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  • From pizza to pesto, from pretzels to beer, more products— and more people—are becoming gluten-free. What was once the staff of life, wheat bread, has become a source of more than 300 symptoms related to reactions to proteins found in wheat, as well as to its close relatives in rye and spelt. In its extreme form, known as celiac disease, people can get reactions to minute amounts, in the parts-per-million levels, and the effects can be serious, even deadly. Symptoms can affect the cardiovascular, neurological, and skeletal systems, well as mood, and digestion. When it goes undiagnosed, celiac disease is associated with a nearly 4-fold increased risk of death from all causes.1

    Celiac disease typically involves adults suddenly becoming intolerant to proteins they had eaten all of their lives. Incidence has jumped five-fold just since 1974.2 Theories about its increase have included changes in wheat through selective breeding in the United States, the increased consumption of wheat, and environmental and dietary factors that render people more vulnerable.

    Genetically modified (GM) foods fit squarely in this last category. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) were introduced on a wide scale starting in 1996. The technology involves inserting a gene, typically from bacteria or viruses, into plants such as soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, and sugar beets. The inserted gene produces a protein that confers a new trait on the plant. The primary trait in four out of five GMOs is called herbicide tolerance. These plants tolerate doses of deadly weed killer that would normally kill the non-genetically engineered varieties. The crops, however, absorb the sprayed on toxin, storing much of it in the food portion for us to consume. This can lead to trouble.

    The second main trait is found only in GM corn and cotton plants. These have been engineered with the gene from soil bacteria that produces a toxic insecticide; it breaks open the stomach of certain insects to kill them. This too can lead to trouble.

    If we explore the properties of these two toxins, they appear to be designed to produce four of the characteristics of those with gluten problems: inappropriate immune responses, leaky gut, imbalance in the gut bacteria, and compromised digestive capacity. Ironically, when gluten sensitive people remove wheat from their diet, they typically increase the amount of genetically engineered soy and corn.

    Exposure to allergens; sensitizing the system
    Sensitivity to gluten is just one of many immune reactions to food that is rising. Hospital-confirmed extreme food allergies have been steadily increasing over the past 15 years. It is well known that, if a person is experiencing an allergic reaction to one substance, they can become more vulnerable to reactions from other potential triggers. Once the allergen “load” reaches a critical threshold, the person may react to many things that were tolerated before that point.

    Several animal feeding studies show that GMOs provoke a variety of immune system reactions. There are many possible causes:

    1. The protein produced from the inserted gene may be an allergen.
    GMOs introduce new proteins into our diet from bacteria and viruses sources. They have never been part of the human food supply. People aren’t usually allergic to a food until they have eaten it several times. It’s therefore difficult to know in advance if the new foreign protein was an allergen. Without a surefire method to identify allergenic GM crops, the World Health Organization (WHO) and others suggest examining the properties of the new protein to see if it shares characteristics with proteins that are known to trigger allergies. Roundup Ready soy, Bt corn, and GM papaya all fail the WHO tests; they have sections of their proteins that match the amino acid sequences of known allergens.3 The Bt protein remains stable for too long when exposed to heat and to simulated stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Thus, it shares the characteristic with many allergens of not being degraded quickly during digestion.

    Many other studies also implicate Bt-toxin as an allergen. In its natural state derived from soil bacteria, Bt-toxin has triggered immune responses in mice4 and in farm workers,5 and allergic and flu-like symptoms in hundreds of exposed citizens.6 An Italian government study showed that mice fed Bt corn had dramatic immune responses.7 Furthermore, thousands of Indian farm workers who harvest Bt cotton are also experiencing allergic- and flu-like symptoms.8

    When scientists exposed mice to natural Bt-toxin, not only did they react to the toxin directly, afterwards substances that formerly did not cause a response triggered their immune systems.9 This illustrates how exposure to one GM food might cause an increase in allergies to many natural foods.

    2. The Process of Genetic Engineering Produces New or Increased Allergens
    Irrespective of which foreign gene is inserted into a plant, the very process of insertion, followed by cloning that cell into a plant, causes massive collateral damage to the plants’ natural DNA. There can be hundreds or thousands of mutations throughout the DNA, and these in turn can introduce new allergens or toxins, or elevate levels of existing harmful proteins. A gene in Monsanto’s Bt corn, for example that is normally switched off in natural corn, was switched on to produce an allergen (gamma zein). Monsanto’s cooked Roundup Ready soybeans have as much as 7-times the levels of a known soy allergen (trypsin inhibitor).10

    3. Harmless Proteins Can Turn Harmful in GMOs
    In plants, molecules can attach themselves to proteins, changing their effect. When a GM protein is produced in a foreign organism, altered molecular attachments can turn a harmless protein into one that provokes deadly immune reactions. When Australian scientists, for example, inserted a gene from kidney beans into peas, the protein produced in a genetically engineered pea had the right amino acid sequence—the same as that produced in kidney beans. But the sugar molecules attached to the protein in the peas had a slightly different shape than the molecules that attached themselves in the natural beans. This slight change of the sugar chain (called glycolsylation) was credited with changing a harmless protein into a potentially deadly allergen. In addition, the mice fed the GM peas started to react to egg albumin, while those fed non-GM peas or kidney beans did not.11

    According to Judy Carman, an epidemiologist and the director of The Institute of Health and Environmental Research in Australia, “If a GM food was introduced onto supermarket shelves and caused an immune reaction, it would be very difficult to find the culprit, particularly if it caused reactions to other, different foods, as this GM pea was found to do.”

    In fact, no one is looking closely to find if GM is more responsible for the increase in food allergies in the US since their introduction. In the UK, soy allergies jumped by 50 percent just after GMOs were introduced in the late 1990s. But no critical evaluation was done to see if genetic engineering was the cause. Allergists like John Boyle from Ohio however have seen clearly in his practice that those with allergies will react more to the genetically engineered varieties than to the natural ones. And the Institute for Responsible Technology has received numerous testimonials from individuals who claim the same.

    Leaky Gut
    Healthy intestines usually allow only tiny by-products of digestion to be ushered appropriately into the bloodstream for assimilation.12 If someone has gaps in their intestinal walls, known as leaky gut, undigested food particles, gut bacteria, and even consumed chemicals, can all enter the bloodstream and wreak havoc. A high percentage of patients diagnosed with celiac disease have leaky gut.13

    When larger, undigested proteins get into the bloodstream, the immune system can treat them as invaders and attack. This will result in a number of inflammatory reactions and symptoms of a hypersensitive immune system. Some of these proteins may have similarities to components of our own body. When the immune system gets programmed to attack these proteins, they may also attack our body’s own tissues, which is called and autoimmune reaction. Celiac disease is one such example of this immune system “friendly fire.”

    GM Corn Creates Small Holes in Human Cells
    Bt-toxin is designed to create holes in cells—not in human cells, but rather in the gut walls of certain species of insect; it breaks open their digestive tract and kills them.14 In spite of promises by the biotech industry and Environmental Protection Agency to the contrary, evidence now shows that Bt-toxin can damage human cells as well.

    A study published in February 2012,15 “documented that modified Bt-toxins [from GM plants] are not inert on human cells, but can exert toxicity.” In concentrations that are generally higher than that produced in average Bt corn, Bt-toxin disrupts the membrane in just 24 hours, causing fluid to leak out. The authors note, “This may be due to pore formation like in insect cells.”

