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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Healing From Genetically Altered Foods: Another Reason to Go Organic

Feb 28, 2019 10:48AM ● By Marlaina Donato


Twenty-five years ago, the first genetically modified (GM) crop came to market in the form of a tomato engineered for a longer shelf life. Today, as much as 80 percent of food in the U.S. contains GMOs (as they are best known) and most of the world’s genetically engineered crops are treated with glyphosate herbicides, primarily Monsanto’s Roundup.

Unlike hybrids produced by conventional breeding, GMOs are created in a laboratory, often incorporating DNA from other species, such as bacteria and viruses. Researching the potential health effects “must be our number one priority, because GMO technology is replacing nature,” says Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, in Fairfield, Iowa. “The altered genomes are passed on to future generations.”

Although U.S. regulators generally regard these foods to be safe, the ubiquity of GMOs in the food chain and a lack of research on their long-term effect on human health have ignited controversy among scientists, consumers and even governments.

Much of the research has been conducted in other countries—more than 60 have banned GMOs—and most studies have focused on the health effects of the glyphosate used on these crops, which the World Health Organization in 2015 declared a probable human carcinogen. “Glyphosate adversely affects the mitochondria, neurotransmitter production and hormones,” says Smith, whose recent documentary, Secret Ingredients, presents stories of people that overcame chronic illnesses by eliminating GMOs from their diets.

As I dug deeper, I put the pieces together of the relationship between GMOs, gut health and subsequent diseases.
~Michelle Perro, pediatrician, author and executive director of GMO Science

Smith recently conducted a survey published in the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine in which 3,256 respondents reported improvement in a number of health problems after they switched to largely non-GMO and organic diets. “Many of the conditions that improved in the survey participants are similar to the health issues found in lab animals fed GMOs or the associated herbicide Roundup,” he wrote. More than 85 percent reported improvement from digestive disorders. It is possible that glyphosate, which is antibiotic in nature, may disrupt the delicate balance of the microbiome, a community of microbes that inhabit the gut.

Roundup and Gut Health

“Roundup can loosen the tight junctions between our cells,” explains Smith. “This can lead to leaky gut, which can contribute to inflammation and numerous diseases.”

Dr. Akil Palanisamy, a Harvard-educated physician and author of The Paleovedic Diet: A Complete Program to Burn Fat, Increase Energy, and Reverse Disease, concurs. “I do believe that the microbiome is crucial for health, and by switching to organic, we eliminate the potential microbiome-damaging effects of glyphosate.”

Palanisamy, based in San Francisco, emphasizes glyphosate’s known ability to cause DNA damage and potentially induce cell death. “It may be a contributing factor to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, infertility and gastrointestinal disorders,” he says. “It is impossible in the U.S. to just eliminate GMO foods from the diet, so eating organic is the only way to guarantee avoiding GMO foods. This automatically also reduces pesticides from the diet.”

Anecdotal Evidence

Dr. Michelle Perro, a pediatrician, author and executive director of GMO Science, in San Rafael, California, became involved when she came across research by plant biologist Dr. Arpad Pusztai, one of the first scientists to raise concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods. “I was able to correlate his findings with the change in children’s health that I was beginning to notice in my own practice,” says Perro. “As I dug deeper, I put the pieces together of the relationship between GMOs, gut health and subsequent diseases.”

Helpful Resources
2018 Journal of the American Medical Association study
What’s Making our Children Sick?: How Industrial Food Is Causing an Epidemic of Chronic Illness, and What Parents (and Doctors) Can Do About It, by Dr. Michelle Perro and University of California San Francisco medical anthropologist Vincanne Adams

Perro has seen improved health in her patients once a cleaner diet is introduced. “Parents have the ability to help reverse chronic disorders plaguing their children, including asthma, eczema, food allergies and neurocognitive disorders such as autism and ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder].”

Palanisamy has also seen significant changes in his patients’ health when they heed his advice and avoid GMOs. “Often, they report improvement in digestion, mood, brain fog and energy levels.”

The body is designed with the innate ability to heal, says Pero. “Chronic diseases can be reversed when organic nutrition is the foundation.”

The Hartman Group’s Organic & Natural 2018 report reveals that 46 percent of American shoppers now seek GMO-free food. “The tipping point here in the United States has begun,” says Smith.

Marlaina Donato is the author of several books on spirituality, health and wellness and a composer.


Healing Strategies

Go-to Tips

• Eat organic when possible, especially oats, wheat and other grains, soy, corn, beans and lentils.

• Look for the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal on labels.

Advice From the Experts

Dr. Akil Palanisamy:

• Sweat in a sauna or steam room 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a week to stimulate toxin release (infrared saunas are a good alternative for those that can’t tolerate the heat of traditional saunas).

• Take 15-minute home baths with one-quarter-cup of bentonite clay.

• Drink lots of purified filtered water every day.

• Strive to have a daily bowel movement.

• Add fiber to diet such as psyllium husk or fruit pectin.

• Eat a variety of detoxifying foods like cruciferous vegetables, ground flaxseeds, parsley, beet greens (the leafy tops of beetroot), cilantro and chia seeds.

Dr. Michelle Perro (for children):

• Eat as much organic foods as possible and eliminate processed foods from a child’s diet.

• Don’t drink tap water; use a quality water filter.

• Strive to eliminate pesticides in the child’s environment, including at schools, playdates and homes of relatives.

• Seek a foundation of nutritional medicine and individualized treatment strategies employing nutraceuticals, herbs, homeopathy and manipulative medicine.

• Consider an elimination diet, beginning with dairy and gluten.

This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Read the full June 2021 Magazine