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Glyphosates and Gluten-Related Disorders

Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Autumn 2015 Issue - Originally published October 19, 2015 02/16/2016 - About two years ago, as a result of two comprehensive review articles written by research scientists, Anthony Samsel and Stephanie Seneff, the term "glyphosates" made media headlines.

Image: CC--Mike MozartBased on more than 200 citations, their reviews concluded that long term exposure to glyphosates via ingestion (in food and water) and/or inhalation seems to parallel the incidence and clinical features of celiac disease and may contribute to a number of diseases including autism, cancer, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, infertility, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, Multiple Sclerosis, cancer, allergies, eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE), obesity, and kidney disorders.

In case you don't already know, glyphosate (an organophosphate) is the active chemical ingredient in Monsanto's trademarked herbicide called RoundUp, which in the last 15 or more years has become very popular and is used throughout the world. It is largely used in "no-till non-organic production systems" as a desiccant (drying agent) for many genetically engineered (GE) food crops, especially those considered "RoundUp Ready" such as corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa. RoundUp Ready foods are genetically engineered to resist being killed by RoundUp.

While wheat is not a genetically engineered food crop, RoundUP is used on all non-organic wheat crops to produce a greater yield and reduce any rye grass weeds. The glyphosates in the RoundUp kill weeds by disrupting the shikimate pathway in the plant.

I once used RoundUp to kill some weeds in my yard thinking that it was safe and nontoxic. It was thought then that humans and animals could not be affected by this weed-killing herbicide because humans and animals don't possess the shikimate pathway, only plants and bacteria do.

That was until Samsel and Seneff set me straight. The bacteria in the human gut, which outnumbers the cells in our body, do have shikimate pathways. Glyphosates suppress the enzyme necessary for the shikimate pathway to produce aromatic amino acids such as tyrosine, tryptophan and phenylalanine. This happens in plant cells, too, where reduced levels of other amino acids have been discovered including serine, glycine and methionine.

What does this mean for we humans? These amino acids are precursors to neurotransmitters (found in the gut and in the brain). Tryptophan alone is necessary for the production of serotonin, "the happy hormone." An impaired supply of serotonin frequently found in celiac disease causes depression. Impaired serotonin receptors in the gut sets the stage for inflammatory bowel disease.

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So besides blocking the shikimate pathway for the production of nutrients in foods, glyphosates seem to reduce the overall bioavailability of nutrients in the foods we eat. I have been a regular advocate for taking a daily multi vitamin and mineral, contending that the food we eat may lose nutrients from farm to table. Low and behold, Samsel and Seniff's review substantiated my contention. They cite two studies, which showed multiple mineral depletions in soybean crops treated with glyphosates. The depleted nutrients in the soybeans mirrored those frequently found in celiac disease, including cobalamin (B12), iron, molybdenum, selenium and sulfur. The authors hypothesize that the association between celiac disease and autoimmune hypothyroid disease may be due to a selenium deficiency.

Samsel and Seniff suspect that chelation in the gut due to glyphosate ingestion may further account for deficiencies in cobalt, molybdenum and iron in these foods. This confirms yet another contention of mine that a single nutrient can indeed disrupt a whole system. The chelation of cobalamin in the gut is suspected to contribute to neurodegeneration and heart disease; the synergistic dynamic of molybdenum deficiency altering the body's supply of sulfate can have the consequence of cancer, anemia and insulin resistance. The authors purport that glyphosates disruption of the sulfur transport in the body is "the most important consequence of glyphosate's insidious slow erosion of health."

The health of the human intestinal tract is affected by glyphosate ingestion and inhalation. Citing a study on the effects of glyphosates on predatory fish, Samsel and Seneff's review showed that glyphosates cause damage to the intestinal mucosal folds and microvilli similar to what is seen in celiac disease. Beneficial gut bacteria are killed, allowing the pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria to proliferate, producing a state of bacterial dysbiosis (microbial imbalance). With reductions in the beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus bacteria, the breakdown of both gluten and phytase are impaired, leading to the inability to digest gluten. The pathogenic bacteria such as E. Coli and C. Difficile can lead to kidney failure and inflammation. These authors argue that other digestive pathologies, such as pancreatitis, fatty liver disease and EOE are due to impaired CYP function in the liver. Could there also be a link between the high rates of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and gut dysbiosis caused by glyphosate disruption of these enzymes?

Glyphosates disruption of CYP enzymes in the liver occurs with celiac disease. These enzymes are involved in detoxification of xenobiotics (foreign chemical substances), so theoretically a reduction of CYP enzymes slows detoxification. Vitamin D3 and cholesterol synthesis and regulation of retinoic acid are also a part of the CYP enzyme system. It has puzzled me at times, that some of my patients do not respond to high dose vitamin D supplementation. The concept that glyphosates effect on CYP enzyme inhibition results in inadequate vitamin D activation in the liver could be a mystery solved. CYP enzymes are also important in bile acid production, gallbladder and pancreatic function. Samsel and Seneff hypothesize that glyphosate "disrupts the transport of sulfate from the gut to the liver and pancreas", resulting in bile acid insufficiency and gall bladder disease. Excess retinoic acid as a result of glyphosate exposure is similarly found in celiac disease and has been linked to reproductive disorders.

How can we avoid glyphosate exposure? The obvious answer is not to use this herbicide to kill weeds in your yard. In the best interest of health, eat organic foods as much as possible, avoid the "the dirty 15" and genetically engineered foods. Check out your local farmer's market and buy from certified organic farmers. Eat animal products fed with non- genetically engineered foods. If you eat wheat, choose organic wheat. Glyphosates cannot be washed off of food, and there is yet no known way of detoxifying glyphosates from the body. The authors suggest eat garlic or soak in an Epsom salts bath to ensure adequate sulfur intake. Sea salt is a natural way to include minerals in your diet along with eating vegetables.