    The other primary assumption touted by regulators was that Bt-toxin would be fully broken down during digestion in our stomach. But a 2011 Canadian study conducted disproved that one as well. They discovered that 93 percent of the pregnant women tested had Bt-toxin from Monsanto’s corn in their blood. And so too did 80 percent of their unborn fetuses.16

    If the Bt-toxin had entered the blood through holes that it created, it is likely that bacteria and food particles also get through and cause problems. Bt-toxin’s presence in the fetus is of greater concern. Since fetuses do not have a fully developed blood brain barrier, the hole-poking toxin may be active in their brains as well.

    The authors of this Canadian study were faced with a question, “Why did so many of their subjects have Bt-toxin in their blood.” The toxin is expected to wash out of our bloodstream quickly. Therefore the consumption of Bt-toxin must be quite frequent for 93 percent of subjects to still have it in their blood. But this was Canada. And unlike Mexico, they don’t eat corn chips and corn tortillas every day. They do eat lots of corn derivatives like corn sweeteners, but these highly processed foods no longer have the Bt-toxin present and therefore could not be the source.

    But livestock in North America do eat Bt corn as a main component of their diets. And Canadians eat the meat and dairy products of these corn-fed animals every day. The authors speculated that the source of the Bt-toxin in the blood must have been the meat or dairy. While this may be true, there’s another possible explanation with very serious consequences for those who eat GMOs.

    Living Pesticide Factories Inside Us
    In spite of additional numerous claims by the biotech industry that it would never happen, research confirmed that part of the DNA “transgene” inserted into GMO crops could actually transfer into the DNA of our gut bacteria.17 Part of the gene from Roundup Ready (RR) soybeans had integrated into the DNA of the intestinal flora of three out of seven subjects tested. Furthermore, that gut bacteria was not killed when exposed to Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate—a strong antibiotic. This suggests (but doesn’t yet prove) that the transferred genes from GMOs continue to function after they have transferred into our gut bacteria. If so, we may have GM proteins continuously produced inside our intestines long after we stop eating GMOs. Although no one has tested for it, if Bt-toxin genes transfer from corn chips or tortillas into gut bacteria, they may turn our intestinal flora into living pesticide factories, producing BT toxin 24/7.

    Whether BT toxin is produced by our own intestinal bacteria or simply consumed in our food, it may contribute not only to leaky gut and the numerous disorders associated with that, but also to the rise in gastrointestinal disorders in the United States. Many of these have increased noticeably since the introduction of BT corn.

    Impaired Digestion
    If our digestive system is not functioning properly, then food particles are not broken down as quickly or as completely. This can create several problems:

    • Poor absorption of food. Without sufficient nutrition, overall health, including immune system health, can suffer.
    • Proteins can remain intact longer, where they become the "food" of pathogenic gut bacteria, leading to overgrowth. This further compromises digestion and immunity.
    • When proteins putrefy, they can release excess hydrogen sulfide (as toxic as cyanide gas) which irritates and inflames the mucous membranes.
    • Undigested proteins, especially in combination leaky gut, have a greater likelihood of provoking autoimmune reactions, in which the immune system attacks parts of the body.

    Celiac disease damages gut wall
    In celiac patients, the immune system adversely responds to gluten proteins, causing flattening of the microvilli along the intestinal walls. These cells are what absorb broken down food into the bloodstream for use by the whole body. Normally, they stick out like tiny fingers, dramatically increasing the surface area that can be used for digestion (the surface area of the intestinal villi of a healthy human being is the size of a tennis court). When flattened, the surface area for absorption is drastically reduced. Thus, celiac patients often suffer from a variety of disorders related to poor digestion.

    To make things worse, when the wall of the intestines are irritated (in the case of celiac disease or in general) the body produces less of a substance called CCK (cholecystokinin). This, in turn, reduces the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas, as well as the bile produced in the liver. Without sufficient levels, digestion is slowed down, particularly of proteins. Thus, gluten intolerance carries a one-two punch: reducing digestion by damaging cell walls, and exacerbating malabsorption of nutrients by reducing digestive enzymes and bile.

    GMOs can Damage GI Tract
    As discussed above, Bt-toxin was found to poke holes in human cells. It is certainly possible that this can disrupt the digestive ability of the gut lining, as well as lower CCK levels. A mouse study also showed that BT toxin, both in its natural state and produced in experimental GM potato, damaged microvilli in the intestines (ileum). Some microvilli were broken off and discontinuous; others were shortened.18 This is very similar to the type of damage that gluten proteins cause to the intestines.

    The high levels of glyphosate-based herbicides in Roundup Ready crops may also directly damage the structure and function of the gut wall. A study on glyphosate exposure in carnivorous fish revealed remarkable adverse effects throughout the digestive system,19 including "disruption of mucosal folds and disarray of microvilli structure" in the intestinal wall, along with an exaggerated secretion of mucin throughout the alimentary tract.

    Experience with livestock, both in peer-reviewed published studies and in case studies reported by farmers and veterinarians, confirm significant damage in the digestive tract for those pigs and cows fed GMOs compared to those in the non-GMO diet. Pigs fed with GMO soy and corn, for example, had stomachs that were inflamed, discolored, and had multiple ulcers. Pigs switched to non-GM soy on a Danish farm no longer died from diarrhea, ulcers, and bloat.

    US farmers who butcher livestock report that the intestines of the GMO-fed animals are thin, corroded, and tear easily. Dr. Ronald Anders, an Ohio livestock veterinarian, confirms that autopsies reveal "a big difference in the liver and the intestinal tract on these animals on GMOs," including cows, pigs, sheep, horses, and even dogs. "The livers and intestines were extremely bad on a lot of these animals," he said.

    Roundup Ready Soybeans Reduced Digestive Enzymes
    Pregnant mice were fed GM soybeans, and their offspring continued on the diet for eight months. Compared to controls fed non-GMO soybeans, the pancreas suffered a profound reduction in alpha-amylase, a major enzyme that degrades carbohydrates. Young mice (one month) also had reduced amounts of a protein digesting enzyme precursor (zymogen), which is essential for healthy breakdown of the proteins in food.

    When analyzing the dangerous impacts of Roundup Ready soybeans, it is unclear whether the causative factor is the genetic engineering of the plant or the high Roundup content in the food. An analysis of the properties and effects of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, shows how this toxin may contribute to many of the problems discussed in this paper.

    A study on glyphosate exposure in carnivorous fish, for example, revealed remarkable adverse effects throughout the digestive system.20 The activity of protease, lipase, and amylase, important proteins involved with the digestion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, were all decreased in the esophagus, stomach, and intestine of these fish following exposure to glyphosate. Glyphosate also has profoundly harmful effects on the bacterial living inside our intestines.

    Healthy Gut Bacteria is Essential
    Bacteria living inside us play a critical role in digestion, immunity, detoxification, and even the production of nutrients and precursors to important hormones. Those suffering from gluten intolerance often coped with gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and cramping-all of which indicate an imbalance in the gut flora. In fact, studies show that gluten intolerant individuals often have imbalances in their gut flora. This is especially true for those with celiac disease.21,22,23,24 While we do not know whether the gut flora imbalance precedes the sensitization to gluten, or vice versa, it is likely that both processes play a role.

    Glyphosate was patented as a broad spectrum biocide; it's a very powerful antibiotic. In tiny amounts it can dramatically reduce the population of healthy bacteria varieties in the digestive tract. Bifidobacterium, for example, is easily killed by glyphosate.25 Its loss can promote inflammation.

    On the other hand, "the highly pathogenic bacteria" such as those that produce Salmonella or botulism poison "are highly resistant to glyphosate."26 In addition to the risk of producing acute toxins, such as botulism poisoning, bacterial pathogens can activate the molecule called zonulin, which can breakdown the tight junctions in intestinal cells leading to leaky gut.27 Indeed, some of the same bacteria whose growth is stimulated through glyphosate exposure, i.e. Clostridium botulinum,28 Clostridium perfringens,29 and Salmonella infections,30 have been found to increase intestinal permeability.

