The widespread use of pesticides may be the biggest threat to mental health and humanity that we face at this time and for generations to come. If it is not addressed, it may dramatically alter the course of the human race and reshape the fabric of society itself forever. Slowly degrading us into communities that have the inability to feel empathy and compassion for one another, to bond emotionally, control impulses, exercise self-control, and show basic respect and civility, while at the same time increasing aggressiveness and violence towards each other.
You can’t turn on the TV anymore without hearing about the latest act of violence perpetrated on a section of society. In the past week alone we have had three mass shootings, two of which were only 13 hours apart. So far this year, there have been 251 mass shootings in the United States. It has occurred in Walmart, festivals, Rite Aide, a food warehouse, a Trader Joes, churches or other places of worship, shopping centers and malls, political events, a movie theater, yoga center, military base, post offices, many schools throughout the United States, on the highways driving home from work, various public events like concerts, restaurants, night clubs, and numerous places of business. The list goes on and on. Regardless of the nation, simply driving down the street, attending a public event, or going to the grocery store now puts your life at significant risk in societies that used to be considered civilized and safe. On a more personal, less social scale, incidents of aggressiveness or violence are a daily occurrence or a concern in many individual’s lives from the people closest to them.
We are not safe anymore. Anywhere. Anyone can become a perpetrator. Our co-workers, spouse or life partner, family members, neighbors, friends, group members, classmates, the driver next to us on the highway or in the parking lot, etc. may turn on us at any time and attempt to take our lives. The enemy is no longer a stranger, the enemy may be sleeping under our own roof or part of the immediate community. And facing enemies is no longer limited to a rare encounter with a sociopath, psychopath, or a terrorist, as people with psychopathic, sociopathic, or antisocial tendencies are being commonplace. I propose that one of the primary driving forces in our mental health crisis and the rise in hatred and violence we see occurring before us in our communities is the prevalence of pesticides in our society.
Brain Function Determines Behavior
To understand how pesticides can have such a significant impact on civilization, we first need to look at the human brain, because it is the functioning of the brain that determines how we will interact with one another and pesticides have a profound negative effect on the brain. As neuroscientist Dr. Bruce Perry explains, all human behavior is mediated by the brain and “the brain’s impulse-mediating capacity is related to the ratio between the excitatory activity of the lower, more-primitive portions of the brain and the modulating activity of higher, sub-cortical and cortical areas (Cortical Modulation Ratio). Any factors which increase the activity or reactivity of the brainstem (e.g., chronic traumatic stress, testosterone, dysregulated serotonin or norepinephrine systems) or decrease the moderating capacity of the limbic or cortical areas (e.g., neglect) will increase an individual’s aggressivity, impulsivity, and capacity to display violence.” Pesticides disrupt both the primitive area of the brain and the modulating areas.
Neuroscientists Joshua Buckholtz and Kent Kiehl, explain that psychopathy evolves due to an impaired brain. When neuroimaging is performed on the brains of psychopaths, it shows that their brains are not operating normally in the regions that enable them to experience empathy, modulate impulse control, feel emotions, learn from their mistakes and interpret cues from other people. “Their brains process information differently. It’s as if they have a learning disability that impairs emotional development.” Psychopathy may go undetected for long periods of time, because the individual learns to mimic the feelings and behaviors they know they should exhibit, just like a person who loses a leg or an arm will adapt to this casualty. So they can appear to be normal.
I’m not saying that everyone committing an act of violence is a true psychopath, but I provide this piece of information to demonstrate the vital role that the brain plays in relation to antisocial behaviors. And, although all people engaging in violent behavior may not be true psychopaths, people with psychopathic personality traits and behavior are becoming abundant in our society. We are moving towards a society that is becoming dominated by narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, and antisocials because individuals are experiencing undiagnosed brain damage.
In the brain, we have a variety of substances produced and used by neurons (brain cells) to relay messages called neurotransmitters. Among other things, neurotransmitters regulate how we think, feel, and behave. They influence our perceptions, moods, cognitive functions, decision making, feelings of well-being, morality, values, and enable us to experience happiness, pleasure, joy, inner peace, serenity, empathy, sympathy, compassion, bonding with self, others, the Universe or whatever spiritual belief we hold, and to regulate impulses, rage, and aggression.
Some common neurotransmitters related to these processes include dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, Gaba, glutamate, histamine, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, and oxytocin. Together, like a finely tuned orchestra, neurotransmitters (along with structure and function of the brain) are largely responsible for not only our mental health on the individual level, but they help shape the mental health and behavior of society as a whole.
Oxytocin Regulates Bonding & Social Interaction
By far, one of the most important in this bunch in regards to the issues we are discussing here is oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that also functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is quite complex and has many roles in the brain and body, but for the purpose of this conversation, we will focus on the fact that it is the primary neurotransmitter associated with empathy, bonding with others, and regulating social behavior and interaction.
