The Microbiome and Gut-Brain Connection

The human microbiome is made up of millions of bacteria, viruses, archaebacteria, and fungi that live within our intestinal tract and elsewhere in and on our bodies. These internal residents help us in many ways, some of which scientists are just discovering.

HHRA scientists are concerned about the widespread use of pesticides and animal drugs that kill bacteria, including the most heavy used pesticide in world history: glyphosate-based herbicides, aka Roundup.

That’s right, glyphosate is an antibiotic!  The world’s #1 herbicide works by acting on the Shikimate pathway, an important process that only occurs in plants – but also in the tiny organisms that make up our microbiome.

Why does the microbiome matter?

Food is the fuel that nourishes us, and supports the rapid growth of newborns as they progress through childhood and the teenage years. But for this to happen in ways that maximize a child’s chances for a long and healthy life, the stomach and GI tract has multiple miracles to pull off on a daily basis. It must extract the nutrients from our food and deal with excesses and inadequacies in nutrient intake, while also helping the body metabolize and excrete possibly dangerous nasties in food.

The miracle worker is not a Dr. Oz behind the curtain. It is the billions of bacteria that make up our personal microbiome. The miracle worker is the numbers and health of our gut bacteria, and the diversity and balance in their numbers, that separate health and wellness from sickness and all sorts of problems in how our brain, immune system, and metabolism works.

In just the last few years, cutting-edge science has proven connections between unhealthy microbiomes, GI tract problems, allergies, mood and behavior, and a myriad of disease outcomes.

This is why whenever a doctor prescribes an antibiotic to treat an active or potential infection, the big worry is that the drug will disrupt the mix of bacteria in the GI tract by killing off bacteria — except those already resistant to the bacteria. This can throw microbiome balance off the tracks, and like a bug in a computer’s operating system, create all sorts of stealthy havoc. 

Is the same thing occurring when the antibiotic glyphosate hits our intestinal tract? HHRA scientists are hard at work to help find out.