The Relationship Between Diverse Gut Bacteria and Diabetes

May 09,2023 |
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Thanks to ongoing research, it’s now understood that the trillions of microbes that live in our gut play a vital role in our health and wellness. In particular, a new study published in the journal Diabetes has shed light on the relationship between diverse gut bacteria and diabetes. The study found that specific bacteria in the gut are associated with improved insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels, which could have significant implications for the future of diabetes management. Here, we’ll explore the relationship between diverse gut bacteria and diabetes.


What to Know About Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects over 37 million people in the United States alone. It’s a type of metabolic disorder that occurs when the body cannot properly produce or use insulin. Over time, this can lead to a buildup of sugar in the blood, which can cause damage to various organs and systems in the body. There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. 


Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This typically develops in childhood or adolescence and requires insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump to regulate blood sugar levels. Although rare, the onset of type 1 diabetes in adults can also occur. 


Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, accounts for about 90-95% of all cases. It occurs when the body becomes resistant to insulin or cannot produce enough insulin to meet its needs. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with lifestyle factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet. It can usually be managed with lifestyle changes, medication, and/or insulin therapy.


How is Diabetes Diagnosed?


Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have many of the same symptoms. However, the way they present themselves may be different due to the underlying cause. The onset of type 1 diabetes symptoms tends to be very sudden and may be mistaken for another illness. Type 2 diabetes symptoms tend to appear very gradually over time, making them less noticeable at first. 


Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, increased thirst, blurred vision, fatigue, and the slow healing of cuts and bruises. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and vision loss. Therefore, at the first sign of any symptoms it’s important to see your doctor for diagnostic testing.


What Diagnostic Tests are Used for Diabetes?

The first thing your doctor will do when testing for diabetes is administer a test to measure your blood sugar levels. However, there are a few different types of blood tests that can be used. A fasting blood glucose test measures blood glucose levels after an overnight fast, while an oral glucose tolerance test measures blood glucose levels after consuming a glucose drink. An A1C test measures average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3 months and can be used to monitor prediabetes or diabetes management plans. 


Long-Term Diabetes Prognosis

Your long-term management plan for diabetes usually depends on the type of diabetes you have and your lifestyle habits. When caught early, prediabetes can be reversed and there are several hopeful studies that suggest major lifestyle changes may even help lead to type 2 diabetes remission. These lifestyle changes may include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting smoking. However, you will likely need to pair your efforts with medications to help treat diabetes or start taking insulin.


Understanding the Microbiome


The microbiome is a term that’s used to describe all the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that live on and within the human body. They’re found in various areas, including the skin, mouth, organs, and most importantly, the gut. Although there are several viruses and bacteria that are harmful to humans, the ones that live within our bodies play a key role in things like digestion, metabolism, and immunity. Thanks to new research and a stronger understanding of the microbiome, we now know it’s an essential part of human health and overall wellbeing. 


The microbiome remains a rapidly evolving field, but gut bacteria have been found to play a crucial role in health. Some of the ways in which your gut bacteria can affect your body and mind include the following:


Digestion and Nutrient Absorption

The bacteria that live in your gut help break down food. This is an essential part of the digestive process, which allows for nutrients from your food source to be isolated and absorbed into the body. Individuals with a healthy microbiome may have more efficient digestive systems. 


Immune Function

Your gut bacteria also play a critical role in maintaining the health of your immune system. They help prevent harmful bacteria from affecting your gut, and they also produce chemicals that help regulate your immune response.


Mood and Mental Health

Recent research has shown that the gut microbiome may have an impact on mood and mental health. The bacteria in your gut can produce neurotransmitters and other chemicals that affect the way you feel. In fact, your gut health may even be tied to your risk of depression or anxiety. 


Obesity and Metabolic Health

Studies have suggested that the composition of the gut microbiome may also be linked to obesity and metabolic health. Certain types of bacteria in the gut may be associated with weight gain and insulin resistance.


Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Finally, certain changes in the gut microbiome have been linked to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. If you have a family medical history or experience symptoms of IBD, it may be beneficial to check your gut health. 


Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can support your overall health, but everyone is different. Although the efficacy of certain pre and probiotics is still questionable, you can promote a healthy microbiome by eating a balanced diet, reducing your intake of processed foods, getting enough sleep, and minimizing your stress levels. 


How Gut Bacteria Plays a Role in Diabetes

Although in the past the primary focus on preventative measures for type 2 diabetes involved losing weight, a recent study suggests that gut bacteria may also play a major role in the development of type 2 diabetes. 


This study has been focused on collecting information from individuals between 40 and 80 years of age since 2018 and is part of the Microbiome and Insulin Longitudinal Evaluation Study (MILES). There are several trials underway.


The study found that individuals with type 2 diabetes had diverse types and amounts of gut bacteria compared to healthy individuals, and that these differences may contribute to insulin resistance, a key feature of type 2 diabetes. Specifically, individuals with high levels of a bacteria called Coprococcus tended to have higher insulin sensitivity, while individuals with higher levels of a bacteria called Flavonifractor tended to have lower insulin sensitivity. The study also found that transplanting gut bacteria from healthy individuals to those with type 2 diabetes resulted in improved insulin sensitivity. 


Another study suggests a link between butyrate-producing bacteria in the gut and insulin sensitivity in individuals with obesity and type 2 diabetes. This study found that individuals with higher levels of butyrate-producing bacteria in their gut had better insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, as well as lower levels of inflammation. The study suggests that promoting the growth of butyrate-producing bacteria through dietary changes or other means may be a potential strategy for improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in individuals with obesity. 


While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between gut bacteria and type 2 diabetes, these findings suggest that the gut microbiome may be a potential target for future therapies for the disease. However, it’s still too early to fully understand how you can change your microbiome to reduce the risk of diabetes. For now, it’s important to focus on making healthy lifestyle changes, losing excess weight, quitting smoking, and getting plenty of exercise. This can aid in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and may even help you reach remission. Regardless, always follow your diabetes management plan and maintain a consistent schedule with your doctor. To help manage your diabetes effectively while living a healthy lifestyle, Byram Healthcare has a range of diabetes management products. We also offer diabetes support and educational materials to give you everything you need for comprehensive care.