GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are being given quite the hype right now. Every time I go to the grocery store I see more labels on foods touting that they are GMO-free. I?ve also heard in the news that some of the largest supporters for mandated GMO labeling are gluten-free consumers. Now, some of that is just because gluten-free consumers are generally more label conscious and cautious about what goes into their food. But others argue that GMOs are actually linked to the increase in gluten sensitivity and exposure could be an underlying cause of celiac disease. This research has yet to be proven. But there has been a huge explosion in more documented cases of celiac disease that do coincide to around the time GMOs hit the market. So, could GMOs be the answer? Let?s do some digging.
Most GMO crops are engineered to withstand the effects of the weed killer Round up. One of the main ingredients of Round up is glyphosate. Since the crops remain alive after being exposed, they retain a large amount of the glyphosate, which gets processed into your food later. Glyphosate is a potent antibiotic and herbicide. As we know, the risks of being exposed to antibiotics is always the reduction of beneficial bacteria and possible growth of harmful strains in the gut. Corn and cotton GMOs are also engineered to withstand the effects of an insecticide called Bt-toxin. Corn is one of the most used products in American food sources. Therefore, people are being exposed to both glyphosate and Bt-toxin on a regular basis.
Recent studies have shown links between both glyphosate and Bt-toxin and five conditions usually associated with gluten-related symptoms including, ?leaky gut,? an imbalance of gut bacteria, different immune reactions and allergies, impaired digestion and destruction to the intestinal wall. Hmm, coincidence?
Also considering Bt-toxin is constructed to kill insects by punching holes in their intestinal tracts- it could stand to reason that it does not seem like a far stretch to imagine it doing so to human guts as well. In fact, a 2012 study found evidence confirming this. Bt-toxin has been found in every kernel of genetically modified corn tested, has been proven to survive human digestion and been present in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women tested and 80 percent of unborn fetuses. Researchers claim this toxin and its gut punching effects could be an integral answer to our celiac origin questions.
So there is some convincing research out there about GMOs possibly causing or exaggerating a genetic predisposition to celiac disease. But what about after diagnosis? Aren?t GMOs present in many gluten-free foods? One of the primary ingredients substituted in many gluten-free foods is corn. Unfortunately, this is an ironic problem facing the shelves right now. It?s been exciting to see the explosion of gluten-free foods hitting the market and yet, eating many of them might possibly continue to harm our already impacted and sensitive gut health. So what can we do to help ourselves?
For starters, it pays to steer clear of many of the processed options on the shelves. We?ve been hearing that for years anyway because of the sugars and other unnatural ingredients added to those products. So here?s just one more reason to add to the growing list to advocate for clean eating and cooking.
It also helps to educate yourself about the most popular crops that are genetically modified. Corn is the most well-known offender, but other high risk crops include, yellow and acorn squash, zucchini, bok choy, flax, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets and soy. It also pays to subscribe to websites like the Non-GMO project at http://www.nongmoproject.org/. They provide lists of high risk and moderate risk crops based on up to date information and trends. They also provide links to stores that are stocking NON-GMO alternatives as well as verified products that pass inspection. They also provide an app for guidance while shopping.
Buying certified organic products is a good first step. It is not always a guarantee, unfortunately, since organic products are not required to label GMOs. But there is a less likely chance of GMOs being utilized in organic products. Hopefully, by following organic labels and being aware of the moderate and high-risk crops, you?ll be most equipped to navigate and steer clear of the GMOs present in your local grocery store.
Again, we are not yet positive of the links between GMOs and celiac disease. If anything, the research connects more problems with the sprays used than the actual crops themselves. But in my experience, it always pays to err on the side of caution when you can. Just being mindful of the possible links and choosing a Non-GMO alternative when offered could make a difference. And the benefits of clean eating and bypassing processed foods will always help your gut health long term.
By Joyana Peters McMahon