Between the picnics and the pool parties, there’s a good chance your summer weekend plans will include a little lawn care—but before you reach for the weed killer there’s something you should know: scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently discovered that a chemical called glyphosate (found in some popular weed-killing products) could be wreaking havoc on your gut bacteria.
A team of researchers looked at more than 300 studies surrounding the use of glyphosate and determined that exposure to the commonly used chemical has been linked to a broad range of disorders from birth defects to cell damage. And most recently, glyphosate was found to destroy the beneficial bacteria in the human gut that help protect us from illness and disease.
While harmful bacteria like C. difficile are able to withstand glyphosate, good bacteria such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli are not. The resulting imbalance can threaten a healthy gut lining and lead to a condition known as Leaky Gut Syndrome, in which toxins and harmful microbes are allowed to enter the bloodstream. This, in turn, can negatively impact a healthy immune response. In addition, glyphosate disrupts serotonin production in the gut. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter linked to healthy mood and behavior.
Until now, glyphosate has been relatively low on the EPA’s radar because it is not considered toxic when used at recommended doses. The problem? With a rise in GMO crops across the country, large-scale herbicide use has increased dramatically, which means glyphosate finds its way into the plants and animals we eat. “When you disturb something in nature, there aren’t any voids,” said retired pathologist and Purdue University Professor Emeritus Don Huber, PhD in a recent article. “You take the good guys out and the bad guys rule. And that’s what’s happening.”
To reduce exposure to glyphosate, experts recommend opting for organically grown foods (because organic farming bans the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers) as well as eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods, since the majority of glyphosate-treated crops—including corn and canola—are those most often found in processed foods.