The Truth About Diabetes: The Relationship Between Gut Health and Disease

Over the past several years, research into diabetes has found a link between diabetes, intestinal permeability, and gut bacteria. (1) It turns out that the microflora in your digestive tract may play a role in the development of diabetes.

Healthy gut bacteria can nurture the lining of your digestive tract, while harmful bacteria can cause inflammation to spread throughout your whole body – leaving you at risk for serious conditions like diabetes.

In a 2012 study, a team of researchers induced poor gut function in mice by giving them a drug we use in Western medicine called Tamoxifen. The Tamoxifen was able to completely disrupt the inner ecology of the mice. (2)

Scientists discovered a strong similarity between the intestinal linings of the mice fed Tamoxifen and those with diabetes. Both groups showed improvement when given insulin. According to the group of scientists, this means that there is a noteworthy relationship between gut bacteria, gut mucosa, and diabetes.

Other previous studies have found that certain external stressors have a similar effect. (3)(4) External stressors that influence microbial residents and have been linked to diabetes are things like:

  • Antibiotic use
  • Environmental toxins
  • Common prescription medications

While scientists are still piecing together the puzzle, so far what they do know is that external stressors can do enough damage to the lining of the gut to change its microbial residents. These changes not only effect digestion, but they can also have a systemic, or whole-body, effect.

Our Inner Ecology: Just How Important Is It?

Interest in the bacteria that we harbor in and on our bodies has been growing, especially since 2008 when the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was launched. This initiative supports a full-scale investigation into categorizing and cataloguing the different microbial residents that we interact with on a daily basis.

Considering that microbes outnumber our own cells 10 to 1, this project is huge. As we are finding in the case of diabetes, bacteria play an important role in disease and not just in digestive health!

Most of us know, for example, that the good bacteria in the gut help to digest food and make specific vitamins. However, the more we learn about our own inner ecology, the more we discover just how influential this environment is.

  • The right gut bacteria can protect and nurture the lining of the digestive tract.
  • The wrong bacteria can inflame the digestive tract.
  • Like the lungs or the skin, the digestive tract is a barrier system that is meant to protect our body from the external environment.

What we call our inner ecology is the relationship that exists between all elements of the digestive tract: the bacteria, fungi, mucus, and cells that line the intestinal wall, and even cells that belong to the immune system.

When the lining of the digestive tract becomes permeable or leaky, this means that several things are happening all at once:

  • The protective mucus that lines the digestive tract is thin and worn down.
  • Beneficial bacteria are not thriving.
  • Inflammation is at an all-time high, triggering an alarm inflammatory response throughout the whole body.
  • The barrier system is not intact. This means that food particles and chemicals are able to leak into the bloodstream.
What links gut bacteria, Type 1, and Type 2 Diabetes all together?

The most recent data available on gut bacteria and diabetes addresses Type 1 Diabetes. Previous research had already made the connection between a poorly maintained lining in the intestinal tract and diabetes. (3)(4)

Type 1 Diabetes is understood to be an autoimmune disease. In autoimmunity, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells. This generates cell and tissue damage.

Type 2 Diabetes is commonly associated with poor diet and inactivity. However, we are now finding evidence of autoimmunity in Type 2 Diabetes. (5)

What is the root of autoimmunity? Some physicians and scientists claim it can be found in the gut. In other words, gut permeability is a common factor in many autoimmune conditions. (6)(7)(8) This means that once again, inner ecology is key to optimal health.

Nurture Your Inner Ecology and Restore Immune Balance

When we are talking about diabetes and autoimmunity, there are two points to remember:

1. The immune system can be brought back into balance: An autoimmune disease is often found in the company of others. This is because once the body loses the ability to distinguish self from non-self, an imbalance in the immune system has been established.

Because the basis of this misfiring is thought to be an imbalance, this means that the immune system can be brought back into balance.

2. Insulin does not address the underlying autoimmune confusion: In the case of Type 1 and sometimes Type 2 Diabetes, the immune system attacks the gland that makes insulin. Insulin is what helps our body regulate blood sugar levels. When the body is unable to produce insulin, blood sugar levels go dangerously unregulated.

Even though diabetes is treated with insulin, the autoimmunity remains. Insulin does not address the underlying autoimmune confusion.

Whether or not you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is always a good idea to strengthen digestive function.

How to Bring the Immune System Back into Balance and Reduce Autoimmune Confusion

  • Avoid foods that may cause autoimmune reactions. The principles in The Body Ecology Diet book are specifically designed to rebuild the immune system and avoid trigger foods. The most common culprit responsible for an immune response is wheat gluten. But there are several other foods that can also ignite an immune response. When figuring out which foods you react to, it is essential to remember that your dietary needs are unique.

What to Remember Most About This Article:

Research has discovered a link between diabetes, intestinal permeability, and gut bacteria; the microflora in your digestive tract could possibly link to the development of diabetes. Other factors that have been linked to diabetes include environmental toxins, antibiotic use, and common prescription medications.

Good bacteria in the gut can help to digest food and provide us with essential vitamins. Unhealthy bacteria in the gut can cause inflammation that will spread to the whole body. It’s no wonder that researchers have made a connection between a permeable gut lining and the diagnosis of diabetes!

To greatly reduce your risk of diabetes and autoimmunity, you can restore health to your immune system by nurturing your inner ecology with two important steps:

  1. Rebuild your inner ecosystem with healthy bacteria.
  2. Avoid foods that could trigger an autoimmune reaction.

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  1. PJ Pussinen, et al. Endotoxemia is associated with an increased risk of incident diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2011 Feb; 34 (2): 392 – 397.
  2. C. Semenkovich, et al. Fatty Acid Synthase Modulates Intestinal Barrier Function through Palmitoylation of Mucin 2 Cell Host & Microbe. 2012; 11 (2): 140 – 152.
  3. Suzanne Snedeker, et al. Do interaction between gut ecology and environmental chemicals contribute to obesity and diabetes? Environmental Health Perspectives. 2012 March; 120 (3): 332 – 339.
  4. Martin Blaser. Antibiotic overuse: Stop the killing of beneficial bacteria. Nature. 2011 August; 476, 393 – 394.
  5. Jerry Palmer, et al. Identification of Autoantibody Negative Autoimmune Type 2 Diabetes Patients. Diabetes Care. 2011 Jan; 34(1): 168 – 173. Epub 2010 Sep 20.
  6. Joseph Murray, et al. Celiac Disease and Autoimmunity in the Gut and Elsewhere. Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2008 June; 37 (2): 411–vii.
  7. Gurumoorthy Krishnamoothy, et al. Commensal microbiota and myelin autoantigen cooperate to trigger autoimmune demyelination. Nature; 2011 Nov; 479: 538 – 541.
  8. Jean-Claude Leunis, et al. Increased serum IgA and IgM against LPS of enterobacteria in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): Indication for the involvement of gram-negative enterobacteria in the etiology of CFS and for the presence of an increased gut–intestinal permeability. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2007 Apr; 99 (1): 237 – 240.
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