Our modern lives are certainly an improvement over living in caves and huts. But living civilized has also brought a dramatic change to our lifestyles and diets. We exercise and move far less, eat prepared foods, skip on fibers in our diet and live a fairly sanitized life. One result has been to create a huge shift in our body’s bacteria composition, or the “microbiome.”
The microbiome is the collection of microbes, such as bacteria, fungi and viruses, that form an incredibly important part of our human existence. Without a healthy microbiome you would not survive.
While it may just be coincidence, the lifestyle and diet shift of modern life has also seen a dramatic increase in a number of physical ailments and conditions. The incidences of obesity and diabetes, in particular, have seen huge spikes in prevalence.
So, that raises the question–if one improves the microbiome could this help with obesity and diabetes?
Let’s start with the basic idea of metabolism–the process by which your body turns food into energy. Diabetes and obesity could be said, in very simple terms, to be a malfunction in the metabolism.
Starting from that idea, there is a clear relationship between unhealthy gut bacteria, this is called dysbiosis, and poor metabolism. It takes a healthy balance of bacteria to efficiently break down food (and manufacture many vitamins).
This has been supported by tests that show probiotics to be of benefit in normalizing malfunctioning metabolism in diabetes cases. It has also been shown in human trials that probiotics have a proven ability to lower fasting glucose and insulin levels–key factors in the control of diabetes.
Diabetes and obesity often are found together. That should be no surprise, as poor metabolism not only encourages fat development but the lower levels of energy produced also drive a higher intake of food to gain energy.
Interestingly, the gut bacteria of obese individuals and diabetics are not the same as those of lean individuals and/or non-diabetics. These two groups show significantly altered levels of bacteria in the gut.
This makes sense, as a gut dysbiosis (messed up microbiome) means:
There is another factor, that of chronic inflammation. When your gut is unhealthy, this triggers immune responses. The protective walls of the gut break down allowing toxins and pathogens to pass through the barrier and into the body. This results in inflammation. And chronic inflammation contributes to the state of obesity (and many other health problems, as well).
Bottom line, when the gut becomes unhealthy the entire body is affected.
This is particularly true in terms of diabetes. Research has demonstrated that bacterial imbalances in the gut are directly linked to insulin resistance and so, in turn, to a higher risk of diabetes.
The answer is a strong YES. As science has shown, an unhealthy gut is linked to both obesity and diabetes. Gut dysbiosis may not be the cause of diabetes but it is certainly closely linked. A healthy gut improves metabolism, fatty acid breakdown, glucose metabolism, insulin resistance and reduces inflammation–all very important to the control of diabetes.
As a final note, it is not enough to just take probiotic supplements. You must also provide the healthy bacteria with food to grow on. These are known as prebiotic food and are the fuel that healthy bacteria thrive on. You can find these in fibrous foods or take them as supplements. These are SO important that if you had to choose between prebiotics and probiotics, you would be better off in the long run by choosing the prebiotics.