Probiotics give diabetes a punch in the gutYes, probiotics! Those billions of good bacteria we all have zooming around in our lower gut. Research is getting positive results from studies looking at probiotics to treat or prevent type 2 diabetes. This shouldn’t surprise anyone who understands the power and importance of the microscopic health titans residing in our gut or microbiome—some 1,000 different strains. Nor should it surprise anyone who recognizes that diabetes, when all is said and done, is about diet, digestion, and blood sugar. Indeed, the word “probiotic” means “for life.” Without them, your health will suffer, with outcomes ranging from annoying to very serious.
More like ten punches in the gutLet’s take a look at where and how our feisty microorganisms push back against diabetes and its predecessor, prediabetes, by:
- Helping manage weight
- Lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol
- Improving digestive function and comfort
- Keeping the immune system strong
- Combating anxiety and depression
- Improving mood and brain functions
- Aiding the absorption and utilization of essential minerals, such as calcium, zinc, and iron
- Helping the body produce several kinds of B-vitamin
- Enhancing communication between the brain and the intestinal tract
- Supporting healthy longevity overall
Here’s just a taste of that good news.Studies indicate that a combination of dietary improvements and proper probiotic supplementation, especially with the Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains, may be the best bet for anyone with prediabetes or diabetes. One study put healthy adults on an unhealthy, high trans-fat, high processed food diet—sadly typical in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Result? The once healthy adults showed as much as a 27 percent reduction in insulin sensitivity. And when the subjects were given probiotic supplements, with no change in that horrific diet, the probiotics brought them back to normal insulin functioning. That’s powerful. Another study transplanted good bacteria from healthy mice into obese mice with symptoms of diabetes. Insulin resistance, an unmistakable diabetes red flag, was reduced significantly in the unhealthy mice, and insulin sensitivity increased—two critical indicators that the unhealthy mice were becoming healthier. Just as important, the unhealthy mice lost enough weight over time to resemble the lean, healthy mice. What more could you ask for to tackle diabetes? The improvements were clearly linked to probiotic diversity in the healthy mice biomes—a terrifically important piece of what I might call the intricate dance of the probiotics.
Diversity—let a thousand bacteria singIt’s a bit hard to wrap the mind around just how many bacteria are alive and kicking in our guts. Some data indicate that we have more bacterial cells in us than we have human cells—an estimated
Probiotics sourcesThere are three main ways to populate the gut with good bacteria:
- From the environment—the bacteria and other microorganisms all around us
- From your diet
- From supplements
Fermented, unpasteurized foods
- Tempeh–fermented soybeans
- Kimchee–fermented Korean cabbage
- Miso–fermented barley paste
- Sauerkraut–fermented cabbage
- Yogurt–fermented milk with active probiotic bacteria
- Kefir–fermented milk
- Kombucha–black or green fermented tea
What are prebiotics?Prebiotics are probiotics’ favorite food, the ideal support for their growth and reproduction. They’re found in high-fiber foods like:
- Chicory root
- Jerusalem artichoke
- Dandelion greens
- Wheat bran
- Wheat flour and baked wheat products
- Leafy greens: kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and greens from mustard, collard, beet, turnip plants.
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower. (Bonus: people whose diets include cruciferous vegetables tend to have fewer cancers than those who rarely eat them.)
- Beans and legumes, which release short chain fatty acids (SCFA) and are high in fiber that helps support the microbiome
Supplements for certaintyWhen shopping for supplements, and I urge you to do so, especially if you’re prediabetic or diabetic, I recommend a formulation that:
- Contains the most strains of bacteria, including at least acidophilus, L. fermentum, L. rhamnosus, B. longum, and B. bifidum
- Includes a yeast—but not if you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS} or SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth)
- Is in a microencapsulated or enteric Stomach acid can kill off most of your probiotic before it goes to work in your gut. So a protective coating will help ensure it arrives safely right where it needs to be.
- Is not beyond its expiration date—to ensure the supplement contains live organisms.
- Contains at least 10 billion Colony Forming Units (CFUs). They’re kind of the probiotic equivalent of a beehive, the minimum number of organisms necessary to create new generations.
- Has a “USP Verified” seal. USP is a non-profit analytic laboratory that checks the accuracy of a formulation’s claimed contents. Testing is voluntary—so if a company is willing to have its products tested, that tends to be a higher-quality product.
- Inulin and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), for fiber
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) for enhanced digestive function.
- Noftall, Christopher. The Health Benefits of Probiotics for Diabetics. Diabetes Daily. Published NA. Last accessed September 2, 2017.
- Probiotics for the Management of Diabetes. Diabetes in Control. Published August 6, 2016. Last accessed September 2, 2017.
- Surprising Benefits of Probiotics and Prebiotics for Diabetes. The Diabetes Council. Updated June 15, 2016. Last accessed September 2, 2017.
- Pietrangelo, Ann. Understanding Type 2 Diabetes. Reviewed March 31, 2016. Last accessed September 2, 2017.
- Saxena Behl, Maneera. Probiotics And Diabetes: What Amazing New Research Reveals” Published August 8, 2017. Last accessed September 2, 2017.
- Roland, James. Signs of Insulin Resistance. Reviewed August 17, 2017. Last accessed September 2, 2017.