The Rich Roll Podcast – Zach Bush, M.D. on GMO’s, Glyphosate, and Healing the Gut


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  • All physical ailments are caused by inflammation – the body’s immune response to stress of any kind
  • Dr. Zach Bush (Website, Twitter, Facebook) is a triple board certified physician, with training and certification in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, as well as in Hospice and Palliative Care
  • “We have more power than we allow ourselves to believe when it comes to healing ourselves”
It All Comes Back to Chronic Inflammation
  • Cancer and ulcers, when reduced down to a simple level, are both results of chronic inflammation
  • “Western medicine is trying to manage diseases rather than induce health”
  • In 1975, 1 in 5,000 children had autism. Today 1 out of 36 children have an autism spectrum disorder.
    • The fastest acceleration in this growth has happened between 2012 and today
    • At the current rate we’ll see one third of children with autism by 2035
  • 1 out of 2 people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer before they die (not counting skin cancer)
  • In 1996 there was a sudden rise in the rate of Alzheimer’s/dementia in women. This same pattern was seen for Parkinson’s disease in men.
    • Autoimmune diseases also took off in the late 1990s
Inflammation and the Gut
  • Inflammation is a normal biological response to an injury
  • The immune system lies throughout the body, but 60% of the immune system volume, and 80% of the work done by the immune system, is done in the gut lining
  • The gut
    • It really starts in your sinuses
    • It’s the barrier system between the outside world and what you breathe, eat, drink etc.
    • The gut is the largest surface area that we have exposed to the outside world (~2 tennis courts in area) – compare this to the skin which is ~1.8 square meters
    • The only covering of this surface is a thin layer of epithelial cells – these cells are around 50 microns in diameter (which is half the thickness of a human hair)
      • This is the only thing that protects you from every bite of food you eat and every chemical that comes into the food chain
  • “Sometime between 1982 and 2000, we did something to the environment to totally decimate the protection abilities of our immune system”
  • Check out GMO’s Revealed
The Beginning
  • Nowadays, we are calorically replete and nutritionaly deficit
  • During the close of  World War II, the United States had a large petroleum industry. As the war ended, this industry which was forced to a halt.
    • People realized they could extract nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium out of the same oil used for the war, and chemical based fertilizers were made for the first time
    • Farmers started using these fertilizers, leading to the Green Revolution
    • However, plants lacked nutrients and medicine – the plants became weak
      • Just like a human being who lacks nutrients, the plant’s immune system shuts down, leaving it more prone to viruses and pests
What is glyphosate and how is it harmful?
  • Glyphosate is a chemical used in Roundup as a pesticide
  • There is 4.5 billion pounds of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, sold to treat the soils of the earth annually
  • Glyphosate blocks the Shikimate enzyme pathway in soil bacteria, fungi, and plants 
    • This pathway is important because it makes a number of the essential amino acids
      • There are 26 amino acids, 9 of these are known as the essential amino acids which can’t be made by the human body, (these 26 amino acids code for 200,000 proteins in our body)
      • By tweaking any of the 9 essential amino acids (which you’d get by eating plants treated with glyphosate), you start to lose the functionality of tens of thousands of protein structures
    • Long story short – we’re treating a food chain with a chemical that blocks the ability of these plants to make the building blocks for a healthy human body
  • “Less than 1/10th of 1% of the Roundup used on a plant actually hits a weed. The other 99.9% gets into the soil and water system, and runs off.”