Maria Larkin, M.Ed, RDN/LD owns Better Gut Better Health, LLC, a nutrition counseling practice in Durham and Portsmouth, NH. She is a registered dietitian and functional medicine provider, specializing in gastrointestinal concerns, food allergies and sensitivities. Website:


  • Samsel, A. and Seneff, S. Glyphosate's Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases. Entropy, 2013: 15 (4): 1416-1463.
  • Samsel, A. and Seneff, S. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases II: Celiac sprue and gluten intolerance. Interdisciplinary Toxicology, 2013: 6 (4): 159-184. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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9 Responses:

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said this on
16 Feb 2016 4:23:14 PM PST
Great article. Thank you! You may not know that the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen are unreliable at best. The statistics are aggregated from the USDA records, based on USDA tests for pesticide residues on produce. The USDA does not conduct ANY tests for glyphosate residue. The USDA cites the cost of the tests as being prohibitive. Glyphosate based herbicides are the most widely used herbicides in the world. They are sprayed on grains as well as vegetables such as peas, beans, lentils and asparagus, on sugar cane, peppermint and spearmint and more. The presence of glyphosate has also been documented in processed foods such as Kellogg's Froot Loops, a Kashi cereal and SunChips, at worrying levels high enough to kill good gut bacteria. The 3rd patent on glyphosate is as an antimicrobial/antibiotic. The IARC/WHO classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015 because it causes cancer in laboratory animals and likely causes cancer in people, too. Glyphosate has the potential to harm on many levels. If you'd like references, please email. I tried to post but links are not allowed. Thank you again!

Peter Olins
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said this on
17 Feb 2016 5:49:56 AM PST
The chart used by Samsel/Seneff in their Interdisciplinary Toxicology paper was for a DIFFERENT CONDITION, not celiac disease incidence in the general population! I can't believe they haven't removed this figure by now. In any case, CD prevalence had already peaked before the recent increased use of glyphosate on crops such as soy and corn.

There is no evidence whatsoever that the minute traces of glyphosate in our diet are sufficient to inhibit cytochrome C P450 enzymes. However, phenolics (such as the resveratrol in wine) are actually present at relevant levels in our diets.

Likewise, there is no evidence of an effect on human gut bacteria or chelation of metals, except at levels thousands of fold higher than we are exposed to. In fact, a glass of orange juice has a far greater potential chelating activity, and anyone who is calcium deficient (as are many celiacs) will know that chelated metals are actually more bioavailable.

The fourth Samsel/Seneff paper tries to correlate glyphosate use with cancer incidence statistics, but the authors are are curiously unaware that cancers can take decades to develop, rather than being instantly triggered by an environmental stimulus!

The bottom line: these authors fail to realize that correlation is not the same as causation. They could easily have avoided the embarrassment of their four papers on glyphosate by involving someone with relevant scientific experience.

I don’t mean to sound personal, Maria, but I strongly urge you to do more research before promoting inflammatory material in articles such as this. Otherwise you risk causing more harm than good—which I'm sure is not your intention.

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said this on
22 Feb 2016 8:51:36 AM PST
Thank you for your opinion (which mirrors mine). This article is short on science and big on speculation. It is immediately obvious that this writer has no scientific background. I like this website because it is usually good at separating scientific fact from myth. This article belongs in pseudo-scientific web sites like and not in a serious site like this one. I am seriously disappointed with the editors for hosting junk science of this magnitude.

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said this on
22 Feb 2016 10:55:43 AM PST
I heard Stephanie Seneff speak and she said that "...diseases like celiac came out of nowhere." She is obviously ignorant of the history of celiac disease research and discovery. She made a false correlation between coincidental celiac awareness and glyphosate, and based on a series of about 50 hypotheses, tried to make it look like glyphosate causes celiac disease. I keep an open mind that theoretically glyphosate can cause symptomology mimicking celiac, and I certainly embrace her efforts to find faults with glyphosate.

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said this on
17 Feb 2016 7:27:40 AM PST
I have mixed reviews on this. I first read it to be a complete study, but then realized it was just a research paper. It all adds up properly to me but not backed by research. What is it going to take for a legitimate organization to do this?

Diane RMD
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said this on
22 Feb 2016 12:14:05 PM PST
As a research paper, it suggests a possibility that needs to be tested AND that lack of scientific proof that a product does not pose a hazard does not prove that there is no hazard -- the fact is, we don't really know yet.

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said this on
22 Feb 2016 11:38:05 AM PST
Another common misconception about celiac disease is that the small intestinal epithelial cells are the only self cell target of our immune system. While it is true that any organ or system in the body of a celiac can suffer due to the cascade of failures of enzymes to be made due to malabsorption and consequent malnutrition, any organ or system might become an autoimmune target, depending on your genetic vulnerability. I have a test result showing that my lymphocytes attack serotonin with great vigor.

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said this on
22 Feb 2016 3:54:30 PM PST
I am curious - celiac was identified after world war II. I personally was diagnosed with acute infant onset CD in 1955. Glyphosate wasn't introduced to the agricultural world till the 1970's. In reading the article, I could not see the direct link. I can't comment on other facets of the article, but in this case I do wonder about accuracy. I would be interested to read about more in depth and specific research.

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said this on
02 Aug 2017 4:26:41 AM PST
Thank you for this. I was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis some 7 years ago. I was given a dilation and puffer steroids to help me swallow my food but the symptoms returned a year later. Only after learning about glysophate and trying to avoid it in my foods and liquids have I been able to reverse my symptoms. Not an easy task by the way because I live in South Africa where the application of Monsanto's Roundup (active ingredient glysophate) is widespread largely unchecked.

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