10 Ways to Keep Weed Killer Glyphosate Out of Your Body

For well over a decade, I’ve been sounding the alarm about the human and environmental cost of glyphosate – the active ingredient in the well-known herbicide Roundup. This nasty, health-tanking compound has never been anything but awful for your body and the news hasn’t gotten better with time. While awareness about its dangers has increased, Big Agra, in its wanton pursuit of profits, remains all-in on glyphosate -- you can still easily wind up in harm’s way. What is it about this stuff that makes it so dangerous? And what can you do to minimize your exposure? The answer to both is ‘quite a bit.’ Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself:

The growing role of glyphosate.

Once you understand the magnitude of the health risk, you can appreciate why its continued use makes my blood boil – and millions sick. So, what is glyphosate? In a nutshell, it’s a herbicide that’s used on everything from the potted plants you buy at the nursery to front lawns and gardens to acres and acres of farmland around the world. And it’s very, very good at killing weeds. So good in fact, it’s one of the most extensively used herbicides ever made, due to its broad-spectrum efficacy in killing weeds without killing the crops growing alongside them. What you may not know, however, is that glyphosate is also a powerful antibiotic – an unprescribed one to be sure – that’s also quite adept at killing off the beneficial bacteria in the human gut, creating imbalances that can fuel any number of health problems, inside and outside the gut. 

With glyphosate, you need some very tough crops.

Originally formulated by chemical giant Monsanto to scrub mineral deposits out of boiler pipes (!), for the past fifty years, glyphosate, has been used to kill weeds. But to do that, it requires help from another scourge: genetically modified (GM) crops, the toxic yin to glyphosate’s yang. Early on, Monsanto figured out that growers could only spray so much toxic weed-killer on their fields before the cash crops they were growing began to die as well. To combat that problem, in 1996, the manufacturer introduced genetically modified (GM) crops (like corn, soy, and wheat), engineered to withstand the compound, allowing farmers to spray with abandon, without harming their crops. Voila, Monsanto had a hit on its hands. Since the arrival of glyphosate in 1974, roughly 3.5 billion pounds of the stuff has been sprayed on crops in this country, and another 18.9 billion pounds worldwide. Safe to say the stuff is well-represented in our food supply – and that’s a tragedy in the making.  

So, doc, why the glyphosate hate?

As the sprayed crops grow, glyphosate is absorbed by the cells of the plant so, in effect, the toxin is ‘baked in’ – it doesn’t wash off. Consequently, you’re likely eating the stuff several times a day. In one study of human exposure, government researchers found that more than 80% of the over 2,000 study subjects, one-third of them children, had glyphosate in their systems. And that the amount of the glyphosate excreted in urine had increased 1,200% in the period between 1993 to 2016. Mind you, this is a chemical compound that’s been linked to serious health problems, even as far back as 2015 when The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified it as "probably carcinogenic to humans." Not only that, glyphosate is associated with reproductive problems, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease and ADHD in children. Add to that a few more concerns:

  1. Gut microbiome: Research indicates that glyphosate may disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, contributing to gastrointestinal disorders, compromised immune function and nutrient absorption, creating the conditions for poor health and disease.
  2. Endocrine disruption: Glyphosate has been implicated in interfering with hormonal balance, which can have significant and far-reaching effects on reproductive health, development, and metabolism.
  3. Developmental & neurological effects: Studies suggest that glyphosate exposure on developing brains in childhood and adolescence can adversely affect neurological development and lead to cognitive impairments.

Mother Earth doesn’t thrive on glyphosate either.

Our environment takes an alarming hit from glyphosate as well. Its widespread use brings with it soil degradation, water contamination, and irreparable damage to delicate ecosystems, including to our essential bee populations, plant life, wildlife and water creatures.

‘Targeted use,’ as in trying to contain the stuff to specific areas in hopes of minimizing damage, is something of a pipedream – the current ubiquity of glyphosate makes stopping the spread all but impossible. Agricultural runoff from glyphosate-sprayed fields contaminates water systems, as well as the creatures who either live in or near them. The residue from glyphosate, as well as from its bio-chemical spin-offs, has been detected in rivers, lakes, and even in rainwater.

