited, the plants die.
The makers of Roundup, Monsanto, have argued glyphosate is harmless to humans because our cells don’t have the shikimate pathway. However, our gut bacteria DO have this pathway, and we depend on these bacteria for good health and more. Exposure to glyphosate kills our gut bacteria and disrupts our fragile gut microbiome.
History of Glyphosate
Glyphosate has three separate patents, each for a different use.
Patent #1 in 1964: as a metal chelator used to clean or descale commercial boilers and pipes. Glyphosate binds to and removes minerals such as manganese, zinc, and cobalt that are vital to human and animal health.
Patent #2 in 1974: Monsanto filed this patent as an herbicide (glyphosate) to kill plants by disrupting the shikimate pathway.
Patent #3 in 2010: Monsanto filed a third patent on glyphosate as an antibiotic, which kills beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Genetically Engineered Food Crops in the United States
When genetically modified "Roundup Ready" seeds were introduced, they allowed farmers to spray large amounts of Roundup on their fields without killing the crops. Food crops were created to withstand its active ingredient, glyphosate.
When Roundup is sprayed, the food crops lives but all other bugs die. More than 90% of all soybean, cotton, corn and sugarbeet crops in the United States are genetically modified. Other popular, and approved, genetically modified crops include alfalfa, canola, papaya, and summer squash.
How Much Glyphosate Has Been Applied?
The amount of Roundup sprayed has dramatically increased. To date: approximately 2.3 million tons in the US and over 10 million tons worldwide!
The early promise was this: using glyphosate would lead to a reduction in herbicide use, but the opposite has happened. Glyphosate use has actually increased 50-fold since 1996 and helped spawn 60 million acres of “superweeds” on farmland across the country. As a result of the "superweeds," farmers must use more glyphosate than normal on the same crop, which has increased exposure to us.
Health Impact of Glyphosate
A known carcinogen on adults and likely children.
Liver Toxicity and Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Inhibition of cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are crucial in phase 1 liver detoxification processes.
Decimates the gut microbiome by disrupting the shikimate pathway, causing a decrease in the ratio of beneficial to harmful bacteria.
Disruption of sulfur metabolism, glutathione deficiency, and impaired methylation pathways.
Binds to important minerals so the body can’t utilize them (iron, cobalt, manganese). Remember, glyphosate was patented as a mineral chelator. Manganese deficiency leads to impaired mitochondrial function and glutamate toxicity in the brain.
It’s an endocrine disruptor in human cells (aka: xenoestrogen).
Interferes with the synthesis of aromatic amino acids and methionine, which leads to shortages in critical neurotransmitters and folate.
Inhibits the pituitary gland's release of thyroid-stimulating hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism.
How Does Glyphosate Exposure Occur?
Ingestion! Eating foods sprayed with glyphosate, especially conventional fruits and vegetables.
Absorbing glyphosate through the skin (ie: spraying Roundup in your yard and on your crops).
Eating foods that contain any one of these genetically modified (GMO) foods: soybean, cotton, corn, and sugar beets. Those foods have been sprayed with glyphosate.
Just because it says non-GMO doesn’t mean it’s free of glyphosate. Glyphosate is used on wheat crops, oats, and legumes. These crops are not GMO, but farmers and companies use glyphosate to quickly dry the crops days before processing it. They spray it as a pre-harvest drying agent!
Drinking wine is a common exposure to glyphosate, particularly wine from California.
Drinking water contaminated with glyphosate.
Glyphosate is virtually everywhere in the food chain. It has shown even up in farm animals because they’re often fed GMO corn and then we eat their meat (ie: cattle, hogs, turkey, chickens).
What About Glyphosate in “Healthy” & “Natural” Foods?
Wheat, Oats, and Legumes are not GMO crops, yet glyphosate is still testing alarmingly high in both organic and conventional food products containing these ingredients. Why is this? It’s because companies use glyphosate as a crop desiccant. This means its used to quickly dry the crops days before processing them. They literally spray glyphosate as a pre-harvest drying agent! Insane and gross!
Example #1: General Mills removes ‘100% Natural’ label from Nature Valley granola bars after glyphosate lawsuit.
Example #2: Bob’s Red Mill faces class action lawsuit over glyphosate weedkiller contamination.
Example #3: California consumer sues Quaker Oats over glyphosate contamination. Seventeen of their products tested positive for glyphosate.
Example #4: Panera Bread faces lawsuit after glyphosate contamination in certain bread products and sandwiches is revealed.
Example #5: Monsanto’s glyphosate found in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
Example #6: Glyphosate found in all 5 major orange juice brands.
The acceptable daily intake for glyphosate in Europe is 0.3 mg/kg/day. Guess what it is in the United States? 1.75 mg/kg/day. FDA has increased this minimum exposure ~20-fold over the years.
What Can We Do to Limit Exposure to Glyphosate?
Eating an organic diet will decrease immediate exposure. You must remove the food source if exposure is long term. Glyphosate is not easily washed off fruits/vegetables. It’s absorbed into every single cell of a plant.
Avoid eating GMO foods, which are directly contaminated with glyphosate.
Avoid animal products such as milk or meat in which GMO foods were used to feed the animals.
Whenever possible, buy organic fruit and vegetables. At the very least, purchase organic for any food listed on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list.
Boycott spraying Roundup and other similar products on anything around your house (ie: yard & garden).
Petition to ban Roundup weed killer in parks and on playgrounds.
Certain water filters and filtration systems can remove or reduce pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate from your drinking water. The more effective water filters are the “under the counter” models that use reverse osmosis.
How to Support Normal Detoxification Processes?
Glyphosate doesn’t leave your body very easy, so ensuring your detoxifying organs are in tip-top shape is crucial.
Eat organic, GMO-free foods.
Sweat. Use of any type of sauna for sweating out toxin. At least 20 minutes heavy sweating; 1-5 times a week.
Drink a lot of clean, filtered water.
Increase your intake of fiber.
Take a liver-supporting supplement that promotes normal detoxification. I love Healthy Goods Estro-Adapt, which contains so many of the important nutrients necessary for detoxification processes.
Consume probiotic foods and probiotic supplements to repopulate the microbiota which glyphosate destroys.
Consume sulfur-rich cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower.
Because glyphosate is so pervasive it is important to incorporate foods into your diet that help your body detoxify. This may entail making lifestyle choices you can and are willing to do on a daily basis for the long term.
One thing I help people with is understanding where they may be exposed to toxins in their environment. Let's set up a free discovery call to answer all your questions.
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist