Do you eat 100% organic? Why? Why not? Is cost your only factor? How much does being sick cost? Include co-pays, deductibles, lost productivity, time off work, and reduced quality of life (which is tough to quantify). I just had a patient tell me his dialysis, resulting from type 2 diabetes, costs $50,000 per year. Do you know there are over 80,000 chemicals being used regularly in the US? Do you know that over 10,000+ of those are allowed in and on our food? The majority of these chemicals are not studied as much as you would like to think for their impact on our environment and our health. Many fall under what is called “Generally Recognized As Safe” or GRAS. Additionally, for what little research and investigation has been done, most is done on one chemical at a time. While the average American is exposed to 100+ different chemicals from personal care products, like deodorant or hair spray, takes multiple medications, and eats foods containing food coloring, preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, and more every day! With the nearly endless possible combinations of different chemicals, and each person having a different ability to process or detoxify these chemicals out, it is impossible to fully study the effects these chemicals could have in combination on our health and the environment. We are the experiment. What to do about all this?
Recently there has been a growing trend of people becoming vegan and vegetarians for this very reason. There has been a growing number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants and menu items, and vegan and vegetarian documentaries advocating animal rights, shaming animal cruelty, discussing green house gases, health, pollutants, shaming factory farming, etc. One thing I have noticed as I watch these documentaries and eat at these restaurants, as they advocate a plant based diet, is the lack of information being provided in regards to the quality of veggies available and what chemicals are being sprayed, GMOs, poor soil quality, decreasing top soil nutrient density, decreasing top soil micro biome (or soil based organisms), and resulting lower nutrient density fruits and veggies; resulting in most Americans being nutrient deficient in many essential nutrients, the most common I personally see are magnesium, omega 3 fats, and Vitamin D deficiencies. Vitamin deficiency can also lead to many known diseases like: Rickets from a vitamin D deficiency, Pellagra from vitamin B3 deficiency, Beri Beri from vitamin B1 deficiency, Goiter from an iodine deficiency, Iron or B12 deficiency anemia, Scurvy from a vitamin C deficiency, just to name a few. But, from an alternative holistic medicine point of view, or now people are using the term Functional Medicine, there are many signs and symptoms of nutrient deficiency prior to the moment of full blown disease and resulting lab work or test findings; often referred to as “sub-clinical”.
But, back to chemicals. In this blog I want to just address one chemical. One chemical out of the over 10,000+ allowed in and on our food. For the time being lets call this chemical “chemical X”. Chemical X is in roughly 750 products and is recognized as the most used chemical on farms, and I would argue it is very likely everyone has used a product that contains this chemical; chemical X is mostly aimed at weed control1. Being that chemical X is so prevalent, I would like to make an argument that the more non-organic plant based foods, or goods, you eat the more of chemical X you will be consuming. Making a fair argument that if a vegan or vegetarian were to be eating non-organic they will be greatly exposed to larger quantities of this toxin and more likely to have a negative health impact due to chemical X.
What we know about chemical X and your health:
- The WHO listed chemical X as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, with “sufficient” evidence of cancer causing in experimental animals, and “strong” evidence for genotoxicity (toxicity to your DNA), both for “pure” chemical X and for chemical X formulations2, 11.
- State of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment classifies chemical X as known to cause cancer5, 11.
- Chemical X has been patented as an antibiotic7
- Chemical X has been found in many common orange juices found at the market15
- Chemical X has been shown to reduce minerals in the soil up taking into plants16
- Chemical X has been shown to effect minerals in the body11
- Chemical X has been found to be in human urine8, 12
- Chemical X has been shown to be in breast milk8
- Chemical X is known to be damaging to the gut and good bacteria3, 11
- Chemical X is known to stop the shikimate pathway in plants thusly stopping the production of 3 essential amino acids (phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan)11, 14
- Chemical X is found to be in the water supply8, air17, and rain17
- Chemical X is correlated to kidney disease9
- Chemical X is linked to birth defects and neurological development issues10
- Chemical X has been found to accumulate in the bone marrow11
- Chemical X impairs our bodies detoxification11
- Chemical X is water soluble and can end up in water ways and bodies of water (think about that next time you go swimming in a lake or river)13
- And much more!
Quick side note as we need some understanding about amino acids. Think of amino acids like our alphabet, we use letters to build words, sentences, paragraphs, papers, books, etc. Similarly our body uses amino acids to build things, but our body can not produce all the amino acids, some we have to eat and we call these “essential amino acids”. So if we do not get these essential amino acids in our food, or our digestive system isn’t functioning well, we will not be able to build things necessary to be healthy. Think about it like this, imagine I asked you to write a book and I limit you on how many times you can use 3 letters, for example the letters A, B, and C. It is going to be very difficult to write a book with this limitation. Now imagine your body being limited, or possibly deficient in 3 essential amino acids. The three essential amino acids that are effected by chemical X are phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. Understand that phenylalanine is the precursor for the amino acid tyrosine, and tyrosine is the precursor of catecholamines in the body which function as neurotransmitters in the body (particularly dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine); while tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin (another neurotransmitter). Low neurotransmitter levels are attributed to anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, obesity, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, migraines, and much more; know anyone with these issues?
