Coeliac disease & modern farming practices.

WheatCoeliac  disease and gluten intolerance are a growing problem throughout the world. It is estimated that around 5% of the population in Europe and North America now suffers from some kind of gluten sensitivity, although the real numbers are likely to be much higher[1].

So why the emergence of this issue now? Scientists are theorising that modern farming practices are to blame. Not only are gluten allergies/intolerances on the rise, but many other food sensitivities are also increasing.

What is glyphosate?

Glyphosate is a widely used herbicide used to kill weeds that compete with commercially grown crops all over the world. Originally developed by Monsanto, it can even be found on the shelves of your local hardware store or gardening centre – it’s known as “Roundup”. While the name probably sounds familiar, Monsanto have caused quite a storm as the leading manufacturer of genetically engineered crop seeds. The engineered crops have been altered so that they can also be sprayed with Roundup, yet do not perish with the weeds around them.

Glyphosate however, is absorbed into the plant through the foliage, and research has proven that this residue remains – and is consumed by the unexpecting average Joe. Here then, is the issue. The human body is taking in a chemical it was never meant to process, and the theory is that gluten sensitivity is a direct result.

How does glyphosate affect human health?

While it is supposedly ‘non-toxic’ to humans, links have been made to glyphosate and obesity, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and autism, all of which have dramatically increased in the last few decades. Despite Monsanto’s claims, Roundup is in fact one of the most toxic herbicides.[2]

Humans depend upon food and beneficial gut microbes to provide our essential nutrients. Glyphosate has been shown to disrupt gut bacteria, preferentially killing beneficial forms and causing an overgrowth of pathogens. Two other properties of glyphosate also negatively impact human health – chelation (binding) of minerals such as iron and cobalt, and interference with cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, which play many important roles in the body.  In this way, glyphosate causes inflammation, dysbiosis, malabsoprtion and an environment ripe to produce gut dysfunction.

Research studies conducted on carnivorous fish exposed to glyphosate, showed evidence of damaging effects including dysbiosis of the gut, and reduced production of digestive enzymes.[3] Other studies have shown glyphosate to have a variety of ill-effects, including reduced kidney and liver function.[4]

How to avoid glyphosate exposure…

The best way to avoid exposing yourself to this chemical is to buy organic. It’s now been proven that organic fruits and vegetables are higher in bioflavonoids and other nutrients, and far lower (obviously) in herbicide/pesticide residue. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to avoid exposure completely due to the contamination of soil.

Buying grass fed or organic meat will further limit exposure. Avoid buying genetically engineered foods. As a general rule, avoid anything processed or packaged as this is likely to contain GMO wheat, corn, soy or potato, all of which have been treated with glyphosate.



[1] Samsel. A & Senneff. S. Glyphosate and pathways to modern disease II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdiscip Toxicol. Dec 2013; 6(4): 159–184

[2] Mesnage, R et al. Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their active principles. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:179691.

[3] Samsel. A & Senneff. S. Glyphosate and pathways to modern disease II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdiscip Toxicol. Dec 2013; 6(4): 159–184

[4] Tizhe, E.V et al. Serum biochemical assessment of hepatic and renal functions of rats due to oral exposure to glyphosate with zinc. Comp Clin Path. 2014;23:1043-1050