Oxytocin activates empathy, emotional bonding (parental, friends, spouse, significant other, social group, business associate, etc.) cherishing, compassion, intimacy, trust, loyalty, faithfulness, and reciprocity/generosity. It strengthens relationships and promotes protectiveness behavior towards children, small animals, someone who is hurting, in trouble, suffering or vulnerable, and the social group to which one belongs. It contributes to a sense of responsibility for others and social consciousness and a drive to search for solutions to injustice. When you feel compelled to give to charities, feed a stray dog or take in the feral cat, protect your child, or exonerate the wrongfully accused, it is oxytocin at work. The connection you feel with your parents, children, friends, spouse or life partner, etc. is created by oxytocin. Without sufficient levels of oxytocin, there is no capacity for empathy, compassion, or bonding emotionally with others. Low levels of oxytocin are associated with violence, anti-social behavior, narcissism, sociopath, and psychopathy. There is little conscience or morality.
People who lack adequate oxytocin are incapable of self-reflection, have little regard for the feelings of others, or recognize how their actions affect other people or even themselves. They tend to ridicule or feel contempt for people who are compassionate, sympathetic, kind, sensitive, and moral. They are often controlling, intimidating, and manipulative in their social interactions. They have a sense of entitlement to treat others badly, believing they deserve what they get. They process emotions differently than the rest of us.
Serotonin & Dopamine Modify Oxytocin
Serotonin is believed to play a vital role in the modulation of anger, aggression, and mood. It increases feelings of empathy and closeness as well as an overall state of well being, self-esteem, and self-confidence. While dopamine is the prevailing neurotransmitter in the prefrontal cortex (lateral, orbitofrontal, and medial prefrontal), which is the area of the brain where operations for cognitive behavior resides, expression of personality is regulated, thoughts and actions are orchestrated in coordination with internal goals. The prefrontal cortex is the main office or command center for the personality and where executive function is housed.
Executive functions are a set of cognitive processes that help us make decisions and discern between bad and good, right or wrong, best and better, and to distinguish between the same or different. It’s where we sort out conflicting thoughts, work toward goals, determine consequences of our current behavior or predict future outcomes, and control impulses or desires that may be illegal or socially unacceptable.
How effectively the prefrontal cortex operates is largely contingent on dopamine. Dopamine is also associated with motivation, ambition, the ability to feel pleasure, joy, and connection to others, and well-being. Both serotonin and dopamine enhance pro-social behaviors like generosity, altruism, and moral decision making and seems to modify and often increase oxytocin activity.
GABA Prevents Overstimulation
GABA is our primary inhibitory neurotransmitter and its chief role is to keep the brain from becoming overexcited. It slows things down and relaxes us. Glutamate is a primary excitatory neurotransmitter critical for stimulating brain cells so that we can think, talk, learn, pay attention, process and store information. However, glutamate should exist in very small concentrations, if it becomes elevated then it becomes an excitotoxin, which overstimulates the brain and results in cell death. When things are going as they should, GABA and glutamate keep one another in balance, but if something disrupts this process, glutamate can become elevated. Low levels of GABA and high levels of glutamate result in symptoms like anger, hostility, aggression, and other antisocial behavior, extreme anxiety and/or panic attacks, high levels of fear, intense irritability, restlessness, and agitation.
Histamine Regulates Serotonin, Dopamine, & Norepinephrine
In the brain, non-mast cell histamine operates as a stimulatory neurotransmitter. It plays a critical role in regulating aspects of the sleep/wake cycle, mood, homeostasis of the endocrine system, pain sensitivity, encoding and processing harmful stimuli in the nervous system, and managing the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. High levels may generate a wide array of psychological symptoms like abnormal fears, brain racing, and aggressive behaviors. However, its role in regulating serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, means it can impact those systems as well.
Endorphins Modify Pain
Endorphins have many important roles like moderating stress, fear, mood, emotional and physical pain, and promoting feelings of overall well-being and a personal sense of empowerment and increasing self-esteem. Acetylcholine regulates the autonomic nervous system (the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems) as well as mood, attention, arousal, sleep, intelligence, cognitive functions, and equilibrium.
Norepinephrine in Excess is Toxic
In the brain, norepinephrine functions as an excitatory neurotransmitter and is vital for energy, focus, attention, thinking, and memory and also affects mood and well-being, but in excess, it is toxic to the brain and results in hyperarousal. In a section of the brain called the locus ceruleus, norepinephrine sets off the stress response system, meaning it ignites fight or flight. Fear, anxiety, agitation, irritability, and aggression are high when norepinephrine is elevated. When it is elevated, it will overstimulate the lower more primitive sections of the brain that are responsible for increasing impulsivity and shut down the upper parts of the brain that are inhibitory and modulating. Some of the neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and endorphins, are used to down-regulate norepinephrine, and keep it from overstimulation. So sub-optimal levels of these neurotransmitters is one of the primary factors that can impair the brain’s impulse-mediating capacity.
