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Gluten is not the problem – herbicides are

See all those gluten-free foods at your local supermarket? Think you’re gonna lose weight when you eat them. Fuhgit about it. The skinny is that they are a useless fad.

Don’t take my worthless opinion for it – instead check out the respected Consumer Reports’ article “6 Truths about a gluten free diet”. The conclusions are that gluten-free diets are not only a waste of time for all but the tiny proportion of people with celiac disease, but that you will actually gain weight on them as well as spending a lot more money.

The truth will set us free!

So does this mean that you’re imagining things when you get frequent upset stomachs, allergies, pimples and worse after eating your veggies? Nope, probably not. But the culprit isn’t gluten. It’s almost certainly the herbicides that are now put on a whole series of crops.

Not just wheat, but also corn, soy, canola, sorghum, alfalfa, and cotton, and even on sugar cane and coffee, i.e. just about everything you eat. The herbicide at fault is glycophosphate, whose brand name is Roundup and it’s used with plants genetically modified to respond well to the chemical. The evidence is mounting that this chemical mimics gluten sensitivity.

Not that it’s a done deal. There’s also vociferous argument against this idea especially from wheat farmers and pro-GMO-ers (of whom I happen to be one, well kind of). They reject the idea that herbicides have any adverse impact whatsoever.

Hmm, I wonder if they ever heard of Rachel Carson and her path-breaking book "Silent Spring". It started off the whole debate about herbicides. It strikes me that we have a similar story now, just a little more sophisticated and a new cast of characters.

But there’s a much wider story here than gluten or even new-fangled herbicides. It’s all to do with the newly-discovered microbiome and the impact of modern foods on it.

The short story is that none of us, including especially the food producers, have any idea about what’s going on. No-one, including your friendly government, NIH, FDA, scientists or whatever has any idea how different foods impact the microbiome and in turn the bodies that surround them.

It’s almost certainly true that the vast majority of people are falsely attributing their obesity, aches and pains and other ailments to gluten. But those aches and pains are real, even if the impact of gluten isn’t. Something is causing it.

Increasingly it’s becoming evident that modern foods and additives of all descriptions – antibiotics, herbicides, dyes, detergents, and so on – are having impacts on our microbiome that we don’t even begin to understand.

The foods we are eating might well be “safe” according to traditional tests, but no-one ever tested them on the microbiome or even has a model that would allow them to use such an approach.

The anti-GMO folks have missed the bus here. It’s not that any GMO food is bad; it’s that we have no model for testing their impact on the microbiome or for that matter anything else coz we don’t yet have the knowledge and biochemical vision. Herbicides such as glycophosphate, bad as they seem to be, are just one tiny part of the problem.

No matter what you eat there will be some sort of impact on the microbiome. With natural food it’s mostly good. But much of our food now has bad impacts.

There’s lots of different bacteria in the gut; we just don’t know what most of them do and what adverse impacts much of our food, together with its numerous additives, does bad. But there’s no doubt that we now have an ongoing assault against our microbiome because of all these additives.

The results include obesity, symptoms that can be confused with celiac disease and numerous other impacts we aren’t even aware of. Maybe they include dementia and mental diseases; we just don’t know.

With obesity now at 38% of the population and apparently still rising (despite recent positive trends in kids) it’s clear that we have a massive problem. The FDA and the scientists are still, mostly, around 10 years behind. Hopefully they will start to catch on soon.

I think the assault on the microbiome is an unprecedented, existential threat to the human race. It might well be more serious than climate change or even nuclear war. That’s because it’s happening now, is well advanced and is eating us out literally from within.

The solution? All additives that get into the food supply should be tested for their impacts on the microbiome. It should be easy enough; we have a good idea now as to its main bacterial components. To make it easier and cheaper for food suppliers, there could be a microbiome model to test on as well as in vitro. I don’t think it’s too much to ask; after all the lives of our generation and numerous unborn generations are at stake.

In the meantime if you can find any crop-based foods labelled “herbicide-free” buy them. That’s the new “antibiotic-free” for the foodie cognoscenti.

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