Glyphosate: What is it, and how does it affect your body?

Glyphosate – the active ingredient in RoundUp – is used everywhere.

One of the most recent statistics we have comes from a 2019 study[1]. Here, the authors evaluated glyphosate usage on glyphosate-tolerant soybeans in the United States, Brazil, and Argentina [1]. The study noted that commercial farms in those countries alone accumulate between 2,500-10,000 metric tons annually. This number only represents glyphosate used on soybeans [1]. This trend only seems to increase because, since the introduction of glyphosate-based herbicides in the late 1970s, its application has increased 100-fold, and trends show no sign of slowing [2].

Indeed, one often perplexing effect of mass glyphosate use is that this chemical doesn’t just disappear – it accumulates. Thus, the compound ends up in our soil, food, and water.

Much like other once-safe-but-now-dangerous compounds, e.g., asbestos and cigarettes, successful lawsuits targeting glyphosate manufactures have begun to highlight probable and dangerous consequences of its use. For instance, in 2018, a jury trial resulted in a $289 judgment against Monsanto for a man claiming the compound caused his cancer [3].

Yet, although these facts produce buzzwords one may use in a conversation about the topic, alone, they don’t educate people on the underlying effects of glyphosate. Thus, let’s start with the basics.

What is Glyphosate?

At its most fundamental level, glyphosate is a variation of glycine, the smallest, simplest amino acid.

And this makes sense because the “gly” in “glyphosate” represents glycine. Still, the vital difference is the “phosate,” which comes from an extra “phosphonomethyl” group attached to the glycine molecule.

That’s it – that is the difference. Glyphosate is a glycine amino acid with an extra molecule group attached.

Now, let’s talk about amino acids in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of all protein, so pretty much everything in your body is made up of amino acids: your muscles, connective tissue, digestive enzymes, muscles, and organs. Because glyphosate looks very closely like an amino acid, the body’s cells sometimes use it as an amino acid in a process called “glycine-glyphosate substitution,” which causes glyphosate to be incorporated into your proteins instead of glycine. This effect has even been highlighted by Monsanto’s unpublished internal studies released through the Freedom of Information Act: mammals metabolize glyphosate and incorporate it into their proteins [4].

Instead of merely misfolding in your cells and being discarded into the cellular garbage can, glyphosate is so similar to glycine that your cell thinks the glyphosate looks fine, even though it doesn’t function properly.

How it works in plants

In plants, glyphosate’s robust weed-killing action can be linked to its disruption of one single enzyme: EPSP-Synthase. This enzyme is necessary for a plant’s survival because it is the critical link in a biochemical process that creates three amino acids: phenylalanine, tryptophan, and tyrosine [5]. Every plant dies without the ability to make these three amino acids.

Unlike plants, humans cannot make phenylalanine or tryptophan internally, so we must get them exclusively through diet, mostly plants. Therefore, Monsanto claims that glyphosate is safe for use because humans don’t have an EPSP-Synthase enzyme.

Nevertheless, this is patently flawed because humans are still made up of amino acids, and glycine-glyphosate substitution happens in our bodies.

Before continuing, let’s note this: Glyphosate is larger than glycine. This makes sense because glyphosate is glycine with another attached molecule.

Here is the effect of the difference: If a cell accidentally uses glyphosate instead of glycine, that extra “phosate” group fills up the cell’s glycine pocket and blocks the active site, and without an active pocket, the cell’s glycine pocket cannot receive glycine.

This effect is similar to changing a lock on a door, where the lock is the cell’s glycine pocket, and the key is a glycine amino acid. When the cell accidentally puts a glyphosate molecule in the lock, the “phosate” group falls into the lock, changing it and making the glycine key ineffective.

This proposes a question: If cells use glyphosate like glycine, would we see glyphosate accumulation in glycine-rich and -dependent tissues and matter?

Glyphosate, Collagen, and Chronic Pain

Of the total amino acid content in the human body, 11.5% is represented by glycine, and generally, 80% of the body’s glycine is used for protein synthesis [6]. Thus, collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body and makes up the fascia between internal organs, supports flexible skin, protects joints, and forms ligaments. Collagen’s triple-helix structure creates water bridges that support hydrated and healthy collagen tissue [7].

Thirty-three percent of collagen by weight is glycine [8].

We have already noted that Monsanto’s internal studies reveal that glyphosate accumulated the most in connective tissue and bones [4].

Expectedly, when glyphosate is substituted for glycine, collagen’s triple-helix structure loses integrity, elasticity, and strength and becomes compromised; joints and tendons lose their cushion.

Based on these notes, it would not be unreasonable to extrapolate and say glyphosate could be a significant driver in the nation’s rise in chronic joint pain.