All these neurotransmitters have many other roles besides what is mentioned here. But for the purpose of this discussion, I am just focusing on the role they play in regard to aggression, violence, antisocial behavior, emotional bonding, and human interaction.
Imbalanced Neurotransmitters Impair Mental Health
Neurotransmitters need to remain in balance for optimal brain function. Too much or too little of any particular one can lead to a significant disturbance in perception, thoughts, feelings, mood, and behavior. People with an imbalance in neurotransmitters may experience a wide array of symptoms like depression, anxiety, intense feelings of aloneness and disconnection, excessive worry or guilt, low self esteem and self-worth, impatience, irritability, agitation, distorted perception, paranoia, mania, obsession, psychoses, loss of impulse control, lack of empathy and compassion, rage, aggression, violence, or other anti-social behavior. The symptoms one experiences depend on the neurotransmitters affected, which areas of the brain are impacted, and how severe the disruption. When certain neurotransmitters and the brain are not in good working order the person’s moral compass and ability to follow social norms may be diminished.
An individual with severe imbalances in some of the neurotransmitters discussed on this page may exhibit a cold, calloused, detached, and flat affect. They may have an inability to put themselves in the shoes of another and lack the capacity to notice or care how their behaviors affect others. They may be unable to bond to anyone emotionally, however, this may not be apparent even to those who are bonded with them. After a mass murder or any act of violence, we often hear victims describe the attacker as having eyes that are cold, empty, and detached. They say it looks like nobody is there. What we are witnessing here is severe impairment of brain chemistry. The cold and empty look in the eyes is a reflection of what is going on in the brain. Quite literally, nobody is home in there.
Unfortunately, neurotransmitter production and function can be disrupted quite easily by a variety of different factors. Our diet, stress levels, genetics, family, social interactions, emotional trauma, microbial overgrowth, concussion or other head injuries, electromagnetic fields, and environmental toxins of various kinds all influence neurotransmitters. Many substances can tap into and disrupt the fine balancing act that is needed for proper brain function and pesticides are one of the most damaging and powerful.
Pesticides are Neurotoxins
They are poisonous substances that are destructive to tissue within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Pesticides of all different kinds have the ability to disrupt neurotransmitter production and function and increase activity in the more primitive excitatory areas of the brain and the impair the inhibitory areas of the brain. They disrupt the area of the brain that allows us to feel compassion, kindness, patience, and empathy for one another, to bond emotionally and control our impulses, to manage anger, irritability, and rage, which can lead to acts of aggression, violence, and other antisocial behavior. “The majority of pesticides operate through one of three primary mechanisms: a) inhibition of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), b) voltage-gated sodium channel disruption, and/or c) inhibition of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).” Acetylcholinesterase breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, voltage-gated sodium channels play an important role in neuronal function and GABA as we discussed is our primary inhibitory neurotransmitter.
Organophosphates Profoundly Damage the Brain
One of the most prevalent types of pesticides in our environment and also the most destructive to the human brain are organophosphates. They are so toxic, that organophosphorus compounds are frequently used by governments throughout the world as chemical weapons. Organophosphate pesticides are carried straight into the nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and long nerves). They attack the nervous system in the same manner as nerve agents or gases used in chemical warfare like sarin, by inhibiting the enzyme called acetylcholinesterase. Sarin causes irreversible inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, leading to death. Organophosphate pesticides are “considered junior-strength nerve agents” as they are slightly less potent, but can be just as damaging. The effects one experiences are influenced by a variety of factors like the concentration of the dose exposed to, how long they are exposed, age, and ability to detox.
Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme in the human nervous system that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. When it is inhibited, acetylcholine builds up in the nervous system and nerves become overactive, which can lead to a wide array of psychological symptoms like intense anxiety, fear, or paranoia, panic attacks, depression, confusion, insomnia, tremors, restlessness, agitation, tunnel vision, delirium, psychosis, and even seizures, loss of consciousness, and coma. In high levels, organophosphates can result in death as this action will ultimately paralyze and suffocate the victim, just as sarin does. Another class of pesticides known as carbamates has this same ability to inhibit acetylcholinesterase.
The organophosphate known as chlorpyrifos is converted into a metabolite called chlorpyrifos-oxon when the body tries to break it down, which is three thousand times more potent than the original substance. Chlorpyrifos has been shown to lower oxytocin, alter social behavior, and increase aggressiveness. Even “Low-level exposures to chlorpyrifos (CPF)… alters the expression of genes involved in cell growth and differentiation, cAMP-related signaling, neurotransmitter synthesis and release, and receptors that target the actions of many neurotransmitters including ACh and dopamine.”
Organophosphates also inhibit the conversion of tryptophan into serotonin leading to lower levels of serotonin, and dysregulate dopamine signaling and glutamatergic (glutamate) neurotransmission, and induce neuronal injury.