    • The Mississippi river collects over 80% of all the round up in the country – this evaporates, goes into the air you breath, then the clouds, and eventually it rains down on us
    • Recent studies show 75% of the air and 75% the rain are contaminated with Roundup
    • “You may be growing organic crops, but they’re getting rained on with Roundup”
    • Current estimates say if we stopped spreading Roundup tomorrow, it’d take about 50 years before our ecosystem sees a drop of Roundup below toxic levels
The Ties Between Glyphosate, the Microbiome, and Neurodegenerative Diseases
  • In 2012, Zach found molecules in soil similar to the chemotherapy drug he had been making
    • In turns out, they were made by bacteria and fungi in the soil
    • In the mid 2000s, papers started coming out examining bacteria in the gut, and how it might predict which type of cancer you may develop
    • Now, we know the bacterial genome is way more important in determining cancer than the human genome
    • The take away – what if, like the bacteria in the soil, the bacteria in our guts are doing the same thing, and are actually our best source of medicine
  • Glyphosate appears to increase the permeability of the tight cellular junctions lining the microbiome
    • Outside of affecting the shikimate pathway, glyphosate causes direct injury to the protein structure holding the gut lining together
    • Every macro membrane in the body (like blood vessels that fuel the entire body with oxygen and nutrients) are held together with the same tight junctions
    • Same with the blood brain barrier which protects the peripheral nervous system and the brain – the same tight junctions holding this membrane together is getting destroyed by glyphosate
      • This has led to a MASSIVE increase in neurological injury to children and adults – leading to increased rates of Alzheimer’s disease, autism, Parkinson’s, and MS 
    • The kidney tubules, held together to detox the body, are also held together by the same tight junctions
  • The damage to gap junctions
    • Tight junctions weld cells together (regulate the flow of material), gap junctions exist at the midpoint of the cell (they regulate communication between cells)
    • Cells communicate with each other through light, and the passage of electrons from one cell to the next using these gap junctions
    • Glyphosate damages these gap junctions, and thus hinders communication between cells
    • The connection to cancer:
      • Cancer cells divide like crazy because (at a really simple level) they think they’re the only cell left in the body (due to damaged gap junctions, they are not able to communicate well with other cells), and must replicate to survive 
      • Normal cells, once damaged, are able to kill themsevles off (through apoptosis) by communicating with other cells – this breaks down when gap junctions are damaged
  • The tie between glyphosate and neruodegenerative diseases
    • “We are barely human when it comes down to the shere number of non-human cells we carry within us, that we are completely dependent upon”
    • We have about 50 trillion human cells, and 1.5 quadrillion bacteria, and 10x that in fungi (so around 14 quadrillion microbiome elements in our body)
    • The brain is the most ATP demanding element we have – there can be 2,000 mitochondria in one neural body
      • 50% of the calories burned at night are burned by the brain
      • Therefore the brain will be the first to show damage to mitochondria
      • The hallmark of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease – mitochondrial damage, and hence a loss mitochondrial function (a loss of ATP) and metabolites (mitochondria make oxygen based redox molecules which act as the communication tool/electrical energy which travels across gap junctions to communicate with other cells)
        • Simplified – in a neurodegenerative processes we lose energy and lose the healing potential in the intercellular environment because we are losing that communication network
    • Every autistic child has a very abnormal microbiome
      • They have difficulty detoxing and are highly permeable across all membranes
      • Because of this, they have a build up of toxins from food and the environment
      • After leak occurs – mitochondria are damaged at a very high rate, causing them to lose mitochondrial capacity
    • In optimal health – electrical potential across a cell is at a level 10
      • At level 3.5, we die
      • As we age, this number tends to drop
      • With autism, we see an electrical potential similar to someone with elderly dementia
        • KEY POINT – ***This occurs because of the damage to mitochondria, which in turn effects gap junction function, hindering communication between cells***
Other Side Effects of a Leaky Microbiome
  • The leak between the outside world and inside world, through a breakdown of the tight junctions leads, leads to an inhibited identity of the outside world and the inside world
    • This is literally taking away self identity from the immune system, leading to autoimmune disease – we react to our own body as if it was foreign