Gee, sounds like banning glyphosate would be a good idea.

Given glyphosate’s incredible downsides for the planet and our bodies, one has to ask, why the heck is this stuff still on the market? One big reason may be that, according to Canada’s National Observer, in a recent report by Aimpoint Research, funded by global pesticide giant Bayer concluded “that eliminating the pesticide's use would raise U.S. farmers' production costs by about $1.9 billion.” So, it might be a question of following the money here – and one more reason you need to be able to protect yourself from this nasty toxin. One bright note however is that it has been banned in a few places, but it’s an uphill battle. For example, Vietnam has banned glyphosate, as has Sri Lanka but later reversed that decision; and France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have at least, at partially prohibited it. Here at home, in the U.S., it’s banned in a few states and counties and restricted in others, with regulations shifting frequently, so currently we don’t have a consistent policy to rely on. Elsewhere overseas, in 2023, the European Union came close to banning it, but changed course, and somewhat shockingly renewed the pesticide's registration last year – certainly a huge loss for Mother Earth, and us too.

Glyphosate workarounds for all.

One essential way to keep glyphosate out of your body is to block points of entry, and a big one is your mouth. Being conscious of what goes in it goes a long way towards keeping your exposure on the lower end. Next up, put your money where your mouth is, as in whenever possible, support programs and organizations that advocate for stricter regulations on glyphosate use, demand accountability and promote sustainable agricultural practices. On a day-to-day basis, you can also incorporate the following steps:

  1. Stop buying Roundup: Ask your neighbors if they’d be willing to let go of glyphosate products as well. Start with your backyard and move outwards from there.
  1. Choose Organic: buy organic or farmers’ market produce whenever possible. Organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate, while small producers, concerned with maintaining the health of the soil and their workers, generally avoid synthetic pesticide use. Not sure how your food is being grown? Ask your local farmers’ market producers directly to confirm their practices so you can purchase accordingly.
  1. Default to non-GM products: always choosing non-GMO products is another good way to significantly reduce the likelihood of glyphosate residue winding up on your plate.
  1. Make yours whole: The simplest way to avoid glyphosate? Completely ditch processed foods. Just about every processed food will likely contain glyphosate residue from contaminated ingredients, be they animal or vegetable. Remember, mass-produced, feed-lot animals are almost always fattened up for slaughter on diets rife with GM corn and soy, so steering clear ofprocessed foods and proteins is your safest bet.
  1. Buy grass-fed meats and/or pastured poultry. Ditch the factory farmed animals raised on glyphosate-soaked feed.
  1. Grow your own. Starting your own vegetable or herb garden will ensure that your food is grown without glyphosate, that is, as long as your soil is in good shape. Maybe the previous owner was a Roundup enthusiast? Dispose of the old, questionable stuff responsibly and start fresh with new, organic soil and organic seeds.
  1. Practice safe gardening: If you feel you must consider herbicide use, use a very light hand and look for natural remedies and/or glyphosate-free alternatives. Be vigilant when purchasing products like weed killers, insecticides, and herbicides. Read labels carefully and check product labels for glyphosate or its derivatives and opt for alternatives labeled as glyphosate-free or organic. Better yet, you can also do the weeding the old-fashioned way -- use your hands and start pulling.
  1. Drink clean: Even if your water quality gets high ratings on municipal web sites, I urge everyone to invest in a quality water filtration system to reduce glyphosate and other contaminants in your drinking water.
  1. Protect your insides: Support your body’s production of the key antioxidant glutathione, with N-acetylcysteine, glycine and glutamine or oral liposomal glutathione supplements. 
  1. Love up your liver: As in hold the highballs. Avoid alcohol – it is, after all a toxin – and add a liver-supporting supplement, like silymarin (the active ingredient in milk thistle) or lipoid acid to help amp up your body’s natural detoxification processes.

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