Within the class of organophosphates, one of the most destructive is glyphosate, the active ingredient found in products like Roundup. Although the industry claims that glyphosate does not inhibit acetylcholinesterase, some studies show that it does. Additionally, glyphosate inflicts its damage in other insidious ways.
Pathobiologist Stephen Frantz explains that glyphosate “Interferes with synthesis of aromatic amino acids and methionine leading to shortages in critical neurotransmitters and folate.” The aromatic amino acids consist of tryptophan, tyrosine, and phenylalanine. Integrative medicine expert, Dr. Charles Gant, explains that phenylalanine, tyrosine, and methionine are needed to manufacture our endorphins; tyrosine is needed to manufacture dopamine, and tryptophan is required to manufacture serotonin. Tyrosine is also needed in the formation of oxytocin and so is cysteine, and methionine is needed for the biosynthesis of cysteine. Without an adequate supply of these amino acids, these neurotransmitters (oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, endorphins) cannot be generated sufficiently.
Therefore glyphosate exposure can lead to lower levels of serotonin, dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin in our brains, and consequently have a direct impact on one’s ability to experience empathy, bond emotionally, control impulses, manage rage and aggression. Since insufficient levels of endorphins is a primary driving force in the opioid crisis, glyphosate may be playing a direct role in this issue as well. Opioids mimic our natural endorphins, when our endorphin levels are low, we seek out substances like opioids that will artificially provide relief, but the use of the opioid causes even more depletion to endorphins, and thus more drive to use opioids. Why do so many people in society have a need to turn to opioids? Because they are deficient in endorphins. The opioid crisis is also fueled by the fact that the pharmaceutical industry and health care practitioners prescribe these medications to manage pain, but when they are used for pain, they deplete endorphins, which creates more pain and a greater need for opioids.
Gant also explains, that methionine is the precursor to SAMe, which is needed for a process called methylation, which among other things, helps us break down norepinephrine. If norepinephrine is not converted to epinephrine then levels become elevated. As mentioned previously, high levels of norepinephrine are toxic to the brain and lead to psychological disturbances. Methionine and tyrosine are also essential for the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and problems with the thyroid can also result in a vast array of psychological problems like aggression and violence.
Glyphosate can also bind with minerals both within crops of food they may be applied to and the body itself. In crops, this can mean fewer minerals being present in the food for the body to absorb; in the body, this means it makes them unavailable for the body to use in important bodily processes. Both of which may lead to deficiencies in minerals that are critical for the brain and body. Many minerals (e.g. magnesium, zinc, copper) are needed as co-factors to form neurotransmitters.
In the United States, the suicide rate among farmers is higher than any other occupation.26 In India, farmers who use glyphosate, are committing suicide at a rate of about 1 every 30 minutes. Whereas farmer’s suicide is often attributed to other factors, I propose that it is no coincidence that this is a group of people who are subjected to high levels of pesticides like glyphosate and we should strongly consider the impact this may be having on neurotransmitter production and function and brain health overall, as it is neurotransmitters that regulate our moods and imbalances are associated with depression and suicide. In acute glyphosate poisoning, human brains show “extensive bilateral lesions of the brain stem, white matter and pons,” and “development of Parkinson’s,” which demonstrates its ability to inflict neurological damage.
Farmers who use herbicides like glyphosate also have a much higher incidence of Parkinson’s. As you may know, Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder characterized by the loss of dopaminergic neurons, leading to a significant reduction in dopamine levels. Glyphosate contains an enzyme that breaks down the amino acid phenylalanine, releasing ammonia as a byproduct. High levels of ammonia in the body are neurotoxic and consequently can lead to numerous brain impairments and psychological symptoms.
Another organophosphate pesticide called naled is being used widely to combat mosquitos and it is associated with birth defects in humans such as microcephaly (the brain does not develop properly resulting in a smaller than normal head), and naled’s break down product (dichlorvos) been shown to cause degeneration of dopaminergic neurons (neurons that produce and transmit the critical neurotransmitter dopamine) and a decrease in dopamine levels. “The degenerative changes were accompanied by a loss of 60–80% of the nigral dopamine neurons and 60–70% reduction in striatal dopamine.”
Naled’s breakdown product dichlorvos has been shown to interfere with prenatal brain development. Brain size in lab animals was reduced by 15 percent if there was exposure to dichlorvos for three days during pregnancy. Other symptoms exhibited from exposure are aggressiveness. Other studies have shown that there is a higher incidence of brain cancer in children exposed to household “no-pest” strips which contain dichlorvos.
A study from the University of California at Berkeley, reports that your risk for developing Parkinson’s is increased by 75 percent when you are exposed to a pesticide called maneb. Other studies reveal that the risk of developing Parkinson’s was 2.5 times higher in licensed pesticide applicators and their spouses who used rotenone or paraquat. While another study in the Archives of Neurology reports that if you use pesticides you are twice as likely to be stricken with Parkinson’s.
