We know that immunity begins in the gut. But some research has shown that your gut bacteria can also reveal whether or not you have type 2 diabetes—perhaps even before other signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes emerge.
To reach this conclusion, researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the Beijing Genomics Institute analyzed approximately 60,000 bacterial markers in people with signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes and without signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Results showed that people with type 2 diabetes have different gut bacteria than those without diabetes. However, the researchers weren’t able to determine if those bacteria cause the disease or just reflect that the disease is present.
This connection between gut flora and diabetes isn’t surprising since we know that the microbial milieu in individuals with asthma, inflammatory and irritable bowel disease, and obesity is markedly different from that of healthy people. Differences are also seen in psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and mood disorders.
Although this particular study didn’t establish that your gut bacteria could cause diabetes, other research has demonstrated that supplementing with the probiotic strain L. acidophius has positive effects on insulin sensitivity. That’s why it makes sense to do what you can to nurture your gut bacteria. Here are some of the ways you can do that.
Nurture Your Gut Bacteria
First, avoid antibiotics whenever possible. These drugs can be lifesaving, but too often they are prescribed and taken for infections they’re useless against. Antibiotic-related diarrhea and vaginal infections aren’t caused by drugs. They’re caused by opportunistic bacteria that gain a foothold when antibiotics kill off beneficial flora.
Second, eat plenty of prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that good gut bacteria thrive on. Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and bananas, onions, artichokes, whole grains, and garlic, in particular, stimulate the growth of gut bacteria. Also consume fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled vegetables. They contain live bacteria (probiotics) that help populate the intestinal tract.
Third, consider taking a probiotic supplement for extra support.
Now it’s your turn: What do you do to keep your gut bacteria healthy?