    Gut Bacteria on the Farm
    Livestock veterinarians Dan Skow and Ronald Anders, both describe a sudden increase in gut bacteria imbalance in livestock that began when GMOs were introduced, and which persists to this day. And both have noted improvements in livestock health, including digestive and immune system health, when herds were switched to non-GMO feed.

    Purdue Professor Emeritus Don Huber says that pigs fed GMOs have a "very dramatic difference in the microflora." He says it "has a terrible odor to it compared to the normal microflora because of that changed bio environment." Similarly, the organs and tissues are discolored, possibly due to the proliferation of this different flora.

    Avoid GMOs
    While there is insufficient research to prove that GMO consumption causes gluten sensitivity, the evidence does show how it might at least exacerbate the symptoms, or contribute to conditions that might cause them. Instead of waiting for more research, many clinicians are now prescribing non-GMO diets to their gluten sensitive and intolerant patients, as well as those with a variety of other disorders. Reports from the clinicians and from patients are encouraging.

    Chicago internist Emily Lindner, MD, for example, says "Based on my clinical experience, when I remove genetically modified foods as part of the treatment for gluten sensitivity, recovery is faster and more complete. I believe that GMOs in our diet contribute to the rise in gluten sensitivity in the U.S. population."

    Although 64 countries either ban GMOs outright or require mandatory labeling, the United States is not one of them. To avoid GMOs in America, consult or download the free iPhone app ShopNoGMO. It contains over ten thousand products that have been third-party verified as meeting the standards of The Non-GMO Project. In addition, avoiding GMOs can be accomplished by purchasing organic products, buying brands that say Non-GMO on the label, or avoiding the "at-risk" ingredients. These include derivatives of soy, corn, cottonseed and canola oil, sugar from sugar beets, papaya from Hawaii or China, zucchini and yellow squash.

    The Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) is collecting experiences from practitioners and consumers who eliminate GMOs. Please share results with IRT at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    1. Alberto Rubio-Tapia, Robert A Kyle, Edward L Kaplan, Dwight R Johnson, William Page, Frederick Erdtmann, Tricia L Brantner, W Ray Kim, Tara K Phelps, Brian D Lahr, Alan R Zinsmeister, L Joseph Melton, Joseph A Murray. Increased prevalence and mortality in undiagnosed celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 2009 Jul ;137(1):88-93. Epub 2009 Apr 10. PMID: 19362553
    2. Carlo Catassi, Debby Kryszak, Bushra Bhatti, Craig Sturgeon, Kathy Helzlsouer, Sandra L Clipp, Daniel Gelfond, Elaine Puppa, Anthony Sferruzza, Alessio Fasano. Natural history of celiac disease autoimmunity in a USA cohort followed since 1974. Ann Med. 2010 Oct ;42(7):530-8. PMID: 20868314
    3. G. A. Kleter and A. A. C. M. Peijnenburg, "Screening of transgenic proteins expressed in transgenic food crops for the presence of short amino acid sequences indentical to potential, IgE-binding linear epitopes of allergens," BMC Structural Biology 2 (2002): 8-19.
    4. Vazquez et al. Intragastric and intraperitoneal administration of Cry1Ac protoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis induces systemic and mucosal antibody responses in mice. 1897-1912.
      Vazquez et al. Characterization of the mucosal and systemic immune response induced by Cry1Ac protein from Bacillus thuringiensis HD 73 in mice. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. 2000;33:147-155.
      Vazquez et al. Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant. Scandanavian Journal of Immunology. 1999;49:578-584. See also Vazquez-Padron et al. 147 (2000b).
    5. Bernstein IL et al. Immune responses in farm workers after exposure to Bacillus thuringiensis pesticides. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1999;107(7):575-582.
    6. Green M et al. Public health implications of the microbial pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis: An epidemiological study, Oregon, 1985-86, Amer J Public Health. 1990;80(7):848-852.
      Noble MA, Riben PD, and Cook GJ. Microbiological and epidemiological surveillance program to monitor the health effects of Foray 48B BTK spray (Vancouver, BC: Ministry of Forests, Province of British Columbi, Sep. 30, 1992)
    7. Finamore A et al. Intestinal and Peripheral Immune Response to MON810 Maize Ingestion in Weaning and Old Mice. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56:11533-11539.
    8. Gupta A et al. Impact of Bt Cotton on Farmers' Health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh). Investigation Report, Oct-Dec 2005. Also, "Bt cotton causing allergic reaction in MP; cattle dead," Bhopal, Nov. 23, 2005.
    9. Vazquez et al, "Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant," Scandanavian Journal of Immunology 49 (1999): 578-584. See also Vazquez-Padron et al., 147 (2000b).
    10. Stephen R. Padgette et al, "The Composition of Glyphosate-Tolerant Soybean Seeds Is Equivalent to That of Conventional Soybeans," The Journal of Nutrition 126, no. 4, (April 1996); including data in the journal archives from the same study; see also A. Pusztai and S. Bardocz, "GMO in animal nutrition: potential benefits and risks," Chapter 17, Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals (Elsevier, 2005).
    11. V. E. Prescott, et al, Transgenic Expression of Bean r-Amylase Inhibitor in Peas Results in Altered Structure and Immunogenicity, J. Agric. Food Chem. 2005, 53
    12. Jeroen Visser, Jan Rozing, Anna Sapone, Karen Lammers, Alessio Fasano. Tight junctions, intestinal permeability, and autoimmunity: celiac disease and type 1 diabetes paradigms.Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 May ;1165:195-205. PMID: 19538307
    13. E Arranz, J Bode, K Kingstone, A Ferguson. Intestinal antibody pattern of coeliac disease: association with gamma/delta T cell receptor expression by intraepithelial lymphocytes, and other indices of potential coeliac disease. Gut. 1994 Apr ;35(4):476-82. PMID: 8174984
    15. Mesnage R, Clair E, Gress S, Then C, Székács A, Séralini, GE. (2012). Cytotoxicity on human cells of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac Bt insecticidal toxins alone or with a glyphosate-based herbicide. J. Appl. Toxicol. doi: 10.1002/jat.2712
    16. Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reprod Toxicol. 2011 May;31(4):528-33. Epub 2011 Feb 18.
    17. Netherwood T et al. Assessing the survival of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract. Nat Biotech. 2004;22:204-209.
    18. Fares NH, El-Sayed AK. Fine Structural Changes in the Ileum of Mice Fed on Endotoxin Treated Potatoes and Transgenic Potatoes. Natural Toxins. 1998;6:219-233.
    19. T Senapati, AK Mukerjee and AR Ghosh. Observations on the effect of glyphosate based herbicide on ultra structure (SEM) and enzymatic activity in different regions of alimentary canal and gill of Channa punctatus (Bloch). Journal of Crop and Weed 5(1): 236-245, 2009.
    20. T Senapati, AK Mukerjee and AR Ghosh. Observations on the effect of glyphosate based herbicide on ultra structure (SEM) and enzymatic activity in different regions of alimentary canal and gill of Channa punctatus (Bloch). Journal of Crop and Weed 5(1): 236-245, 2009.
    21. M C Collado, E Donat, C Ribes-Koninckx, M Calabuig, Y Sanz. Specific duodenal and faecal bacterial groups associated with paediatric coeliac disease. J Clin Pathol. 2009 Mar ;62(3):264-9. Epub 2008 Nov 7. PMID: 18996905
    22. Antonio Tursi, Giovanni Brandimarte, GianMarco Giorgetti. High prevalence of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth in celiac patients with persistence of gastrointestinal symptoms after gluten withdrawal. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Apr ;98(4):839-43. PMID: 12738465
    23. Ester Sánchez, Inmaculada Nadal, Ester Donat, Carmen Ribes-Koninckx, Miguel Calabuig, Yolanda Sanz. Reduced diversity and increased virulence-gene carriage in intestinal enterobacteria of coeliac children. BMC Gastroenterol. 2008 ;8:50. Epub 2008 Nov 4. PMID: 18983674
    24. Inmaculada Nadal, Ester Donat, Esther Donant, Carmen Ribes-Koninckx, Miguel Calabuig, Yolanda Sanz. Imbalance in the composition of the duodenal microbiota of children with coeliac disease. J Med Microbiol. 2007 Dec ;56(Pt 12):1669-74. PMID: 18033837
    25. Awad A Shehata, Wieland Schrödl, Alaa A Aldin, Hafez M Hafez, Monika Krüger. The Effect of Glyphosate on Potential Pathogens and Beneficial Members of Poultry Microbiota In Vitro.Curr Microbiol. 2012 Dec 9. Epub 2012 Dec 9. PMID: 23224412
    26. Awad et al,
    27. A Fasano, Zonulin and Its Regulation of Intestinal Barrier Function: The Biological Door to Inflammation, Autoimmunity, and Cancer. Physiol Rev 91: 151-175, 2011.
    28. Shin-Ichiro Miyashita, Yoshimasa Sagane, Ken Inui, Shintaro Hayashi, Keita Miyata, Tomonori Suzuki, Tohru Ohyama, Toshihiro Watanabe, Koichi Niwa. Botulinum Toxin Complex Increases Paracellular Permeability in Intestinal Epithelial Cells via Activation of p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase. J Vet Med Sci. 2013 Jul 25. Epub 2013 Jul 25. PMID: 23884081
    29. Jorge Goldstein, Winston E Morris, César Fabián Loidl, Carla Tironi-Farinati, Carla Tironi-Farinatti, Bruce A McClane, Francisco A Uzal, Mariano E Fernandez Miyakawa. Clostridium perfringens epsilon toxin increases the small intestinal permeability in mice and rats. PLoS One. 2009 ;4(9):e7065. Epub 2009 Sep 18. PMID: 19763257
    30. Yong-guo Zhang, Shaoping Wu, Yinglin Xia, Jun Sun. Salmonella infection upregulates the leaky protein claudin-2 in intestinal epithelial cells. PLoS One. 2013 ;8(3):e58606. Epub 2013 Mar 11. PMID: 23505542
  • You may have heard that 'going organic' is a healthy choice for the farmers, the environment, and your own health. But do you really understand why it's such a positive choice?

