My Gut Reaction to Roundup

By Rich Seegal, Ph.D.

My gut level reaction is not solely due to being absolutely ticked off at Monsanto for their decades of Fake News stating that Roundup (RU) is the best thing since sliced white bread. It is also due to the fact that RU disrupts the bacteria in our gut known as the gut microbiome (GB). So what you say? Well, let me give you the straight poop!

RU exposure at environmentally relevant levels is associated with colon cancer! To better understand the risks, not only from cancer but also from a myriad of other health concerns, it is necessary to begin to understand what the GB is and how disruptions in its bacterial demographics can have such widespread effects on our health.

The microbiome consists of bacteria that are obviously involved in the digestion of food, but equally important, produce hormones, neurotransmitters and influence immune function, including inflammation, in our bodies and our brains. Indeed, there are more bacteria in your gut–100 TRILLION–that’s one hundred thousand BILLION–than there are cells that make up our bodies and our brains. Collectively, these bacteria are known as the gut microbiome, and they have been shown to influence both our health and many diseases. In fact, recent studies show that fecal transplants from healthy people to those suffering from chronic diarrhea, vomiting and/or fever are often more effective in restoring health than antibiotics.

Although I may think of my gut as something that makes it difficult for me to button my pants, more than 100 million neurons are also located there. These neurons synthesize neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, and are influenced by changes in the make-up of gut bacteria. Neurological and behavioral disorders, including depression, Parkinson’s disease (PD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and autism, are also linked to alterations in the gut microbiome.

Similarly, gut bacteria influence anxiety and depression. Fecal transplants of bacteria from ‘fearless’ mice to ‘timid’ mice result in less timid mice–and vice versa. But who cares about mice, except lab scientists? Unfortunately, human studies also show that social stressors alter gut bacteria and worsen the stressful situation. Since autism is also a social disorder, it is not surprising that gut bacteria play a role in autism, due in part to leaky bowel syndrome that results in increased oxidative stress and inflammation–familiar ‘bad guys’ that negatively influence both brain and gut function.

In conclusion, RU and other pesticides play an important role in negatively influencing our health by acting as anti-gut microbiotics. Hopefully, we will now consider not only the threats to the external environment (our lake and foods) but also the internal environment that, to a large extent, controls our moods and health.

Richard F. Seegal, Ph.D, ESSLA Board of Directors

Ph. D. – Biopsychology from University of Georgia;  Post doctorate – Neuroendocrinology from University of Connecticut.  I spent more than 38 years working for the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health in Albany.  The majority of my efforts involved study of the neurological effects of environmental contaminants, including PCBs, methyl mercury and pesticides using cells in culture, laboratory animals and humans.  I have also studied the role of sex (biological differences) in neurological diseases.

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