Pyrethroids Injure the Brain
Another type of pesticide that is not in the organophosphate family known as pyrethroids is one of the most common pesticides to be used in households and are frequently utilized in mosquito abatement and on crops like corn and wheat, and are also found in pesticides for fleas, lice, ticks, mites like scabies, ants, fleas, flies, and termites. Pyrethroids alter serotonergic (serotonin) and dopaminergic (dopamine) neurotransmission activity, and causes a loss of serotonergic neurons and apoptosis of dopaminergic neurons. Permethrins are one of the pyrethroids, and a study in the Archives of Neurology found that “if you used the insecticide permethrin, you were three times more likely to develop” Parkinson’s. The pesticide known as DEET, the most common insect repellent, has been shown to be associated with the death of neurons. When combined with permethrin, they disrupt the blood-brain barrier. Many different types of pesticides including endrin, dieldrin, aldrin, lindane, deltamethrin, fipronil, inhibit GABA.
The developing brain of a child and even the fetus of the mother are even more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides than adults. In a comprehensive study that looked at risk factors for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and developmental delay (DD) known as the Charge study and performed by the University of California they found that “Proximity to organophosphates at some point during gestation was associated with a 60% increased risk for ASD, (autism spectrum disorder) higher for third trimester exposures (OR = 2.0; 95% CI: 1.1, 3.6), and second-trimester chlorpyrifos applications (OR = 3.3; 95% CI: 1.5, 7.4). Children of mothers residing near pyrethroid insecticide applications just before conception or during the third trimester were at greater risk for both ASD and DD, with ORs ranging from 1.7 to 2.3. Risk for DD was increased in those near carbamate applications, but no specific vulnerable period was identified. One-third of CHARGE study mothers lived, during pregnancy, within 1.5 km (just under 1 mile) of an agricultural pesticide application.”
Pesticides Alter Gut Microbiota
Another way that pesticides can impair brain function is due to their ability to damage the gut and alter the microbiota that are present there. The gut has a significant impact on the brain. About one hundred million neurons and thirty different neurotransmitters line our alimentary canal and is known as the enteric nervous system or often referred to as our gut-brain or second brain. In conjunction with the brain in our head, this network regulates gut function and digestion, but it also has a strong influence on our mental state and emotional well-being. All the disruption to neurotransmitters we have discussed can impair the gastrointestinal tract and its ability to function properly. Furthermore, signals are transmitted from the gut to the brain and vice versa through the vagus nerve. Too much, too little, or the wrong type of microbe in the gut can lead to profound mental health disturbances, including, but not limited to an impaired ability to bond emotionally and feel compassion or empathy, aggression and violence, and even psychoses.
It is believed that microbes in the gut may utilize the vagus nerve to transmit signals to the brain that can impair neurotransmitter production and function. And some species of bacteria create ammonia (a neurotoxin) as a byproduct as they utilize our protein for survival, while others cause elevations in glutamate, histamine, and D-lactate (also neurotoxic in excess) and lower levels of dopamine and serotonin.
Dr. Emeran Mayer, a professor of medicine and psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles, proposes that “what kinds of brains we have—how our brain circuits develop and how they’re wired” might to some extent be dictated by which microbes reside in our gastrointestinal tract. Her studies indicate that connections between different areas of the brain vary depending on the species of bacteria that is predominant in the individual’s gastrointestinal tract.
At McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, researchers observed that if they relocated the gut bacteria from mice that were fearless into mice that were anxious, the anxious mice become less anxious and more gregarious. By the same token, if they exchanged the gut bacteria of the fearless mice with those from the anxious mice, the fearless mice became more timid. What’s more, aggressive mice would become calm when their gut bacteria were modified antibiotics, diet, or probiotics. Researchers in Ireland discovered if they severed the vagus nerve in mice, the brain stopped responding to changes in the gut biome.8
Evolutionary biologist and psychologist with the Arizona State University Department of Psychology, Athena Aktipis, Ph.D., explains, “Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good.”
Microbes in the gut can also generate false neurotransmitters that interact with neurons and have the ability to interfere with enzymes that are essential for breaking down neurotransmitters. Some microbes can also inhibit the conversion of the amino acid tryptophan into 5-HTP, which is needed to form serotonin. Dr. Mark Lyte, of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, in Abilene, states, “I’m actually seeing new neurochemicals that have not been described before being produced by certain bacteria. These bacteria are, in effect, mind-altering microorganisms.”
In the human gut, glyphosate promotes the overgrowth of an organism called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which emits high levels of formaldehyde and other toxins. Glyphosate also stimulates the growth of C. diff (Clostridium difficile). Formaldehyde is a neurotoxin and a class A carcinogen, while C. diff is a severe and aggressive bacterial infection that is resistant to many antibiotics and often spreads out of control in hospital settings. And other research reveals that glyphosate disrupts the function and lifecycle of the healthy microbes in the gut. Glyphosate destroys friendly flora but has no effect on pathogens.
