Diabetes and Gut Bacteria: Personalizing Your Diet

Health Professional

Why can two people eat the same meals, and one gains weight while the other does not? It’s not just about the food — it’s about your gut.

Each of us has our own unique gut bacteria, or microbiome. This is why we all respond differently to different foods, and why the same foods – such as bread – can cause significant blood sugar spikes in some people but not others.

If you have diabetes, it's always important to monitor blood sugar changes. Being able to know which foods spike your blood sugar, you can adapt your diet to help manage blood sugar levels and promote a healthy weight.

Conventional wisdom says: eat less carbs and more protein. Brown rice is better for you than white bread, and fresh fruit is better than canned. But it may not be the best advice at an individual level.

It all comes down to the makeup of your individual microbiome, or the microorganisms that live in our gut, mouth, and skin. The microbiome impacts your immune system, your metabolism, your energy, and more.

“We know disruptions in the gut microbiome touch almost all diseases we see in medicine. We know these (diabetes) patients may have a different gut microbiome than others,” said Eugene Yen, MD.

Two scientists from Israel, Dr. Eran Segal and Dr. Eran Elinav, have also conducted groundbreaking research on this topic.

Their personalized nutrition research indicates that one-size-fits-all diets don’t work because our bodies react differently to the same foods. In their book, The Personalized Diet, they provide a practical, prescriptive program for crafting a unique, individual diet based on how your body’s gut bacteria respond to what you eat. Their research is also the basis for a nutritional app created by a company called DayTwo.

“We demonstrated, on [an] unprecedented scale, that food affects different people in different ways, and thus, since nutrition has such a major impact on our health, the implication is that any general dietary guidelines will always have limited efficacy, and it would be of great value to each person to find the best diet for him,” said Segal and Elinav, in an email interview with HealthCentral.

In their book, Dr. Segal and Dr. Elinav recommend getting started with your own personalized diet by testing blood sugar effects of specific foods you enjoy (or that you wish you could eat more often). Your blood sugar results will reveal how many aspects of your system, including your gut flora, react to your food choices. Try this for one week, keeping careful records of your results.

The key is to make sure you eat a variety of foods. Eat the meals that you like to eat frequently, individual foods you’ve been avoiding because you think they’re bad for you, meals and foods you’ve been eating because you think they’re good for you, and any foods you purchase at restaurants regularly (such as pad Thai from your favorite restaurant or your daily coffee at your local shop).

After testing for a week, you can continue to test new foods or other foods you are curious about. Then, it’s time to craft your meals around the foods that you’ve found to be good for your blood sugar levels and weight.

Some important ways to foster an ideal gut environment full of diverse microbes are:

  • Avoid antibiotics whenever possible.
  • Create your personalized diet with the recommendations above.
  • Try taking oral probiotic supplements.
  • Eat a diverse array of plants of all colors.
  • Incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet, such as kombucha, raw sauerkraut, and raw kimchi.
  • Incorporate pre-biotic rich foods into your diet, such as whole grains, onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks, lentils, raw apple cider vinegar, and black beans.

See more helpful articles:

Why Your Gut Bacteria Matters for Heart Health

Gut Microbiome: The Basics

Understanding How Gut Dysbiosis Contributes to Disease