    This article series explores the benefits of choosing organic.

    Reason: Organic food offers superior health benefits

    Some of my previous articles have highlighted health benefits that can be obtained from choosing organic. These range from helping to protect the body from cancer1 to explaining the profound benefits of nurturing healthy soil2 to sharing some of the potentially toxic processes3 and chemicals4 that conventional food can be subjected to.

    In some ways I was reluctant to straight out claim that organic food is more nutritious because this is not always true. There are organic food products on the market that have been highly processed into something that is quite far removed from the crop they started from. Throughout this process valuable nutrients are lost and the end result becomes less nutritious for our bodies.

    It is also worth mentioning that nutrient levels in the soil can vary a lot within both conventional and organic crops depending on how the farmer or grower approaches soil health.

    Additionally, it is important to compare nutrient levels between the same types of crops because nutrient levels vary between types of plants and specific varieties in both conventional and organic growing.

    As I mentioned in an earlier article5 soil health is of the utmost importance in organic farming. This is a crucial factor in successful organic growing because quick fix solutions such as synthetic chemical fertilizers are not allowed to be used. Nurturing the soil creates a healthy soil microbiome, which grows healthy plants, which in turn help people to be healthy.

    Plants need to use their own inbuilt protection mechanisms to ward off pests because these same protection mechanisms are what provide us with antioxidants for our bodies. If plants are routinely being sprayed with synthetic pesticides the plant loses the requirement to use these amazing natural protection mechanisms. Along with that, the antioxidants that have been linked to optimal health in humans are severely depleted.

    There are always going to be studies that show no difference in antioxidant levels between conventional and organic crops. Some studies are repeated over again until beneficial results are found to support whatever corporate giant is funding the study. However there certainly is evidence out there that organically grown crops have higher nutritional content.

    A large study carried out meta-analyses based on 343 peerreviewed publications that indicate statistically significant and meaningful differences in composition between organic and non-organic crops/crop-based foods. The concentrations of a range of antioxidants such as polyphenolics were found to be substantially higher in organic crops/crop-based foods.6

    The 'look' of some organic produce can sometimes put people off eating it because it doesn't seem as appealing. In my experience, I have often found that our customers are pleasantly surprised by how wonderful their 'ugly' looking fruit tastes, and there is also evidence to suggest that it could contain superior nutritional qualities.

    Studies have found that apples with 'scabs' on the skin or leaves contained higher antioxidants (phenolic compounds) than scab-free apples and apple leaves.7,8 Similarly, higher concentrations of resveratrol (an antioxidant) have been found in grape leaves following fungal infection or exposure to ultraviolet light.9

    These results all connect back to the plant needing to work hard to fight for its survival. The inbuilt protective mechanisms kick in and these same protection mechanisms are what provide us with antioxidants. To remind you once more, a plant that has been sprayed with synthetic pesticides does not require these mechanisms for protection from pests, and therefore is unlikely to have antioxidants in the same concentrations that a plant which has not been subjected to synthetic pesticides will have.

    With this in mind, give that 'ugly' looking fruit a bit of a chance—you might be pleasantly surprised by the taste and it's highly likely that it's better for you too.

  • You may have heard that 'going organic' is a healthy choice for the farmers, the environment, and your own health. But do you really understand why it's such a positive choice? This article explores the benefits of choosing organic.

    Help Protect Against Cancer
    Plant based foods are well known for their vitality-providing properties as a result of being high in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. A vitamin and mineral supplement might contain twenty different vitamins and minerals, any of which could be synthetically derived.

    Synthetic or natural, a supplement cannot replicate the life giving properties of foods that are found in nature. A head of broccoli, or a single apple can contain not twenty, but hundreds of nutrients that all have their own magical way of interacting and providing nourishment for our bodies.

    Phytonutrients comprise a large range of important substances that help protect plants from threats such as germs, bugs and fungi, and many have been shown to have a beneficial effect on human health. Some of the more commonly known phytonutrient groups include carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols.

    According to Web MD,1 more than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts and tea, again reiterating the point that it is unlikely that we can replicate this complexity and interaction via a supplement pill.

    Salvestrols are a class of phytonutrients that are emerging as having huge potential in the prevention and treatment of cancer. This unique class of phytonutrients in essence works by interacting with an enzyme found in cancer cells and producing a toxin that causes death of that cancer cell, whilst leaving non-cancerous cells unaffected.2

    Numerous studies have linked diet and cancer and this link becomes even more probable just by recognizing that there is a higher incidence of cancer in the developed world as opposed to the underdeveloped world.3

    The WHO has initiatives in place to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity levels with the aim of reducing the incidence of cancer. Layering on this with an added focus on organically grown produce would likely have significant and far reaching benefits.

    Professor Gerry Potter and his Salvestrols research team analyzed thousands of fruit, vegetable and herb samples. Through this, they discovered that Salvestrols were present in very small amounts and often not at all in produce found in the local supermarket while much of the organic produce they tested had Salvestrols in abundance.4

    Modern farming practices have had a huge impact on the life-giving properties of the food we consume. When we understand the links between soil health and the subsequent health of our bodies, we begin to understand the consequences of depletion of tiny but hugely important compounds such as Salvestrols.

