By Dr. Mercola
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — is an autoimmune disease that can have very serious consequences.
(IBS, on the other hand, is a functional bowel disorder. In other words, there are no significant physical conditions that contribute to the problem; hence it's a functional disease.)
According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IBD affects more than 3 million American adults, nearly triple previous estimates.1 There are two types of IBD:
- Crohn's disease
- Ulcerative colitis
Both of these IBD conditions involve chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, fatigue and diarrhea. IBD also raises your risk of developing colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in the U.S.2
What's Behind Rise in IBD?
As with many other autoimmune disorders, IBD cannot be traced back to any single cause; rather, it appears to be influenced by several factors, including:
- Toxic environmental exposures
- Altered intestinal microbiome
- Immune dysfunction
Researchers believe the rise in IBD may be linked to dietary changes, as more people are now eating primarily processed foods high in sugars and synthetic chemicals. Other factors thought to play a role in IBD include:3,4
- Air pollution
- Excessive exposure to antibiotics
- Pesticide exposure (glyphosate being identified as being particularly harsh on gut microbes)
- Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
As noted by Digestive Medical Solutions:5
"[I]n addition to the rising economic, ecological and ethical questions raised by GMOs, there is a growing health risk … Specifically, a higher risk for allergies, toxic intestinal bacteria, reduced immune function, liver problems and many other highly controversial links.
These risks apply to everyone, but especially those with irritable bowel diseases. For a patient with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, they're devastating, making it difficult for patients to recover properly, especially with so many other complications involved.
Ultimately, GMOs create bowel hypersensitivity, increase inflammation and damage to the intestinal lining. This makes IBD and IBS cases much worse, as they contribute and in some cases, may actually trigger these diseases."
How Glyphosate Affects Your Health
While Monsanto insists that Roundup is safe and "minimally toxic" to humans, independent research6 strongly suggests that glyphosate residues "enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease."
According to Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Anthony Samsel, Ph.D., a research scientist and consultant:
"Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body."
While genetically engineered (GE) crops such as corn, soybeans and sugar beets tend to contain higher levels of glyphosate due to them being more heavily sprayed, conventional non-organic crops such as wheat are also routinely doused with glyphosate pre-harvest to boost yield, a practice known as dessication. In summary, studies have found that glyphosate:
• Inhibits cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes that catalyze the oxidation of organic substances. This, Samsel and Seneff believe, is "an overlooked component of its toxicity to mammals."
One of the functions of CYP enzymes is to detoxify xenobiotics — chemical compounds found in a living organism that are not normally produced or consumed by the organism in question.
By limiting the ability of these enzymes to detoxify foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of those chemicals and environmental toxins you may be exposed to.
• Impairs the serum sulfate transport system in your body. Consequences of glyphosate interfering with CYP enzymes and impairing sulfate transport include GI disorders, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, autism, infertility, cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
• Destroys the tight junctions in the cell membranes in your gut, thereby leading to "leaky" gut and absorption of undigested foods you were never designed to absorb.
• Makes the gliadin in wheat highly indigestible. Moreover, by attaching to gliadin, glyphosate may promote immune reactions.
Alarming Levels of Glyphosate Found in Popular Foods
According to independent testing by The Detox Project, glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's best-selling herbicide Roundup) is present at "alarming levels" in many popular processed foods.8
Scientists have found glyphosate can alter gene function in the livers and kidneys of rats at levels as low as 0.05 parts per billion (ppb).
Meanwhile, Cheerios was found to contain more than 1,125 ppb of glyphosate, Doritos more than 481 ppb and Ritz crackers more than 270 ppb. According to Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now!:
"It's time for regulators at the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and the White House to stop playing politics with our food and start putting the wellbeing of the American public above the profits of chemical companies like Monsanto."
GMOs May Be Responsible for Rise in IBS Too
IBS is far more common than IBD, affecting an estimated 70 million Americans. Symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a functional GI disease, include frequent:
- Abdominal discomfort and/or pain
- Spastic colon (spastic contractions of the colon)
- Gas and bloating
Avoiding gluten is an important first step in treating this condition. But avoiding GMOs and pesticides may be equally important. As noted by Naked Food:9
"If you … suffer from a chronic digestive issue, then you should know that the food you choose to consume could be carrying a gene that is designed to intentionally cause intestinal rupture. [GMO] foods that contain Bt toxin, a built-in insecticide that inherently works by imploding the stomach of the creature that is feasting on it, could very well be contributing to your intestinal angst."
Bt Crops Are Pesticides
Bt plants are a different breed of GE crops. Contrary to herbicide-resistant GE crops, Bt crops are equipped with a gene from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), allowing them to produce Bt toxin internally. Plant-incorporated pesticides such as Bt (both the protein and its genetic material) are actually registered with the EPA as a pesticide,10 but the Bt plant itself is not regulated as such. This has resulted in the false claim that Bt plants have reduced pesticide usage.