Rat studies have shown that low dose exposure to permethrin early in life “affect the fecal microbiota and could be a crucial factor contributing to the development of diseases.” Other studies have shown that “Chlorpyrifos exposure during development affects the gut microbiota and impairs the intestinal lining, and stimulates the immune system of pup rats.” Another study also shows that chlorpyrifos affects gut microbiota, resulting in intestinal inflammation and abnormal intestinal permeability.”
Pesticides Disrupt Hormones
And there is yet one more way that pesticides can affect neurotransmitters, and consequently our mental states and social behavior, and that is due to the fact that they are endocrine disruptors. An endocrine disruptor is a substance that can interfere with the body’s endocrine system (hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pineal, pancreas, and reproductive organs), which can lead to a wide range of adverse effects developmentally, neurologically, immunologically, and reproductively, in humans and other living beings.
Theses substances can attach to hormone-receptor sites within a cell and block the endogenous hormone from attaching thus impairing their ability to perform their functions, or they may mimic or partially mimic hormones like estrogens, androgens, and thyroid hormones, possibly leading to overstimulation, or an excess in one and a decrease in another, creating imbalances, or prompting responses at inappropriate times, and they can interfere or block the way that hormones or their receptors are made or regulated, and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones. Like neurotransmitters, hormones also have a strong impact on thought, mood, and behavior and neurotransmitters and hormones interact with one another to perform their duties, disrupted hormones can lead to disrupted neurotransmitters.
These endocrine disruptions can lead to a vast array of neurological symptoms and conditions and cognitive or emotional instability including, but certainly not limited to, depression, anxiety disorders, confusion, inability to cope or handle stress appropriately, loss of empathy and compassion, distorted perception, restlessness, irritability, paranoia, anger, rage, aggression, lack of impulse control, and violence.
For example, high levels of estrogen and testosterone have both been linked to aggression and violence. If thyroid hormones are not available in sufficient numbers it can result in depression, confusion, severe mood swings, rage, excessive fear, and other mental aberrations, if thyroid hormone is in excess it can result in restlessness, irritability, and anxiety, and panic attacks.
Research suggests that endocrine disruptors are an even greater risk during prenatal and early postnatal development during the time when organs and neural systems are still developing. However, it can be decades before these effects show up. In addition to its impact on the brain, glyphosate also inhibits the detoxification system, significantly increases the risk for cancer, is fatal to human liver cells, and is associated with birth defects, premature births, and miscarriages, and increases breast cancer tumor growth, and many different types of pesticides affect blood sugar levels which can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, so it is destroying the physical health of each of us on an individual level as well as the brain.
Low-Level Exposure to Pesticides Inflicts High-Level Damage
Manufacturers of pesticides, and even your own government, will tell you that the level of pesticide that is being used is not harmful. This is simply not true. Our public health and safety organizations and conventional medical practitioners are taking their information from the EPA, FDA, and the manufacturers of the chemicals who are not telling the truth. They downplay the toxicity and negative effects, and in some cases intentionally conceal the truth, to enrich their pocketbook. Subclinical exposure to a combination of various organophosphates is implicated in Gulf War Syndrome. In the study we mentioned earlier, “Low level exposures to chlorpyrifos (CPF)… ” altered expression of genes involved in cell growth and differentiation and neurotransmitter synthesis and release, and receptors that target the actions of many neurotransmitters. In other organophosphate studies, “human cells showed toxicity and hormone disruption at sub agricultural levels with effects within 24 hours caused by concentrations as low as 0.5 parts per million. And DNA damage at 5 parts per million.”
Additionally, they fail to take into account the issue of accumulation and/or potentiation. Negative effects may not be noticeable initially, but as it accumulates it may become apparent. Furthermore, pesticides are only one toxin we are all being exposed to on a daily basis, our air, food, and water are loaded with toxicity. The combination of all of them together can become a burden for the body to eliminate. Also, many pesticides may potentiate (enhance or strengthen the effects or potency) the effect of another type of pesticide or a different type of toxin altogether, and other toxins one may be exposed to could potentiate the effects of the pesticide. An enzyme in the human body called paraoxonase is needed to detoxify organophosphates. Some research indicates that nearly one-third of the population may be deficient in paraoxonase. These people would be much more vulnerable to organophosphate poisoning and other negative effects of this class of chemicals.
Stephen Frantz writes in regard to glyphosate (GLY), “And we now know that it bioaccumulates in lungs, lymph, blood, urine, bone and bone marrow, and breast milk too. While Monsanto has consistently denied GLY bioaccumulation, their own studies found it in red cells, thyroid, uterus, colon, testes and ovaries, shoulder muscle, nasal mucosa, heart, lung, small intestine, abdominal muscle, and the eyes. An insidious matter with GLY in mammals is that it manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”
Jeffrey Smith, Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of Seeds of Deception tells us, “Monsanto’s research on rats found that exposure did not cause medical issues, because they published short term exposure data (weeks).” “Because glyphosate accumulates slowly, Monsanto’s research (not published) revealed that medical problems ensued later and eventually caused death.”