    To reiterate, Salvestrols are part of the plants protection mechanism from bugs and other pathogens. If a plant is not subject to pathogens because chemicals (e.g., pesticides) are used to keep those pathogens away, then the plants do not receive a signal to produce Salvestrols,5 thus reducing the nourishment that the plant provides for our bodies. Studies that have found higher antioxidant levels in imperfect produce (e.g. apples with scars)6,7 are likely a result of the plants innate protection mechanisms kicking into place as it works hard to fight back.

    A diet abundant in organically grown fruit and vegetables will help ensure a daily intake of Salvestrols to aid the body in ridding itself of cancer cells as they arise. Those who are already at risk or who are fighting active disease may wish to explore supplementation of their organic diet with Salvestrols.

    Shop for Organic Groceries!

    The information in this article is not intended to replace advice given by your primary care physician.

    2. Schaefer, Brian A. Linking Diet & Cancer: Salvestrols.Nature's defence against cancer. Clinical Intelligence Corp, 2012. page 36.
    4. Schaefer page 39.
    5. Schaefer page 40.
  • Part 1: Genetically Engineered Soybeans

    The huge jump in childhood food allergies in the U.S. is in the news often, but most reports fail to consider a link to a recent radical change in America’s diet. Beginning in 1996, bacteria, virus and other genes have been artificially inserted to the DNA of soy, corn, cottonseed and canola plants. These unlabeled genetically modified (GM) foods carry a risk of triggering life-threatening allergic reactions, and evidence collected over the past decade suggests they are contributing to higher allergy rates.

    Food safety tests are inadequate to protect public health
    Scientists have long known that GM crops might cause allergies. But there are no tests to prove in advance that a GM crop is safe. That’s because people aren’t usually allergic to a food until they have eaten it several times. “The only definitive test for allergies,” according to former FDA microbiologist Louis Pribyl, “is human consumption by affected peoples, which can have ethical considerations.” And it is the ethical considerations of feeding unlabeled, high-risk GM crops to unknowing consumers that has many people up in arms.

    The U.K. is one of the few countries that conduct a yearly evaluation of food allergies. In March 1999, researchers at the York Laboratory were alarmed to discover that reactions to soy had skyrocketed by 50 percent over the previous year. Genetically modified soy had recently entered the U.K. from U.S. imports and the soy used in the study was largely GM. John Graham, spokesman for the York laboratory, said, “We believe this raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods.”

    Critics of GM foods often say that the U.S. population is being used as guinea pigs in an experiment. But experiments have the benefit of controls and measurement. In this case, there is neither. GM food safety experts point out that even if someone tried to collect data about allergic reactions to GM foods, they would not likely be successful. “The potential allergen is rarely identified. The number of allergy-related medical visits is not tabulated. Even repeated visits due to well-known allergens are not counted as part of any established surveillance system.” Indeed, after the Canadian government announced in 2002 that they would “keep a careful eye on the health of Canadians” to see if GM foods had any adverse reactions, they abandoned their plans within a year, saying that such a study was too difficult.

    Genetic engineering may provoke increased allergies to soy
    The classical understanding of why a GM crop might create new allergies is that the imported genes produce a new protein, which has never before been present. The novel protein may trigger reactions. This was demonstrated in the mid 1990s when soybeans were outfitted with a gene from the Brazil nut. While scientists had attempted to produce a healthier soybean, they ended up with a potentially deadly one. Blood tests from people who were allergic to Brazil nuts showed reactions to the beans. It was fortunately never put on the market.

    The GM variety that is planted in 89 percent of U.S. soy acres gets its foreign gene from bacteria (with parts of virus and petunia DNA as well). We don’t know in advance if the protein produced by bacteria, which has never been part of the human food supply, will provoke a reaction. As a precaution, scientists compare this new protein with a database of proteins known to cause allergies. The database lists the proteins’ amino acid sequences that have been shown to trigger immune responses. If the new GM protein is found to contain sequences that are found in the allergen database, according to criteria recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and others, the GM crop should either not be commercialized or additional testing should be done. Sections of the protein produced in GM soy are identical to known allergens, but the soybean was introduced before the WHO criteria were established and the recommended additional tests were not conducted.

    If this protein in GM soybeans is causing allergies, then the situation may be made much worse by something called horizontal gene transfer (HGT). That’s when genes spontaneously transfer from one species’ DNA to another. While this happens often among bacteria, it is rare in plants and mammals. But the method used to construct and insert foreign genes into GM crops eliminates many of the natural barriers that stop HGT from occurring. Indeed, the only published human feeding study on GM foods ever conducted verified that portions of the gene inserted into GM soy ended up transferring into the DNA of human gut bacteria. Furthermore, the gene was stably integrated and it appeared to be producing its potentially allergenic protein. This means that years after people stop eating GM soy, they may still be exposed to its risky protein, which is being continuously produced within their intestines.

    Genetic engineering damaged soy DNA, creating new (or more) allergens
    Although biotech advocates describe the process of genetic engineering as precise, in which genes—like Legos—cleanly snap into place, this is false. The process of creating a GM crop can produce massive changes in the natural functioning of the plant’s DNA. Native genes can be mutated, deleted, permanently turned on or off, and hundreds may change their levels of protein expression. This collateral damage may result in increasing the levels of an existing allergen, or even producing a completely new, unknown allergen within the crop. Both appear to have happened in GM soy.

    Levels of one known soy allergen, trypsin inhibitor, were up to 27 percent higher in raw GM soy. In addition, although cooking soybeans normally reduces the amount of this protein, the trypsin inhibitor in GM varieties appears to be more heat resistant. Levels in cooked GM soy were nearly as high as those found in raw soy, and up to seven times higher when compared to cooked non-GM soy. This suggests that this allergen in GM soy may be more likely to provoke reactions than when consumed in natural varieties.

    Another study verified that GM soybeans contain a unique, unexpected protein, not found in non-GM soy controls. Moreover, scientist tested the protein and determined that it reacted with the antibody called IgE. This antibody in human blood plays a key role in a large proportion of allergic reactions, including those that involve life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The fact that the unique protein created by GM soy interacted with IgE suggests it might also trigger allergies.

    The same researchers measured the immune response of human subjects to soybeans using a skin-prick test—an evaluation used often by allergy doctors. Eight subjects showed a reaction to GM soy; but one of these did not also react to non-GM soy. Although the sample size is small, the implication that certain people react only to GM soy is huge, and might account for the increase in soy allergies in the U.K.

    Increased herbicides on GM crops may cause reactions
    By 2004, farmers used an estimated 86 percent more herbicide on GM soy fields compared to non-GM. The higher levels of herbicide residue in GM soy might cause health problems. In fact, many of the symptoms identified in the U.K. soy allergy study are among those related to glyphosate exposure. [The allergy study identified irritable bowel syndrome, digestion problems, chronic fatigue, headaches, lethargy, and skin complaints, including acne and eczema, all related to soy consumption. Symptoms of glyphosate exposure include nausea, headaches, lethargy, skin rashes, and burning or itchy skin. It is also possible that glyphosate’s breakdown product AMPA, which accumulates in GM soybeans after each spray, might contribute to allergies.]

    GM soy might impede digestion, leading to allergies
    If proteins survive longer in the digestive tract, they have more time to provoke an allergic reaction. Mice fed GM soy showed dramatically reduced levels of pancreatic enzymes. If protein-digesting enzymes are less available, then food proteins may last longer in the gut, allowing more time for an allergic reaction to take place. Such a reduction in protein digestion due to GM soy consumption could therefore promote allergic reactions to a wide range of proteins, not just to the soy. No human studies of protein digestion related to GM soy have been conducted.

