Toxic Food 4 - shikimate pathway
Glyphosate and shikimate pathway suppression
One of the reasons given to justify the claim for glyphosate being non-toxic to humans is that it blocks a biological mechanism called the shikimate pathway, which does not exist in humans and other animals. This pathway does exist in plants and other more basic life forms such as bacteria, which is why glyphosate can act as a herbicide.
To try to be fair to the inventors of glyphosate, there was probably little awareness in the 1970's that our digestive systems rely on bacteria to function. It's only relatively recently that this seems to have been accepted by mainstream science. For many years there have been practitioners who have talked about the importance of digestive health and gut flora (for example Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride), but until recently such ideas have been dismissed out of hand as cranky pseudoscience. It's good to see them being recognised at last.
We normally think of bacteria as organisms that cause disease and infection, but they are not all like this. Our bodies contain many helpful, friendly bacteria in our intestines that are essential to digesting our food. These are the bacteria such as Lactobacillus that are used to make yoghurt and probiotic supplements. The probiotic bacteria perform many functions for us, such as breaking down complex food molecules into simpler ones that can be absorbed through the gut wall, synthesising nutritional compounds that our bodies need but cannot make, and helping to remove waste products for elimination.
If we recognise how important the gut bacteria are, it starts to become obvious that substances such as glyphosate are going to wreak havoc with our health. Unfortunately glyphosate kills our friendly bacteria more readily than any dangerous ones that happen to be around. This disturbs the balance of our gut and allows dangerous bacteria and fungi to proliferate. One example of this is candida albicans, which many people experience problems with as it grows out of control. Normally our helpful bacteria keep it in check, but when these are killed off (either by glyphosate or prescription antibiotics), candida can take over. Our friendly bacteria keep the cells lining the gut healthy, but without them we can experience a problem called "leaky gut syndrome", which then allows the candida to infiltrate through the gut wall. Once the gut wall is damaged, all manner of molecules can penetrate, leading to food allergies and intolerances.
As I mentioned earlier, the friendly gut bacteria provide us with some essential "aromatic" amino acids such as tyrosine, tryptophan and phenylalanine. These are essential to our bodies for making proteins, but as we do not posess the shikimate pathway we cannot make them ourselves. Normally our gut flora do this for us, but if they are killed off we can end up with a deficiency. These aromatic amino acids are not just essential for protein synthesis, thet are also used to create such vital compounds as serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is well known for its role in preventing anxiety and depression, but it also regulates blood sugar absorption and insulin. A deficiency can lead to problems of obesity, and type II diabetes, as well as anxiety and depression. A deficiency of dopamine is linked to Parkinson's disease.
There is also the issue that when the shikimate pathway is blocked, the molecules it should have been handling get diverted into other routes, leading to the production of toxic compounds such as phenols, benzoic acid, formaldehyde and ammonia. When Roundup kills a weed, it may not matter much what the breakdown products are and where they end up, but when the same drug is killing bacteria inside our bodies, and we then absorb the toxic residues of that process, it matters a lot. Now the breakdown products have to pass through our liver, kidneys and bowel. It's not surprising that diseases relating to these organs are increasing.
To counteract the effects of glyphosate it is first necessary to eliminate it from the diet by eating organically, and then to replenish the friendly gut bacteria by eating probiotics and fermented food. However you have to remember that it takes a long time for glyphosate to be eliminated from the body, and while that's happening it will continue killing the gut flora. It's been in the food chain since the 1970's (and other toxic chemicals such as DDT were being used before that), so getting rid of them is going to take time.