I am re-posting this article, as I believe that it is an extremely important one as our food supply continues to change. Genetically modified foods have crept into Canadian foods, especially in the form of corn, soy and canola, which can be found in almost any packaged food. It takes a significant amount of vigilance to avoid these foods, or even to minimize them as they are found in not only foods at your grocery stores, but also foods at restaurants, cafeterias, schools and day-cares. Personally, I look for products, restaurants and stores that have a clear food mandate about where they are getting their supplies, and for me this is far more important than the menu, and even whether the foods are organically grown or not. If you are interested in an excellent food mandate, check out “Real Foods for Real Kids”, a local daycare and elementary school food catering company. I am extremely impressed by their mandate: (read the “Real Food Promise” at the top of the page).
To better understand the science, and how genetically modified foods are affecting our health, please read more below.
I have suspected for a long time now that one of the main causes for the enormous rise in food allergies and intolerances in the past years has to do with the introduction of genetically engineered foods into our regular food supply. The timeline with the first introduction of GMO soy 16 years ago, and the rise in food allergies do have an interesting parallel. Here are some of the stats (remember that GMO foods were introduced in 1997 to Canadian food supply in processed foods and fast foods especially):
- Peanut allergies doubled from 1997-2002
- Over the past 10 years since GMO’s have become widespread in the US, 1 out of every 17 children developed a food allergy, and hospital emergency rooms saw a 265% increase in food allergy emergencies.
- The Journal of Pediatrics quotes incidence of food allergy as high as 1 out of every 12 children.
- Scientists are speculating that introducing a foreign gene into a plant may be creating a new allergen or allergic response in susceptible individuals.
Risks of GMO foods on Human Health:
There are many potential risks of GMO foods, but I am only going to discuss one in this article, because it was a huge ‘aha’ for me, in understanding the allergy crisis we are currently in. It seems that every day I diagnose more and more food intolerances in adults and children, and see more and more children with severe allergies and multiple intolerances. So what is going on?
Here is the technical part: One way that plants are genetically engineered is to be resistant to herbicides or weed-killers, meaning large amounts of herbicides are used on GMO crops to kill off surrounding weeds. The most common herbicide used on these crops is called “Round-Up” which has an active ingredient called “Glyphosate”. GMO crops which are “Round-up Ready” include: corn, soy, canola, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa.
Glyphosate kills weeds by affecting an enzyme pathway called the ‘shikimate pathway’. This causes the weed plants to die. It is supposedly safe for humans because we do not have a shikimate pathway.
Here’s the important part: Our intestinal flora, meaning the healthy bacteria in the gut contains this shikimate pathway, meaning ‘glyphosate’ is killing off the good flora similarly to antibiotics.
The consequences of this include:
- gastrointestinal disorders (IBS, bloating, increased risk of colitis or crohn’s)
- higher rates of allergies and intolerance
- increased risk of diabetes (imbalanced gut flora causes increased carb cravings)
- weight challenges
- mood disorders (overgrowth of pathogenic organisms in the gut can cause issues with mood and behaviour)
It now makes sense why allergic conditions appear to be escalating in families, meaning each generation they are getting worse. This all has to do with a changing food supply, and a reliance on large amounts of these altered staple foods. Women pass on their flora (in balance or out of balance) to their babies during childbirth – so if a mother has IBS, too much yeast and not enough healthy flora, then her baby starts off with an imbalanced gut flora and a susceptibility to digestive issues and allergies / intolerance.
This is also why I need to rebalance intestinal flora with a ‘yeast cleanse’ on almost all of my patients. We have not only been bombarded by antibiotics in the past (fortunately this is getting better now!), but the presence of GMO foods has not helped matters at all.
The good news is that we can take steps to minimize this impact now, and hopefully stop passing this on to our children.
Steps to take are:
1) Avoid GMO foods – eat organic, especially foods that may contain soy, corn and canola (this includes dairy, meat and eggs where soy and corn are in almost all animal feed).
2) Rebalance your intestinal flora – please ask for direction, but the key is first to replenish probiotics and next to kill off organisms that don’t belong. In most cases probiotics alone are not enough.
3) Repair the intestinal lining – substances such as slippery elm bark, l-glutamine powder, aloe vera juice and others are helpful in repairing the intestinal lining to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms and also to repair a ‘leaky gut’.
Where would you find GMO foods on your supermarket shelf:
GMO Crops Grown in Canada:
- Corn: found in corn flakes, corn chips, corn starch, corn syrup, corn oil and other corn ingredients in processed foods, sweeteners like glucose and fructose; eggs, milk and meat.
- Soy: soy oil, soy protein, soy beverages, soy pudding, soy lecithin, tofu; eggs, milk and meat.
- Canola: canola oil; eggs, milk and meat.
- Sugar beets: sugar
Crops grown in the US, but found on Canadian shelves:
- Cottonseed oil: cottonseed oil, vegetable oil in processed foods such as potato chips.
- Papaya: papaya in fruit juices and other processed foods.
- Squash: some zucchini, yellow crookneck and straightneck squash.
- Milk products (containing bovine growth hormone): milk solids and powder; frozen desserts with dairy; imported mixed drinks with milk ingredients.
(lists from: http://www.cban.ca/)
Tips to avoid GMO foods:
- Buy Organic – certified organic foods do not contain GMO ingredients.
- Demand labeling of GMO foods – currently, there is no requirement to label products that contain GMO’s, and approximately 70% of all packaged products at the supermarket containing GMO’s – corn and soy are in most foods in some form or another.
I welcome any discussion to this controversial topic! In the meantime, read ingredient lists carefully – GMO foods may be affecting your allergies, immune system, weight and metabolism, mood and digestion by their impact on your gastrointestinal flora.