    Soy linked to peanut allergies
    There is at least one protein in natural soybeans that has cross-reactivity with peanut allergies. That means for some people who are allergic to peanuts, consuming soybeans may trigger a reaction. While it is certainly possible that the unpredicted side effects from genetic engineered soybeans might increase the incidence of this crossreactivity, it is unlikely that any research has been conducted to investigate this. GM soy was introduced into the U.S. food supply in late 1996. We are left only to wonder whether this had an influence on the doubling of U.S. peanut allergies from 1997 to 2002.

    Eating GM foods is gambling with our health
    The introduction of genetically engineered foods into our diet was done quietly and without the mandatory labeling that is required in most other industrialized countries. Without knowing that GM foods might increase the risk of allergies, and without knowing which foods contain GM ingredients, the biotech industry is gambling with our health for their profit. This risk is not lost on everyone. In fact, millions of shoppers are now seeking foods that are free from any GM ingredients. Ohio-based allergy specialist John Boyles, M.D., says, “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it—unless it says organic.”

    Organic foods are not allowed to contain GM ingredients. Buying products that are certified organic or that say non- GMO are two ways to limit your family’s risk from GM foods. Another is to avoid products containing any ingredients from the seven food crops that have been genetically engineered: soy, corn, cottonseed, canola, Hawaiian papaya and a little bit of zucchini and crook neck squash. This means avoiding soy lecithin in chocolate, corn syrup in candies, and cottonseed or canola oil in snack foods.

    Fortunately, the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America will soon make your shopping easier. This Consumer Non-GMO Education Campaign is orchestrating the clean out of GM ingredients from foods and the natural products industry. The campaign will circulate helpful non-GMO shopping guides to organic and natural food stores nationwide. The Campaign will provide consumers with regular GM food safety updates that explain the latest discoveries about why, Healthy Eating Means No GMOs.

    Safe eating.

    Author’s note: This article is limited to the discussion of allergic reactions from GM soybeans. The evidence that GM corn is triggering allergies is far more extensive and will be covered in part 2 of this series.

  • Among the most common herbicides used worldwide is one named Roundup. The authors of a study on the subject of cell damage and death reported their research “…points to detrimental health effects from Roundup®, which are currently masked or hidden from scientific scrutiny.”

    GM crops are engineered to be Roundup resistant—their residues rank among the major pollutants and are authorized residues contaminating GM foods and feed at the tested levels. The researchers studied toxicity mechanisms of four different Roundup formulations in human cells. The formulations were diluted at minimal doses (up to 100,000 times or more), but they still caused cell death within just a few hours. The researchers also noted damages to membranes and DNA, and found the formulations inhibit cell respiration (oxygen levels needed within the cell like our lungs require oxygen).

    Soybeans, cotton and corn are the world’s largest group of genetically modified crops. In fact, according to reports by Dr. J. Mercola, the GM Roundup-Ready® gene is part of more than 75 percent of soybeans, 65 percent of cotton and 10 percent of corn grown in the U.S.

    These varieties of GM crops have become popular because farmers can spray Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide directly onto their fields without harming the crops. In other varieties of crops, Roundup, or any other glyphosate-based herbicide, sprayed onto a plant would kill it. Roundup works by inhibiting an enzyme called EPSP synthase, which is necessary for plants to grow. Without it, plants can’t produce essential proteins so they slowly yellow and die. GM Roundup-Ready crops produce an enzyme that has the same function as EPSP synthase, but is not affected by the Roundup.

    The latest study, for the first time, showed just how toxic these residues are to your health. Even highly diluted formulations tested on human cells caused cell death within 24 hours! According to researchers, “This work clearly confirms that the adjuvants in Roundup formulations are not inert. Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from Roundup formulation-treated crops.”

    Monsanto long used the slogans, “It’s Safer than Mowing,” “Biodegradable,” and “Environmentally Friendly” to describe Roundup — until the REAL effects of this toxic herbicide were revealed and they were forced to discontinue their deceptive advertising.

    Health Risks of GM Foods
    To simplify the complexity of risks for you and your family, allow me to elaborate. If you eat GM foods, there is a very good chance those foods contain Roundup residues— and possibly hefty amounts! According to a leading spokesperson on the health dangers of GM foods, Jeffrey Smith, the study identified the following disorders all related to GM soy consumption; irritable bowel syndrome, digestive disorders, chronic fatigue, headaches, lethargy, skin disorders (acne, eczema, etc.), nausea, burning or itchy skin, severe multiple food and environmental allergies from newfound proteins never before existing in food which our bodies are not equipped to break down.

    Food for Thought
    About 70 percent of foods in your grocery store contain GM foods. In the U.S., GMO giants have been very effective in eliminating legislation to require them to clearly label GM products. Most U.S. stores do not post signs next to product to identify GM foods. The following label reading and shopping information will help you become an informed shopper:

    1. Examine the little sticker on produce—if you see a five-digit number that begins with an 8, don’t buy it, it’s genetically modified
    2. If produce has 4 digits, it’s “conventionally grown”
    3. If produce has 5 digits, and begins with a 9, it’s “organically grown”
    4. Most processed foods and drinks contain GM ingredients, unless they’re organic
    5. Buy local organic produce whenever possible
    6. Avoid processed foods

    Farmers who buy Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready seeds are required to sign an agreement promising not to save or sell the seeds. This insane practice means farmers now must buy new seeds annually and purchase them from Monsanto— there’s definitely something wrong with that picture.

    Yes, it does take conscious effort to live healthy in a toxic world; however, you do have choices. I don’t know about you, but I’m not satisfied to simply live longer, I make informed choices to live healthier and maintain quality of life, naturally.

  • In many older detective stories, the punch line famously is, "the butler did it." In the minds of many contemporary Americans, gluten is the "butler." Increasingly, when individuals experience symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and gastrointestinal distress, including gas, bloating and diarrhea, gluten is called out as the culprit. The passage of partially digested or undigested gluten through the intestines and the gut barrier may also contribute to additional symptoms not limited to those involving the development of food sensitivities and intolerances. The answer in this paradigm is to avoid all gluten-containing foods, such as wheat, oats, rye, barley and spelt. The problem with this paradigm is that other than for a quite small percentage of the populace, there is little evidence that gluten per se is the culprit or that gluten avoidance will solve all or even most gluten-associated issues. This topic often leads to heated debates. Readers should be aware that the gluten-as-villain story has quite serious skeptics.1,2

    Who Reacts to Gluten?
    Gluten, a protein, is a large, complex molecule that contains thousands of folded amino acid sequences composed of globulans, albumins, glutenin and gliadin, with the gliadin fraction believed to cause most of the symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity. Gluten's exceptionally rich proline content contributes to resistance to digestion. When this big ball of peptides is insufficiently broken down, amino acid bonds within each molecule remain resulting in a partially-degraded protein that can lead to an array of symptoms. Some authorities suggest that if gluten is a sufficiently rich component of the diet (a rare situation), it will lead to reactions even in those otherwise tolerant as a result of these difficulties in digestion.

