It has become clear that having good overall mental and physical health depends on having healthy intestinal bacteria.
Those with diabetes should nurture their beneficial gut bacteria for general well-being, plus four specific reasons. One is that intestinal flora seems related to diabetes onset and progression. The other reasons involve concerns those with diabetes often face: inflammation, weight gain or obesity, and depression.
Diabetes and Gut Health: 4 Concerns
1. Diabetes Onset/Symptoms
Scientists have discovered the gut bacteria of people with type 2 diabetes is different from non-diabetics. For instance, people with type 2 diabetes have too few microbes poetically named Firmicutes, but have an overabundance of those called Bacteriodetes and Proteobacteria.
Amazingly, Dr. Max Nieuwdorp, a Dutch microbiome researcher, reversed type 2 diabetes in 250 study participants by re-populating their guts' bacteria using fecal transplantation. Though the thought of a fecal transplant is a bit off-putting, his resolution of diabetes by changing intestinal flora is remarkable.
The onset of type 1 diabetes also tends to follow alterations in gut bacteria, and investigators are finding that certain microbes can actually help prevent this condition.
2. Weight Gain and Obesity
It seems increasingly likely that poor gut health is related to weight gain and obesity. For instance, when researchers removed four types of bacteria (Lactobacillus, Allobaculum, Rikenelleceae, and Candidatus) from lab animals, it led to their obesity by triggering metabolic changes.
Other research revealed that a microbe called Akkermansia muciniphila helps stave off diabetes, heart disease, and obesity by lowering blood glucose, improving insulin resistance, and helping to distribute body fat. Whether this microbe plays a causative or supportive role is yet unknown.
Chronic inflammation has been associated with the onset of many diseases including diabetes and heart disease. The inflammatory response actually begins in the gut and from there finds it way to our brain—the hub of our body’s feedback loop.
Many individuals with diabetes experience symptoms of depression, and depression is increasingly associated with poor gut health. Studies indicate that probiotic supplements help some individuals reduce depression symptoms and behaviors.
Gut Health Dos and Don’ts
To support your intestine’s good bacteria and starve the bad, here are four things you can do:
- Eat cultured dairy and fermented foods: lassi, kefir, natto (fermented soy), yogurt, and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut.
- If you do not regularly consume fermented foods, consider taking a high quality probiotic supplement.
- Increase your soluble and insoluble fiber intake by eating plenty of vegetables, whole fruits, nuts, and seeds.
- Open your windows, spend time in nature, and get your hands soiled by playing outdoors or gardening.
...and four things to avoid:
- Avoid taking antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. If you do use one, re-populate your gut by eating fermented and cultured foods, and/or take a quality probiotic supplement.
- Consider purchasing antibiotic-free meats, and avoid toxic pesticides by eating more organic produce.
- Limit processed food consumption. Food emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, and excess sugar have an adverse effect on gut flora.
- Stop using antibacterial soaps which kill both good and bad bacteria.
Not only does good gut bacteria normalize weight and ward off diabetes, it optimizes the immune system to help prevent, and fight the infections those with diabetes are prone to.