Unprecedented Exposure Without Our Consent
We are all exposed to unprecedented levels of pesticides on a daily basis without our consent. About one billion pounds of glyphosate alone is used each year on agriculture crops, both conventional and genetically engineered, with GE getting the most. If you’re not eating organic, then you are eating high levels of glyphosate and/or other pesticides. Pesticides are applied routinely to state and local parks, on golf courses, outside government buildings, in schoolyards, playgrounds, along the shoulders and medians of highways, empty lots, grocery stores, hospitals, banks, office buildings, athletic fields, your neighbor’s house and yard, and into the air for mosquito abatement.
Other Confounding Variables
One might logically ask, if we are all being exposed then why aren’t we all mentally ill or engaging in acts of violence? It comes down to biochemical individuality and vulnerability. The brain is a complex organ and there are many facets that can contribute to brain dysfunction. Levels of neurotransmitters are affected by many other factors like diet, childhood abuse, emotional trauma as a child or an adult, stress levels, concussions, family and social support, other toxins in the environment, inflammation, and microbial overgrowth. There are also a variety of genetic polymorphisms that can impair one’s ability to produce certain neurotransmitters like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine or to break them down. There can also be structural problems in the brain that may have been present at birth or occurred later in response to some kind of brain trauma that impairs the flow of neurotransmitters or the ability of the primitive area of the brain to communicate with other areas of the brain like the prefrontal cortex. Receptors can be too short or in low supply.
The diet that we eat is critical for neurotransmitter production and function. Neurotransmitters are formed from the nutrients in your food, if you are eating a nutrient-deficient diet, then production is going to be inhibited. Furthermore, many substances found in food like additives, preservatives, artificial flavorings and colorings, sugar, caffeine, and wheat, can also disrupt the production and function of neurotransmitters. Not to mention that pesticides like glyphosate are present in most food if you are not eating organic. Combine the fact that most of society eats a nutrient-deficient diet and is pumped full of toxins that impair neurotransmitter production and function and it is surprising that anyone has normal brain function, and this combination is even more lethal. Hand in hand with pesticides, the nutrient-deficient diet that most of our population consumes is another primary contributing factor to the mental health crisis we see in our societies.
The use of psychotropic substances and psychiatric medication, including antidepressants, is another confounding variable. These drugs mimic our neurotransmitters and disrupt brain chemistry; the brain responds by down-regulating production of and/or responsiveness to the neurotransmitters, which creates a vicious catch 22 cycle whereby the drug believes the symptoms they are experiencing temporarily and then creates more symptoms, thus perpetuating the very the problem it is being used to eliminate. So our mental health system that medicates people experiencing a mental health crisis with drugs is actually creating more mental health disturbance because these drugs destroy the brain even more. Many of the shooters involved in mass murder were on psychiatric medication. So if the mental health system does not change its approach, there is no hope for the mentally ill. However, most of society would not need to be medicated with psychiatric drugs if they weren’t getting brain damage from pesticides and poor diet.
And yes, the rhetoric of our President and government officials or other people in positions of power can influence mental health, hatred, violence, and aggression, because it fans the flames of what an unstable individual may be thinking. It encourages people to act on behaviors they would have kept contained. Rhetoric filled with hate gives the unstable individual permission to act on their hatred and violence which they may have kept to themselves otherwise. The unacceptable becomes acceptable in their eyes. So, we should all watch we say. Words matter greatly. However, rhetoric alone is not the problem, it is the damaged brain listening to the rhetoric that is the issue.
Bottom line is that some people are more vulnerable than others to the effects of pesticides. For example, perhaps we have a person who has a genetic polymorphism that impairs their ability to make serotonin, or maybe they are lacking in oxytocin receptors, or their receptors are too short, but they are managing to get by in life without any acts of violence, and then they have the house exterminated for cockroaches, or they live in an agricultural area, or their workplace has monthly spraying, or the city fogs for mosquitoes, etc. In some cases, pesticides may be the straw the breaks the camel’s back. People who would otherwise get by in life without committing an act of violence may be pushed over the edge by the pesticides in their environment. While on the other hand, maybe it is a matter of how many exposures one has or how potent that exposure may be, whereby an individual has one exposure after another that eventually disrupts brain chemistry to the point that they develop a propensity for violence. And as the studies indicated, prenatal exposure is much more damaging and the effects may not show up until later in life, so it may depend on whether you were exposed while in the womb.
So, I’m not saying pesticides are the only contributing factor to our mental health crisis, hatred, and violence. It is usually a complicated set of variables that are interwoven which prompt violent thoughts and behaviors, but pesticides can be the match that sets the fire. If they were not present in our environment, then the other instrumental elements would be less likely to cause ignition and easier to extinguish. We could significantly reduce the incidence of mental health disturbance and consequently violence and aggression.
