Diabetes is a global health concern affecting millions of people and burdening healthcare systems worldwide. On World Diabetes Day, it is essential to shed light on aspects that are linked to the risk of developing diabetes so that prevention and management of this chronic condition becomes more achievable. One such connection is between our gut health and the risk of developing diabetes. Recent research has unearthed a fascinating link between our gut microbiota (microbes residing in our digestive tract), the immune system, and diabetes risk.
Gut Microbiota and Diabetes: A Significant Association
Numerous studies have highlighted a substantial link between alterations in the makeup of gut microbiota and the onset of diabetes. To put it simply, the types and amounts of bacteria residing in our gut can impact our risk of diabetes. Among the commonly and consistently reported findings, the genera of Bifidobacterium, Bacteroides, Faecalibacterium, Akkermansia and Roseburia have been found to be negatively associated with Type 2 Diabetes, while the genera of Ruminococcus, Fusobacterium, and Blautia have been found to be positively associated with the disease. Microbiota modulates inflammation, interacts with dietary constituents, affects gut permeability, glucose and lipid metabolism, insulin sensitivity and overall energy homeostasis in the host thereby influencing the disease.
The Role of Beneficial Gut Bacteria
Beneficial bacteria play a protective role by decreasing the risk of diabetes development. These beneficial bacteria help reduce inflammation and maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier. For example, Lactobacillus fermentum, Roseburia intestinalis, Akkermansia muciniphila are among the friendly bacteria that have been shown to improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity while suppressing proinflammatory cytokines. In other words, they promote a healthier gut environment that is less likely to lead to diabetes.
Medications and Gut Microbiota: The Metformin Connection
Interestingly, certain medications used for diabetes treatment, such as metformin, have also been found to influence the composition of the gut microbiota. Metformin appears to interact with the gut microbiota by modulating short-chain fatty acid-producing bacteria, inflammation, glucose homeostasis (balance), and gut permeability. For example, Metformin leads to higher relative abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila and several short chain fatty acid producing bacteria such as Bifidobacterium bifidum. Increased short chain fatty acids along with beneficial microbes such as Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia muciniphila may contribute to the positive effects of metformin on glucose metabolism in diabetic patients.
The Link Between Gut Microbiota and Diabetic Complications
This intricate relationship between gut microbiota and diabetes goes further. It turns out that the metabolic factors associated with chronic low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress, which result from an imbalanced gut microbiota, are the same factors that influence the onset and progression of diabetic complications. This connection is crucial because it suggests that by adjusting the composition of the gut microbiota, we may find a promising strategy in the management of diabetes and its associated complications. This is where knowing our gut microbiome with gut microbiome testing kits such as BugSpeaks (India) and Viome (US) comes in handy.
This means that by promoting a healthy balance of gut bacteria, we could potentially not only reduce the risk of developing diabetes but also improve the overall health and well-being of those already living with the condition. This points towards a potential avenue for developing new treatment strategies and therapies for diabetes.
A Path to Better Diabetes Management
On World Diabetes Day, it is essential to raise awareness of the fascinating gut-immune system connection. While diabetes is a complex condition with many factors at play, understanding how our gut microbiota can impact our risk and management of diabetes offers hope for better prevention and treatment approaches. By supporting a diverse and balanced gut microbiome through a healthy diet, probiotics, and medications, we can work towards a healthier future where the burden of diabetes is reduced.
The author is a Co-founder & Director of Leucine Rich Bio Pvt. Ltd.