    There is a spectrum of gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy, the latter affecting only on the order of 0.1 percent of individuals in Westernized countries.3,4 Non-celiac gluten intolerance involves heightened immunologic reaction to gluten in genetically susceptible people whereas celiac disease involves a complex autoimmune response in the small intestine to gluten ingestion.5,6 The estimated prevalence of celiac disease is approximately one percent of the populace.7

    This is where things start to become very interesting in ways that suggest that the "gluten did it" scenario may be a bit misleading. As summarized in a fine article a few years back in the New York Times, "roughly 30 percent of people with European ancestry carry predisposing genes, for example. Yet more than 95 percent of the carriers tolerate gluten just fine. So while these genes (plus gluten) are necessary to produce the disease, they're evidently insufficient to cause it."8

    This observation becomes more intriguing in light of recent blood serum studies. In one, an examination of 9,133 frozen blood samples taken from US Air Force recruits between 1948 and 1954 for the antibody that people with celiac disease produce in reaction to gluten found that only about one in seven hundred tested positive, or 0.2 percent. This was compared to rates of celiac disease among 12,768 people who either had similar years of birth (i.e. were born around 1930) or who were of a similar age to the original donors at the time of sampling (i.e. young adults today). The rates of celiac disease were 0.8 percent and 0.9 percent respectively, or a 4 to 4.5-fold increase. In other words, in populations that genetically were virtually identical, celiac rates had increased more than 400 percent in a mere 50 years.9 Another study that analyzed blood serum from more than 3,500 Americans who had been followed since 1974 found that by 1989 the prevalence of celiac disease in this cohort had doubled.10

    More recent studies have confirmed the rising risk of developing celiac among otherwise similar groups in the past. So have cross-national comparative studies. The populations in adjacent Russian Karelia and Finland are equally exposed to grain products and share partly the same ancestry, but live in completely different socioeconomic environments. The two study populations are culturally, linguistically and genetically related with predisposing gene variants are similarly prevalent in both groups. Examination of 5,500 subjects yielded a prevalence of roughly one in 100 among Finnish children whereas the same diagnostic methods indicated only one in 500 among their Russian counterparts.11

    More Intrigue
    In line with a number of studies looking at the prevalence of asthma and other forms of autoimmune disease, the Finnish/ Russian data suggest modern sanitary and dietary practices are leading to poorer health in unexpected ways. For instance, three of four Russian Karelian children harbored Helicobacter pylori in comparison with one in 20 Finnish children. H. pylori can cause ulcers and stomach cancer, but mounting evidence suggests that exposure also reduces the incidence of asthma. The author of the New York Times article mentioned above notes that one author of the Finnish study suspects that Russian Karelians' microbial wealth (exposure to a much larger variety of microbes compared to more Westernized and metropolitan populations) protects them from autoimmune and allergic diseases by strengthening the arm of the immune system that guards against such illnesses. Similarly, Yolanda Sanz, a researcher at the Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology in Valencia, Spain, makes a compelling case for the importance of intestinal microbes. "Years ago, Dr. Sanz noted that a group of bacteria native to the intestine known as bifidobacteria were relatively depleted in children with celiac disease compared with healthy controls. Other microbes, including native E. coli strains, were overly abundant and oddly virulent."

    Quite a number of authors have noted a possible role for longer breast-feeding of infants in helping to confirm bifidobacteria in a more dominant role in the large intestine in children and later life as well as controlling E. coli growth. Other changes in Western practices similarly may influence the role of foodstuffs. For example, a study published in 2011 found that a specially fermented wheat flour-derived product did not lead to any sort of toxic reaction after being given to celiac patients for 60 days. This is in line with research indicating that the manufacture of wheat and rye breads or pasta with durum flours by using selected sourdough lactobacilli markedly decreases the toxicity of gluten. In Western countries, cereal baked goods typically are manufactured by fast processes. As noted by researchers, this avoids the traditional long fermentation by sourdough—a cocktail of acidifying and proteolytic lactic acid bacteria—and has replaced fermentation with chemical and baker's yeast leavening agents. Under these conditions, cereal components are not degraded during manufacture.12

    Again, a number of researchers have uncovered evidence that keeping bifidobacteria and lactobacilli at sufficiently high levels in the appropriate areas of the intestines strongly influences tendencies toward autoimmune diseases.

    Other Contributors to the Modern Gluten Intolerance

    Gluten has been in the human food chain for thousands of years, yet gluten intolerance has become widespread in recent decades. Along with some items already mentioned, here is an extended list of possible culprits:

    • Changes in baking techniques; to speed processing and reduce costs, modern breads almost never are fully yeast-raised as in the past, a process that makes gluten more digestible; similarly, the long steaming of wheat and rye breads typical of Central and Eastern Europe makes breads more digestible
    • Changes in the gluten content of wheat—since the 1950s the USDA, without public notice, has been involved in wheat breeding to increase gluten content
    • Novel processing techniques when using gluten-derived compounds in foodstuffs, such as deamidation involving removing an amino group (NH2); this makes the peptides more soluble and smaller, but also increases their chances of breaching the gut lumen and activating immune responses
    • Changes in refrigeration and storage, which, in turn, change our gut bacteria and lead to novel intolerance reactions to foods
    • Reduced breast-feeding and altered feeding and weaning practices; changes in infant formulas; suspected changes in mother's milk itself at the populace at large becomes more prone to overweight and obesity plus the foods consumed by mothers change
    • C-sections becoming more common, which tends to alter the bacteria babies inherit (or do not inherit) from the mother via the birth canal
    • Reduced exposure to various dusts and other challenges from the natural world that help train the developing immune system and reduce autoimmune overreactions
    • GMOs and the chemicals linked to these are ubiquitous in the food supply

    Although, as indicated above, heightened sensitivity to gluten extends back several decades, GMOs may be true game-changers for future generations. According to Jeffrey Smith and the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), a "possible environmental trigger [for gluten intolerance] may be the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the American food supply, which occurred in the mid-1990s," describing the nine GM crops currently on the market. In soy, corn, cotton (oil), canola (oil), sugar from sugar beets, zucchini, yellow squash, Hawaiian papaya, and alfalfa, "Bt-toxin, glyphosate, and other components of GMOs, are linked to five conditions that may either initiate or exacerbate gluten-related disorders." It's the Bt-toxin in genetically modified foods that kills insects by "puncturing holes in their cells." The toxin is present in ‘every kernel' of Bt-corn and survives human digestion, with a 2012 study confirming that it punctures holes in human cells as well.

    According to an IRT report, GMO-related damage is linked to five different areas: intestinal permeability, imbalanced gut bacteria, immune activation and allergic response, impaired digestion, and damage to the intestinal wall. The IRT release also indicated that glyphosate, a weed killer sold under the brand name 'Roundup,' was found to have a negative effect on intestinal bacteria. GMO crops contain high levels of this toxin at harvest. "Even with minimal exposure, glyphosate can significantly reduce the population of beneficial gut bacteria and promote the overgrowth of harmful strains."13,14

    Sometimes the Villains Aren't Bad Guys and How To Promote the Good Guys
    A word of caution is in order regarding gut bacteria. Just as gluten may not be the primary actor in its own drama, so, too, are some "bad" bacteria not so bad after all. Above, the case of H. pylori was presented as perhaps not quite as black-and-white as normally argued. Another example is E. coli. Which E. coli? Recent research has uncovered that small molecules produced by the microbiota and related to indole extend healthspan in geriatric worms, flies, and mice.15 According to the authors of this research, the term "healthspan" describes the length of time a human or animal, while aging, can stay active and resist stress. In this research, the focus is on whether the animals live healthier, but not necessarily longer. The study identified indole and related molecules as compounds released by E. coli bacteria. Indoles may be keeping the intestinal barrier intact and/or limiting systemic inflammatory effects. Moreover, there are specialty E. coli strains that are well-researched as excellent probiotics useful in treating a number of gastro-intestinal disorders and even helping to maintain remission in patients with ulcerative colitis.16,17 The trick is to encourage the presence of the right E. coli to limit the growth of the wrong E. coli.

