Probiotics: Could They be the Next Generation of Diabetes Drugs?

Patient Expert

As a professional in the holistic business, I am one who believes that food plays a role in our health. How we choose food makes a huge difference in what is reflected in our blood work and our blood glucose. Eating well shows in our eyes, our skin and our overall physical resilience. But, the digestive system is temperamental for people, like me, with diabetes. Probiotics are often suggested to help curb the discomfort, but research has been scant on why probiotics might help, or more specifically: is there a link to gut health and diabetes?

When type 1 diabetes strikes the beta cells, it affects the body's ability to digest food properly.   Because the beta cells are missing, the other cells that work together fall into a less effect digestive process. Injected insulin helps to bridge the damage, but as we know it does not create the perfect replacement for naturally occurring beta cells.

A year ago, I wrote about a small study that had identified a small, but very clear fact: kids with diabetes lacked two specific microbiota - lactic-acid producing and butyric acid producing - that make up part of the chain of naturally occurring probiotics.   In January 2015, a study out of Cornell found that if researchers manipulate human lactobacilli - a naturally occurring probiotic - it would secrete GLP-1 and increase the body's insulin sensitivity. This would be about as natural as it comes in the world of diabetes drug therapy.   What Is Gut Microbiota?

The human gastrointestinal tract contains about 5,000 bacterial species that help us digest and assimilate food into energy for the body. Probiotics are the food that stimulates growth of intestinal flora, also known as gut microbiota, and is the corner stone for the body's immune stability (this is a great site on gut microbiota research.)

Without a healthy intestinal microbiota composition, the immune system could be compromised, and for people with diabetes, it could cause insulin resistance, and in extreme cases it could cause endotoxemia.

In type 1 diabetes, a study using both animal and humans showed lower levels of an adhesion protein within the intestinal cells leads to a greater chance of an autoimmune response, which sets off the destruction of our insulin-producing beta cells. A growing body of evidence suggests that probiotics may reduce the inflammatory response, as well as, increase the adhesion proteins that would help fight off the autoimmune response.

So how serious is this potential relationship between gut microbiota and diabetes?   While the study of type 1 kids was small and the Cornell study on reproducing a natural occurring strand of GLP-1 is still in the animal model, the debate about the relationship between diabetes and gut health is pretty inspiring and food for thought.   See More Helpful Articles:

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Probiotics: Just Another Health Trend

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