Microbiome Dysbiosis

We have discussed our body’s microbiome and its connection to inflammatory bowel diseases and mental cognition in previous articles. We’ve also noted that diet can directly affect the body’s microbiome, particularly a diet high in processed foods [9].

In a thriving gut, there exists a flourishing ecosystem of trillions of bacteria. These bacteria perform thousands of vital health functions, from digesting food and formulating neurotransmitters to supporting the body’s immune system and fending off invaders. Many of these bacteria have an EPSP-Synthase enzyme, just like plants.

In a 2019 study, researchers found that glyphosate has an inhibiting effect on this enzyme in intentional microbiota, affecting mainly beneficial bacteria. Contrary, harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium spp. and Salmonella strains, seem to be somewhat resistant to Glyphosate [10].

Once beneficial bacteria begin to die off, the microbiome’s delicate balance is disrupted, and harmful bacteria could start taking over. This could affect other bodily aspects, including mental cognition [11].

Glypho-Food and Food Allergies

Similar to EPSP-Synthase, some digestive enzymes also have glycine in a binding site for their action. This includes a digestive enzyme called trypsin. Trypsin helps break down large globular proteins like casein in milk and gluten in wheat.

When trypsin malfunctions, these proteins pass into the lower digestive tract undigested, where they cause intestinal inflammation [12], causing the body to release a compound called zonulin. Zonulin breaks down the tight junction between intestinal cells, which usually is a strong barrier between the digestive tract and the rest of your body [13].

In fact, zonulin expression is increased in autoimmune conditions associated with junction dysfunction, including celiac disease and type-1 diabetes. Studies have also shown that zonulin can be used as a biomarker for impaired gut barrier function for several autoimmune, neurodegenerative, and tumoral diseases [13].

Therefore, glyphosate increases zonulin levels; likewise, researchers have also found that glyphosate breaks down the intentional wall’s tight junctions [14].

This breakdown is also known as leaky gut.

Leaky gut, sequentially, leads to many confusing, systematic immune responses such as food allergies, autoimmune conditions, and many other health problems.

Gut Peristalsis and Myosin Sabotage

Myosins are a superfamily of motor proteins best known for their roles in muscle contraction [15]. Fundamentally, myosin is the movement protein. Movement includes conscious movement, such as bending an arm, and unconscious, automatic movement, such as digestion.

Glycine sits at an important location for this protein involved in automatic contractions that move food and waste through the digestive tract.

In one study, researchers found that if 2% of glycine is substituted with alanine, another amino acid, myosin loses 50% of its contracting capacity [16]. If glyphosate makes the same substitution, this automatic function would be compromised severely, resulting in constipation and other complications.

The Autism Connection

Many of these ailments are commonly present in people with autism, including a paralyzed gut [17-18]. It is also common for people with autism to experience severe muscle loss, which can limit their gross and fine motor skills [19], and have a decreased amount of beneficial gut bacteria [20].

Even leading researchers, including MIT researcher Dr. Stephanie Seneff, are noting that glyphosate is a repeated connection between myosin dysfunction, gut paralysis, microbiome dysbiosis, autism, and other cognitive impairments [21].

Everything Else

Lastly, I wanted to mention glyphosate’s role in liver enzymes.

The liver is tasked with breaking down chemicals and drugs in the blood and dispelling them in bile and stool. The liver does this through various enzymes, with the most notable being CYP 450 enzymes [22]. These enzymes are dependent on glycine.

Glyphosate inhibits CYP 450 enzymes [23].

Without these enzymes, the liver cannot breakdown chemicals, drugs, and other environmental toxins, so these compounds stay present in the body for extended periods, wreaking havoc on the body’s neurological and immune systems.

Most people are unknowingly familiar with these enzymes’ function. For example, these enzymes also break down alcohol and opioids, so doctors recommend not drinking while taking pain medication.

What to do

Most of these recommendations are common sense:

Eat only organic fruits, vegetables, and meat.

Avoid inorganic wheat and sugar products.

Avoid processed foods made with gelatin, which is derived from collagen and is guaranteed to be contaminated with glyphosate.

Also, supplements like Healthmasters’ GHI Cleanse can help give your body the resources it needs to replace dysfunctional, toxic proteins.

If you have any questions about Healthmasters’ GHI Cleanse or any of our other products, feel free to call our office at 800.726.1834.






[4] Ridley, W.P. and Mirly, K. (1988) The Metabolism of Glyphosate in Sprague-Dawley Rats-Part I. Excretion and Tissue Distribution of Glyphosate and Its Metabolites Following Intravenous and Oral Administration. (Unpublished Study MSL-7215 Conducted by Monsanto Company Environmental Health Laboratory and Submitted to the US EPA July 1988) MRID#407671-01.