Now lets be fair and hear some of the arguments from the “other side”. Some people will argue that the amount of chemical X found in foods (often referred to as “residue”), water, etc are at levels too low to cause harm and are lower than the EPA’s allowable chemical X residue level; but those arguments don’t hold up to the research. Research has shown that even at low levels, 0.1 ppm (parts per million), chemical X destroys beneficial, or often referred to as good, gut bacteria3, 11. Which can lead to many health ailments such as gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, immune dysregulation, auto immune diseases, food allergies, food sensitivities, and more. Further more at 1 ppt (parts per trillion) chemical X, showed estrogenic activity and proliferated the growth of human hormone-dependent breast cancer cells4, 11. Another study showed chronic low doses of chemical X to cause fatty liver in rats6. Again to be fair advocates for using chemical X also argue that its usage has decreased the cost of food in the US and that it has also replaced prior used chemicals which were much worse than chemical X; depending on what you read chemical X has decreased the usage of other chemicals but at what cost. I would like to point out that organic farmers cannot use chemical X and they are still able to farm and sell affordable produce and make a profit; often I see organic produce prices near, or even cheaper than, conventional produce.
So let me summarize my current understanding of chemical X. Chemical X is heavily used by farmers, city’s for weed control, and home owners for weed control. Chemical X damages our nations top soil. Chemical X is water soluble and therefore mixes well with water and ends up everywhere water is. Chemical X is in water, food, bodies of water, and air. People are coming in contact with chemical X as shown in the excreted fluids like urine and breast milk. Chemical X reduces both minerals and essential amino acids in plants, which likely contributes to nutrient deficiencies and amino acid deficiencies in people leading to poor health and likely poor mental health; which may be greater in those in the vegan and vegetarian population who do not consume 100% organic. Chemical X causes cancers to grow faster, fatty liver disease, kills good bacteria, birth defects, reduced ability to detoxify, and more; and this is just a small portion of the known research and findings.
I propose the idea that chemicals, and generally anything besides nourishing foods, should not be GRAS, or innocent until proven guilty, but instead we should treat them as generally harmful until proven otherwise. Don’t wait for government agencies to protect you and your family, unfortunately we are all too familiar with the problems within our government and how lobbyists and special interests are controlling most regulations and legislation. Vote with your dollar by purchasing organic, preferably as local as possible, and you will see things change; as it is grocery stores have already began to carry organic produce due to the public demand. Please understand that that not all farmers can afford the organic labeling certification process and that some farmers may be providing similar produce without the labeling at local farmer markets; ask your farmer what was sprayed to find out. I agree that we do need to eat plants but just make sure we are not increasing our toxin exposure in the process. Until next time. Yours in health.
1. Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally
Charles M. Benbrook
Environmental Sciences EuropeBridging Science and Regulation at the Regional and European Level201628:3
© Benbrook. 2016
2. International agency for research on cancer WHO published March 1, 2016 https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/iarcnews/pdf/Q&A_Glyphosate.pdf
3. The Effect of Glyphosate on Potential Pathogens and Beneficial Members of Poultry Microbiota In Vitro. Awad A. Shehata•Wieland Schrodl•Alaa. A. Aldin•Hafez M. Hafez•Monika Krüger
4. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Sep;59:129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2013.05.057. Epub 2013 Jun 10. Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cells growth via estrogen receptors.
6. Multiomics reveal non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats following chronic exposure to an ultra-low dose of Roundup herbicide Robin Mesnage, George Renney, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Malcolm Ward & Michael N. Antoniou Scientific Reports 7, Article number: 39328 (2017) doi:10.1038/srep39328
9. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(2), 2125-2147; doi:10.3390/ijerph110202125
Hypothesis Glyphosate, Hard Water and Nephrotoxic Metals: Are They the Culprits Behind the Epidemic of Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology in Sri Lanka?. Channa Jayasumana. Sarath Gunatilake. Priyantha Senanayake.
10. Environ Health Perspect. 2002 Jun;110 Suppl 3:441-9. Birth defects, season of conception, and sex of children born to pesticide applicators living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, USA. Garry VF1, Harkins ME, Erickson LL, Long-Simpson LK, Holland SE, Burroughs BL.
11. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases IV: cancer and related pathologies Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff. Research Scientist, Deerfield, NH 03037, USA. Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
14. The Site of the Inhibition of the Shikimate Pathway by Glyphosate II. INTERFERENCE OF GLYPHOSATE WITH CHORISMATE FORMATION IN VIVO AND IN VITRO