The Bt toxin produced inside Bt crops is NOT actually included in the data collection on pesticide usage. So to say that Bt crops promote less chemical-heavy agriculture is truly a gross misrepresentation of reality. Every single cell of the Bt plant contains this insecticide, yet not a drop of it is counted. The failure to count the toxin inside the plant, and only counting the pesticides applied topically, is a significant loophole that makes Bt plants appear to provide a benefit that in reality simply isn't true.
Moreover, while topically applied Bt toxin biodegrades in sunlight and can be washed off, the Bt toxin in these GE plants does not degrade, nor can it be removed or cleaned off the food because it's integrated into every cell of the plant. The plant-produced version of the poison is also thousands of times more concentrated than the topical spray, so in reality, Bt pesticide exposure has risen exponentially, no matter what the pesticide usage data says.
Bt Toxin Is Exempt From Toxicity Requirements
Plant-incorporated Bt toxin in Bt soybeans is also exempt from the requirement of a tolerance level for residues,11 both in the commodity and in the final food product. The final rule on this was issued in February 2014. This is truly incomprehensible in light of the potential for harm.
Originally, Monsanto and the EPA claimed the Bt toxin produced inside the plant would be destroyed in the human digestive system, therefore posing no health risk. This was proven false when, in 2011, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt toxin in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women tested, 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies and 67 percent of non-pregnant women.12
The study showed that Bt toxin actually bioaccumulates in your body. Other research13 suggests it may produce a wide variety of immune responses, including elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, typically associated with allergies and infections, and an increase in cytokines, associated with allergic and inflammatory responses. A study14 published in 2011 found that Bt toxin affects human cells, both in isolation and in combination with glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup.
Since Introduction of Bt Crops, IBD Has Significantly Risen
That study also showed that the pesticide crystal proteins Cry1Ab, a subspecies of the Bt toxin, causes cell death starting at 100 parts per million (ppm). As noted by Naked Food Magazine, there are distinct parallels between the prevalence of Bt crops and GI disorders such as IBD and IBS:15
"Genetically modified foods that carry the Bt toxin first came to American households in 1996. Between the years of 1979 and 1998, the number of Americans to suffer from Crohn's Disease … bounced back and forth between 225 per 100,000 people to 300 per 100,000 people.
In 2000, that number shot up to 375 per 100,000 people, and has been on the rise ever since. Ambulatory care visits from those who reported inflammatory bowel symptoms went from 275 per 100,000 people to 375 per 100,000 people between the years of 1994 and 1998."
Protect Your Health by Avoiding GMOs
As noted by Digestive Medical Solution:16
"The first and more important step you can take to protect yourself from damages that may be caused by GMOs is to change your diet. Non-GMO, free-range and otherwise organic foods should replace any GMOs you regularly consume. It also helps to avoid the most common food allergens, such as gluten and sugar products …
However, the damage caused may be long-lasting. GMOs may make you allergic to non-GM foods. Since the genetic material in GM soy transfers to the bacteria living in the intestines, it continues to function and spew proteins continuously. Clearing the body of these harmful substances is no easy task."
- Corn (found in most processed foods in the form of corn meal, corn syrup, corn starch, corn flour and so on)
- Soy (which can hide under descriptions such as lecithin and starch, among others)
- Canola (rapeseed oil)
- Sugar beets
You may also be exposed to Bt toxin via meat from animals fed Bt corn, and glyphosate via herbicide-resistant GE grain feed such as corn and soy, all of which are common staples in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This is one of several good reasons for making sure your meats come from organically raised grass-fed animals.
Other Processed Food Ingredients May Also Wreak Havoc in Your Gut
Besides pesticides such as glyphosate and Bt toxin, processed foods contain a variety of other ingredients that can wreak havoc in your gut. Recent research suggests emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80 and carboxymethyl cellulose play a role in IBD and colorectal cancer, primarily by inducing chronic low-grade inflammation.20,21 As reported by Medical News Today:22
"Normally the intestine is protected from a variety of harmful bacteria via the mucus structures that cover the intestines, keeping the harmful bacteria away from the epithelial cells that line the intestine. But emulsifiers seem to help transport bacteria across epithelial cells … The team fed mice the two most common additives have also been linked to low-grade bowel inflammation and metabolic disease: polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose.
The doses were replicated so as to mirror the proportions these emulsifiers are commonly added to human processed food … Not only did emulsifiers alter the microbiotic environment in a way that is pro-inflammatory, but it also changed the balance between cell proliferation and cell death, which enhances tumor development."
For Optimal Health, Opt for Organic Food
- Are less likely to be contaminated with pesticide residues. (Synthetic chemicals are not permitted in organic agriculture, yet can occur due to contamination from nearby conventional farms.)
- Contain fewer heavy metals (on average 48 percent lower levels of cadmium,29 for example).
- Contain anywhere from 18 to 69 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown varieties.
- May in some cases be more nutrient-dense. For example, one 2010 study,30 which was partially funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), found that organic strawberries were more nutrient-rich than non-organic strawberries.
If you live in the U.S., the following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods:
EatWild.com provides lists of farmers known to produce wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.
Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.
This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
A national listing of farmers markets.
The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.
If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund31 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.32 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.