    What about daily foods that boost good gut microbiome, including diversity in the gut? It is important to be able to promote gut health via daily food habits rather than relying on prebiotic supplements alone. Here are some everyday choices according to a 2016 survey conducted in Europe:18

    Good foods for boosting the gut microbiome

    • Fruit and vegetables
    • Yogurt
    • Coffee
    • Tea
    • Red wine
    Bad habits that hurt the microbial ecosystem
    • A high-calorie diet
    • A high-carbohydrate diet
    • Sugar-sweetened beverages
    • Frequent snacks

    Medications have the biggest influence on gut microbiome diversity. Antibiotics, proton-pump inhibitors and metformin (a common diabetes drug) all are linked to lower microbiome diversity.

    Blaming gluten for GI-tract issues, allergies and even weight gain is akin to the pharmaceutical world's "magic bullet" approach once encapsulated as "one disease, one drug." In reality, in the modern Western world a host of changes have taken place in food growing and processing along with changes in personal habits and some of these changes have led to an otherwise and previously relatively innocuous protein, gluten, becoming a source of health issues. Eliminating gluten from the diet (along with wheat, oats, rye, barley and spelt) is not the answer to environmental mistakes, such as the growing prevalence of poor bread-making practices and the use of GMOs. A better approach is to learn the nature of the non-health- promoting practices and then to find alternatives.


    1. Gaesser GA, Angadi SS. Gluten-free diet: imprudent dietary advice for the general population. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Sep;112(9):1330–3.
    2. Shewry PR, Hey SJ. Do we need to worry about eating wheat? Nutr Bull. 2016 Mar;41(1):6–13.
    3. Piezak M. Celiac disease, wheat allergy, and gluten sensitivity: When gluten free is not a fad. JPEN J Parental Enterol Nutr. 2012;36(suppl 1):68S–75S.
    4. Sapone A, Bai JC, Ciacci C, et al. Spectrum of gluten-related disorders: Consensus on new nomenclature and classification. BMC Med. 2012; 10:13.
    5. Hadjivassiliou M, Grunewald RA, Davies-Jones GAB. Gluten sensitivity as a neurological illness. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2002;72(5): 560–3.
    6. Briani C, Samaroo D, Alardini A. Celiac disease: From gluten to autoimmunity. Autoimmunity Rev. 2008;7(8):644–50.
    7. Catassi C, Fassano A. Celiac disease. Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2008;24(6):687–91.
    8. Moises Velasquez-Manoff. Who Has the Guts for Gluten? New York Times. February 23, 2013.
    9. Rubio-Tapia A, Kyle RA, Kaplan EL, Johnson DR, Page W, Erdtmann F, Brantner TL, Kim WR, Phelps TK,
    10. Lahr BD, Zinsmeister AR, Melton LJ 3rd, Murray JA. Increased prevalence and mortality in undiagnosed celiac disease. Gastroenterology. 2009 Jul;137(1):88–93.
    11. Catassi C, Kryszak D, Bhatti B, Sturgeon C, Helzlsouer K, Clipp SL, Gelfond D, Puppa E, Sferruzza A, Fasano A. Natural history of celiac disease autoimmunity in a USA cohort followed since 1974. Ann Med. 2010 Oct;42(7):530–8.
    12. Kondrashova A, Mustalahti K, Kaukinen K, Viskari H, Volodicheva V, Haapala AM, Ilonen J, Knip M, Mäki M, Hyöty H; Epivir Study Group. Lower economic status and inferior hygienic environment may protect against celiac disease. Ann Med. 2008;40(3):223–31.
    13. Francavilla R, De Angelis M, Rizzello CG, Cavallo N, Dal Bello F, Gobbetti M. Selected Probiotic Lactobacilli Have the Capacity To Hydrolyze Gluten Peptides during Simulated Gastrointestinal Digestion. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2017 Jun 30;83(14).
    14. GMOs linked to gluten disorders plaguing 18 million Americans
    15. Are Genetically Modified Foods a Gut-Wrenching Combination?
    16. "Chemicals from gut bacteria maintain vitality in aging animals: Indoles help worms/flies/mice live stronger for longer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2017.
    17. Fuchssteiner H, Nigl K, Mayer A, Kristensen B, Platzer R, Brunner B, Weiß I, Haas T, Benedikt M, Gröchenig HP, Eisenberger A, Hillebrand P, Reinisch W, Vogelsang H. [Nutrition and IBD-Consensus of the Austrian Working Group of IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Diseases) of the ÖGGH]. Z Gastroenterol. 2014 Apr;52(4):376–86. 17. Enck P, Zimmermann K, Menke G, Klosterhalfen S. Randomized controlled treatment trial of irritable bowel syndrome with a probiotic E.-coli preparation (DSM17252) compared to placebo. Z Gastroenterol. 2009 Feb;47(2):209–14.
    18. Zhernakova A, Kurilshikov A, Bonder MJ, Tigchelaar EF, Schirmer M, Vatanen T, Mujagic Z, Vila AV, Falony G, Vieira-Silva S, Wang J, Imhann F, Brandsma E, Jankipersadsing SA, Joossens M, Cenit MC, Deelen P, Swertz MA; LifeLines cohort study, Weersma RK, Feskens EJ, Netea MG, Gevers D, Jonkers D, Franke L, Aulchenko YS, Huttenhower C, Raes J, Hofker MH, Xavier RJ, Wijmenga C, Fu J. Population-based metagenomics analysis reveals markers for gut microbiome composition and diversity. - Science. 2016 Apr 29;352(6285):565–9.
  • You may have heard that "going organic" is a healthy choice for the farmers, the environment, and your own health. But do you really understand why it's such a positive choice? This article series explores the benefits of choosing organic. Reason: It checks a lot of boxes

    Many of the attributes that consumers are looking for in their food, beverages, household items and beauty products are covered under the banner of certified organic products.

    The 2016 New Zealand Organic Market report highlighted some of the main factors consumers are looking for when it comes to their purchases. One of the factors that rated highly was for GM/GE free food. Consumers may or may not be aware that purchasing certified organic products instantly assures the product does not contain any genetically modified ingredients. So by purchasing organic it's an easy way to ensure you're avoiding genetically engineered food.

    The report highlighted another important factor for consumers is that their food is 100 percent natural. By choosing organic you can be assured what you're purchasing is 100 percent natural. However, it must be noted that the two words are not interchangeable, as some might believe! For example, a conventional apple or orange is "100 percent natural" but this doesn"t mean it has not been sprayed with copious layers of synthetic chemicals. So purchasing "natural" products does not necessarily mean you are purchasing organic, but purchasing organic does mean you are purchasing natural. Most consumers are aware purchasing certified organic products means they will be avoiding synthetic chemicals but they do not necessarily make the connection that their "natural" product could have been involved in a lot of chemical treatments.

    Lesser known is the fact that irradiated products or ingredients are not permitted. Non organic food items such as herbs and spices, herbal teas and tropical fruits may be subjected to irradiation in order to stop the development of insects concealed within produce and to lengthen shelf life. The foods are put through powerful gamma rays or x-rays, a practice which is raising concerns in the scientific community about nutrient loss, free radical production, and links to diseases. Consumers can rest assured that any certified organic foods they purchase will not have been irradiated.

    Sustainability is a core, fundamental concept at the heart of the organic movement so it can be a good choice for those who are intent on looking after the environment and improving it for future generations. Organic farms vary in their efforts to improve animal welfare and employ principles of permaculture—just as conventional farms do. For this reason consumers may choose to investigate the origin of their food and products further. Positive choices do not need to be complicated however; and the certified organic label helps to make purchasing easier by checking a number of the boxes that consumers are looking for.

    Note: This article was written with relevance to New Zealand Certified Organic Standards. Standards in other countries may vary slightly.