Is Roundup to blame for gluten intolerance?

The use of Roundup, a glyphosate herbicide, has increase exponentially over the past twenty years. Monsanto, its manufacturer, has consistently held that the product is safe and in fact, went on the air with one of its senior managers to claim that it could be consumed straight from the bottle with no adverse effects. (When the manager was asked to demonstrate that “fact”, he promptly walked off the set.)

So the question remains: is Roundup safe and what effect, if any, has it had on human health over its lifespan.

This is a fascinating study from the Interdisciplinary Journal of Toxicology that was published in 2013. The two U.S. scientists argue that increased use of Monsanto’s  Roundup could be the cause of the epidemic of symptoms labeled as “gluten intolerance.”

Interestingly, the scientists observed that fish exposed to Roundup (glyphosate) developed digestive problems that mimic gluten intolerance.  Celiac disease, or gluten intolerance, is known to impair an enzyme that is crucial for detoxifying environmental toxins, activating Vitamin D and catabolizing Vitamin A, among other things and, likewise, Roundup exposure has been shown to impair that same enzyme. There are other similarities too. Certain specific amino acid and mineral deficiencies occur in both Roundup exposure and symptoms related to Celiac, or gluten intolerance.  And to further their observations, check out this graph that tracks use of Roundup with cases of Celiac/gluten intolerance from 1990-2010. Coincidence??

Roundup on Gluten Intolerance

So maybe it’s not the grains we should be avoiding but the herbicides that coat them. After all, we have been eating grains as a species for over 20,000 years.


Gluten: what’s the big deal

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley (lesser known grains: farro, spelt, kamut, semolina and einkorn also contain gluten). It’s made up of two strands of protein called glutenin and gliadin.

When gluten containing grains are mixed with water these protein strands unwind and form gluten. This is what makes bread strong, elastic and “doughy”. Gluten can be difficult to digest, in part, because of its “stickiness” but for people who suffer from gluten sensitivity symptoms can include: headache, fatigue, abdominal  pain and bloating, joint pain, skin rash and tingling or numbness in legs.

In addition to bread and all the other products that contain wheat, barley and rye, many processed foods contain gluten including:

  • modified food starch
  • soy sauce
  • soups
  • ramen noodles
  • prepared rice mixes
  • candy
  • breadcrumbs

just to name a few.

Some great alternatives include:

  • millet, amaranth, quinoa grains
  • crackers made with flax, chia or hemp seeds
  • buckwheat flour
  • brown rice and rice flour
  • bulgur
  • corn and polenta
  • nut and chickpea flours
  • oats and oat flours
  • rice, coconut and oat flours
  • tamari and coconut aminos (instead of soy sauce)

Gluten is found in the seeds not the grass, so don’t be afraid of wheatgrass!

Today, there are many food companies that specialize in gluten free items but always read the labels. Gluten-free doesn’t always equal “healthy”.