  • At the macro level, Zach think’s we’re losing our own self identity as human beings as we start to leak
    • We become depressed, have anxiety, panic attacks, fear – “We are literally losing self identity at the cell level because we are eating a chemical that breaks our identity at the cell level”
Cows and Micro-RNA
  • 99% of the human genome is not making any proteins, however it produces microRNA
  • microRNA turn on and change from second to second, telling your genes what the environment is doing
  • If you’re stressed, lonely, or fearful – you start making a totally different population of microRNA that enters the blood stream, courses through you, and is eventually secreted through your breath and saliva – effectively telling the environment how you’re feeling
  • When cows are killed, this is what they put into their blood stream (and in turn the meat) right before they’re butchered
  • 5% of the microRNA in your bloodstream is from your last meal
    • Your last meal is literally going into your genome, telling your genes which genes to turn on and off, and which proteins to make from those genes
  • There is a strong correlation between antibiotic use and mood disorders (anxiety, panic attack, depression)
  • 1 course of antibiotics increases your rate of depression within the next 12 months 25% due to interactions with the gut microbiome
    • You’re destroying the gut flora, develop a leaky membrane, get overly inflammed, and the neurologic system starts to get hit as the blood brain barrier fails
  • 2 courses or more of antibiotics increases the risk of major depression within the next 12 months 60%
  • The rate at which physicians are prescribing antibiotics hasn’t changed in the last 15 years
    • Antibiotic use in animals has gone way up
    • We’re using 5x more antibiotics in the beef, poultry, and pork industries than we are in humans (7.7 million pounds of antibiotics used in humans, 30 million pounds of antibiotic used in animal production in North America)
What’s the solution? How can we move forward?
  • We need to get back to true farming
  • Breathe as many environments/ecosystems as you can to repopulate your microbiome 
    • Get out of your house, go hike, go travel, and as Wim Hof says – BREATH MOTHERFUCKER
    • Get around ferns – a fern won’t grow unless it has access to the oldest ecosystem on the planet (so go read a book next to a fern)
  • Eat more fermented foods – Zach recommends to do the fermentation yourself
  • Be cautious about probiotics
    • Most probiotics, are made of up bacteria that don’t normally colonize a human gut
    • 99.9% of the products on the market in the probiotic industry are made from bacteria that grow in the bovine intestine – the guts of bovines have different features than humans
  • Buy organic food
    • EWG WebsiteClean 15 and the Dirty Dozen
      • The Clean 15 is a list of the 15 cleanest crops/plants that grown conventionally, have extremely low amounts of pesticide/herbicides, so it’s not worth buying them organic
      • You should never eat non-organic food from the Dirty Dozen list
      • “Never put a non-organic strawberry in front of your children. It’s a chemical bomb.”
    • The drive for organic products is driving the cost down
    • Check out Thrive Market
  • Stop using aluminum based deodorants and cosmetics
    • They are damaging the neurons in the brain
  • Get more magnesium
    • Humans used to get most of our magnesium from bathing in live streams and ocean water, which we don’t do anymore, so we’re all magnesium deficient
    • Magnesium is best absorbed through the skin
    • Charles Poliquin, as noted in this Podcast Notes Summary on Sleep, recommends Magnesium Threonate at bedtime
  • Stop over soaping and using alcohol based sanitizers
    • The vast majority of viruses that would cause the flu are airborne, not translated via handshake
Thought Provoking
  • As mentioned earlier –
    • “Any society faced with the fact that 1 in 3 children have autism will collapse under a financial blow that is inescapable”
  • “The politicians are not the solution, you and I are the solution, as consumers”
    • The organic food movement is taking off – 4-5% of the food sold in the country is organic
    • Studies predict if this number gets to 16%, chemical farming would lose its financial stability
  • Think about this – the plants that the animal eats are stressed, the animal itself is stressed when it dies, we eat the animal, and an hour later we wonder why we’re having a panic attack – WOW
  • Methane from cows is the number 1 greenhouse gas produced in North America
    • Zach is working on a product for cows, it reduces the amount of gut stress and methane they produce
    • Cows on feed lots are very similar to autisitc children – they are skiddish, can’t make eye contact, are easily startled – they have lost their filter systems just like the child with autism has
  • The end of the Mississippi, the last 90 miles or so, which collects all the Roundup/glyphosate, has the highest rates of cancer in the developed world – it is known as Cancer Alley


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