January 26, 2014

Can GMOs Cause Gluten Intolerance?

Editor’s Update 3/25/15: Not only can GMOs cause gluten intolerance, but according to a recent article by Mark Bittman, they may also kill us. “This past week the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup, probably causes cancer in humans. Two insecticides, malathion and diazinon, were also classified as “probable” carcinogens by the agency, a respected arm of the World Health Organization.” Shouldn’t we, as consumers, have the right to know what we’re eating?

An unexplained explosion in gluten sensitivity is affecting more than 18 million Americans today.

While wheat is not a genetically modified crop, new studies are finding an interesting link between the consumption of GMOs and today’s rising rate of gluten intolerance.

GMOs, an acronym for genetically modified organisms, were introduced into the American food supply in the mid-1990’s. Today, there are nine genetically modified food crops on the market in the US.

They are:

• Soy
• Corn
• Cotton (oil)
• Canola oil
• Sugar from sugar beets
• Zucchini
• Yellow squash
• Hawaiian papaya
• Alfalfa

Wheat is not a GMO crop.

(Print this list and put it in your wallet, or save it to your phone so you can focus on eating only organic, and thus non-GMO versions of these foods.)

The Chemical Building Blocks of GMOs

GM crops are engineered to tolerate a weed killer called Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate. Glyphosate is liberally sprayed on GM crops to knock down other weeds. Although the GM crops are not killed by the Roundup, they accumulate high levels of it from these applications, which we ultimately ingest.

Corn and cotton are additionally engineered to produce an insecticide called Bt-toxin. As a result, this insecticide finds its way into all the non-organic, non-GMO corn products on the market, which are everywhere and quite hard to avoid. For instance, every time you eat at a restaurant and the food is not organic, chances are you are ingesting GMO corn.

The Gluten Sensitivity Connection

Bt-toxin kills bugs by puncturing holes through the intestines of the insect. A new study has shown that Bt-toxin can puncture holes through the human digestive tract as well.(1) What’s worse is the BT-toxin is carried by pregnant moms and transmitted to the fetus.(2)

One of the effects of gluten sensitivity is “leaky gut,” or intestinal permeability, which we now know may be related to irritants such as Bt-toxin.

Casualties of GMO—Killing the Good Bugs Inside

The glyphosate in Roundup is as much of an herbicide as it is an antibiotic. It kills bugs, big and small, good and bad. When ingested in GMO foods, studies have measured the reduction of the good bacteria and the overgrowth of harmful strains of bacteria in the gut (3). These strains have been shown to irritate the intestinal wall and be a possible contributor to the intolerance of gluten.

Bt-toxin was also shown to activate an immune response against foods that were previously digestible (4). It is possible that exposure to Bt-toxin in corn products may have activated an immune hyper-sensitivity response to hard-to-digest proteins such as gluten.

Studies have also shown that the glyphosate in Roundup has decreased the amount of digestive enzymes in mice when fed farmed fish that have been raised on GMO feed (5). Without digestive enzymes, hard-to-digest proteins like gluten will become much harder to digest.

It is a real and viable possibility that GMO foods are behind the gluten sensitivity explosion we are experiencing in America. It is therefore critical for all of us to empower ourselves with knowledge and avoid GMO foods.

But this will not be enough—we must take regular action to heal, protect and rebuild our intestinal bugs. We must do what we can to manage our stress so that such stress does not contribute to our microbial demise. And, finally, we must regularly reboot our digestive strength and detox the body of such harmful chemicals.

In my mind, staying healthy is fighting back!

Staying Healthy is Fighting Back—Here’s How:

Do It with Diet

Step One: Boost digestive strength with digestive aids like ginger, salt, pepper and lemon with a tall glass of water before each meal.

Step Two: Make sure you are encouraging bile flow from the liver by getting more healthy fats in the diet and eating more natural bile movers like beets, apples and greens.

Step Three: Keep the villi of the intestinal tract healthy with adequate amounts of fiber. Modern humans get 10-20g of fiber daily while hunter gatherers got 100g per day. Ground chia and flax along with plenty of veggies, nuts and seeds is the key to approaching 100g of fiber daily.

Step Four: Rebuild a healthy microbiome in the gut. As I have written lately, it is all about the microbes, and in the west we lack microbial diversity and quantity. Eating small amounts of fermented foods with your meals is a great way to start. That can be yogurt, kefir, raw cheese, fermented veggies, kombucha, kimchi, miso, or natto, to name a few.

Step Five: Eat seasonally. Foods harvested and eaten in their appropriate season act as the medicines of nature. Switch your thinking from what not to eat to what you should be eating more of! Which foods are in season? Eat more of them. Get a free grocery list for each season!

Do It with Herbs

Can’t make those dietary changes? I get it! Consider the following herbs to accomplish each of the above steps:

Step One: Warm or Cool Digest to boost the strength of the digestive fire. Add 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil daily and 3 capsules of Mega Omega (enteric coated) fish oils to the diet.

Step Two: Consider Beet Cleanse to move bile and perhaps Liver Repair to decongest the liver.

Step Three: Consider our Slippery Elm Tea formula and/or Elim I and the herb Amalaki to tone, soothe and lubricate the gut wall.

Step Four: Consider one month of our Gut Revival probiotic to knock out the bad bugs in your gut and repopulate the gut with good bugs. Afterwards, maintain a healthy microbiome with one capsule of Flora Restore per day. These probiotics have been proven to adhere to the gut wall and help rebuild our own healthy microbiome.

Step Five: Read my book The 3-Season Diet to learn more about seasonal eating and start making gentle shifts to eat more fats and proteins in the winter, less fat and more greens in the spring, and more fruits and veggies come summer.



1. Mesnage R, Clair E, Gress S, Then C, Szekacs A, Seralini GE. Cytotoxicity on human cells of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac Bt insecticidal toxins alone or with a glyphosate-based herbicide. J Appl Toxicol. 2013;33 (7):695-699.

2. Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol. 2011;31 (4):528-533.

3. Shehata AA, Schrodl W, Aldin AA, Hafez HM, Kruger M. The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro. Curr Microbiol. 2013;66 (4):350-358.

4. Finamore A, Roselli M, Britti S et al. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56 (23):11533-11539.

5. Malatesta M, Caporaloni C, Rossi L et al. Ultrastructural analysis of pancreatic acinar cells from mice fed on genetically modified soybean. J Anat. 2002;201 (5):409-415.

6. Lieberman D, The Story of the Human Body. 2013

Source:  Green Med Info

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Courtesy of Dr. John Douillard, DC &  Johnragai/Flickr


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