I’d like to share with you a youtube video I recently watched on the website of one of the labs I use frequently. It’s an interview with Dr. Stephanie Seneff, an MIT Research Scientist who found herself researching glyphosate in her quest to understand the growing prevalence of Autism in North America (about 1 in 66 children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Canada). Glyphosate is the primary chemical in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup and is considered by many accounts to be the most popular herbicide globally. Its residues are present on many common Western foods, including soy, wheat, and corn, and various research papers have identified glyphosate in the blood and urine of otherwise healthy people. Industry considers it safe for human consumption because it kills weeds by blocking metabolic pathways not present in humans. The unfortunate oversight is that this metabolic pathway is present in our microbiome.
The human body consists primarily of microbes – helpful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that outnumber our human cells about 10 to 1! Their tiny size accounts for perhaps only 2 pounds of our body weight, but that 2 pounds includes up to 100 times more genetic material than we each carry in our own human cells. We could say that we’re far more bacterium than human. (If this is news to you, please read a little bit about the National Institutes of Health Human Microbiome Project, or our previous articles here.)
Our evolution with these microbes ties our health and happiness, to theirs. They scavenge and protect us from toxins, analogous to environmental phytoremediation systems where bacteria filter toxic waste from water and soil for the trees. Our microbes produce natural antibiotics that keep disease-causing organisms in check, and immune system chemicals that teach our immune cells to accurately differentiate between helpful and harmful microbes. They digest our food, generate essential vitamins, and contribute to processes that flip our own genes on and off. Damaged microbiomes (sometimes referred to as dysbiosis), are linked to a variety of chronic diseases, including asthma, eczema, autoimmune conditions, heart disease, diabetes, and various mental health conditions, to name a few. So, the suggestion that a pervasive environmental chemical is causing damage to our microbiome, is cause for serious investigation and cautious action.
Dr. Seneff co-authored a research paper that outlines glyphosate’s ability to impair our microbiome’s ability to detoxify pollutants (called xenobiotics), some of which are known cancer-causing agents and hormone (endocrine) disruptors. Reduced detoxification and correspondingly heightened exposure to these chemicals means that we’re more strongly affected by their negative impacts than other people, resulting in an increased risk of developing cancer or various hormonal, neurological, and immune system diseases. If glyphosate triggers disease indirectly by damaging our microbiome rather than by directly damaging our human cells and DNA, it partially explains why traditional research fails to clearly identify the harmful impact of glyphosate.
The video goes on to list a variety of mechanisms by which glyphosate could contribute to other chronic illnesses, including Alzheimer’s and Autism. It’s perhaps a bit technical, but worth the watch if you’re at all concerned about the impact of Genetically Modified crops and chemical sprays on our food.
On the 8th of April, KidsInclusive (formerly the Child Development Centre at Hotel Dieu), is holding their 22nd annual Run/Walk fundraising event. They offer incredible services for our children and families in need of specialized care, including for living well with Autism.