However, mental health disturbances and violence are becoming a bigger problem than it used to be and I propose that one of the reasons this is occurring is due to the fact that we are all being exposed to exceptionally high levels of mind-altering pesticides. If we want to improve mental health, reduce aggression and violence, and remove hatred from hearts, we must improve the brain health of each individual in our society, so all of the contributing aspects need to be addressed, but as I see it, pesticides are one of the biggest nails in the shoe that needs to be removed.
We are a Brain-Damaged Society
We have nations of people walking around with brains that do not function properly. Essentially, we are becoming a brain-damaged society, resulting in communities filled with people who are lacking in basic respect, empathy, compassion, patience, kindness, emotional bonding, ability to regulate emotions and exercise impulse control or have concern for the well-being of others in their society.
When brains are damaged, the individual can’t “choose” to be a better person, they are at the mercy of their impaired brain chemistry. Their behavior is hard-wired. It is like expecting someone with Alzheimer’s to choose not to behave in a particular manner. The damage done to the brain makes them fundamentally incapable of changing their behavior or even recognizing that they have a problem. It impairs one’s judgment, decision-making process, ability to engage in self-reflection and be aware of how their behaviors affect others and care about the welfare of those around them. These are not justifications for their behavior, each individual must be held accountable for their own actions. However, to truly help the mentally ill and address the hatred and mental health crisis we have in our society, we must be aware of what we are dealing with. People are full of hatred because they are incapable of anything else. Their brains are lacking in the equipment that is needed to enable them to feel love, compassion, empathy, kindness, and emotional bonding to others.
Psychopathy, sociopathy, narcissism, and antisocial behaviors and the violence that may accompany these disorders used to be a minor problem in a very small portion of society. But now more and more people are exhibiting symptoms of psychopathy, sociopathy, narcissism, and antisocial behavior or seemingly losing their minds unexpectedly. If things continue as they are, we are going to become a nation that is predominantly filled with psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists, and those of us who do not fall under that category will be in the minority.
What may be even more frightening than mass murder, is the fact that most sociopaths, antisocials, and psychopaths do not commit murders and these people are in positions of authority throughout our societies where they are making decisions that affect all of us. While they may be damaged emotionally, the areas of the brain that perform cognitive functions may not be impacted and these individuals can come across as charming, articulate, persuasive, and intelligent and become leaders in their profession, but completely indifferent to the emotional needs of anyone around them or how their behavior affects others. They become skilled at lying and pretending to be normal. They use people and situations for their own self-interest.
These individuals exist in our federal, state, and local governments, law enforcement, justice department, our churches, our schools, and every business and social organization you can think of and inflict immense emotional harm on their spouses or partners, children, animals, classmates, employees, neighbors, friends. etc. In their interactions with others, these people are cold, glib, calloused, disrespectful, selfish, lacking in empathy, and have no conscience. They manipulate and exploit everyone around them to meet their needs and get what they want. They protect others who are like them.
I’m 57 years old and mass murder at a public event or place of business, drive-by shootings, workplace shootings, school shootings, or being shot by law enforcement, and the level of hatred we currently see for one another, were unheard of when I was growing up. You did not fear that you might not make it home safely from the grocery store, concert, event in the park, etc. You weren’t afraid to go to school and parents weren’t worried you may not come home that day. Now there was a lot of child abuse and domestic violence, but that involves a whole other set of dynamics, which we won’t get into in this discussion. But the level of mental health crises, hatred, and violence that we see today across all sectors of society were non-existent. We are becoming less and less civilized and more intolerant every day. The fabric of society is degrading rapidly.
Stricter gun laws and more incarceration alone is not to going solve the issue of violence, because the amount of people with damaged brains is growing daily and there is an act of violence waiting to happen in every nook and cranny of society. Just one more straw on the camel’s back may finally push them over the edge. It could even happen to you or someone you know.
And these individuals will find another method to express their rage if guns are not accessible. I’m not saying that better gun control could not be helpful, it would cut down on the number of people who can be attacked at one time, but at the crux of this issue is the fact that an individual that has a properly functioning brain is not going to be filled with hatred and engage in an act of violence with a gun or otherwise, even if they have access to it. Yes, access to weapons should be restricted from the mentally ill and criminal mind, but that step alone is not enough.
Our government, criminal justice system, mental health community, health care providers, and members in society need to become aware that people who engage in violent behavior are not evil villains intentionally — they are human beings with damaged brains, which impairs their ability to abide by social norms and causes them to engage in heinous behaviors.
If the world does not open their eyes and recognize the impact that pesticides have on the human brain, behavior, and social interactions, brain health in the population will continue to diminish, our mental health crisis will grow, hatred and violence will increase, and the face of humanity as we know it is threatened. Social disaster is looming on the horizon. Only when we address the true roots of this issue (which is brain damage) will we be able to halt the complete unhinging of society that is taking place and live together more harmoniously.
Need help improving your brain health and balancing neurotransmitters, schedule a consultation with me today, and develop a self-care plan to combat the ravages of modern life on your health.
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