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Probiotics and diabetes: Supporting the T1D microbiome

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Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC

There has been a lot of talk about microbiomes and probiotics in recent years — and for good reason. Adding a probiotic to your regular diet can have a positive impact on your gut microbiome and overall health, especially if you live with type 1 diabetes (t1d).

This is because the microbiomes belonging to people with t1d have been found to be naturally less diverse than those without the condition. Focusing on the relationship between probiotics and diabetes can make a big difference.

Here's what to know about probiotics and how eating more fiber and fermented foods can help you lead a healthy lifestyle.

What is a probiotic?

Both good and bad bacteria live inside the body. The Cleveland Clinic explains that probiotics, part of the diverse microorganisms that make up the microbiome, are live bacteria and yeasts that are found in the body. They help fight off the bad bacteria and assist in keeping you healthy by restoring balance.

Though most commonly thought of as living solely in the gut, probiotics can also be found in the mouth, vagina, urinary tract, skin, and lungs. Since probiotics exist naturally in the body, you don't have to take a supplement for them to do their job. However, eating a well-balanced diet high in fiber can help support the process, and in some cases, a probiotic supplement can be beneficial.

Probiotics and diabetes

Research published in Microorganisms has shown that the use of probiotics in adults with t1d has been associated with better glycemic control, increased GLP-1 production for support in regulating glucose, and anti-inflammatory properties. For these reasons (amongst other non-diabetes related reasons, like a urinary tract infection, constipation, or other concerns), your diabetes care provider may recommend an increase in probiotics to benefit your overall health and well-being.

Incorporating probiotics into your diet

It can feel a bit intimidating to think about adding additional variables into your care plan, but incorporating probiotics can be fairly simple! For example, you can easily add probiotics to your wellness regimen by incorporating certain foods or supplements in the form of capsules, powders, or drinks.

Some probiotic-rich foods you can add to your diet include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sourdough bread
  • Kombucha
  • Fermented sauerkraut or pickles
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Miso

If you and your doctor decide that probiotic supplements could be beneficial for you, here are the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Look for the key ingredients. There are two specific types of bacteria commonly found in probiotic supplements, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Additionally, the most common good yeast found in probiotic supplements is Saccharomyces boulardii. Keep an eye out for these.

  • Confirm live active cultures. Your probiotic supplement should contain at least 1 billion colony forming units (CFUs), which should be listed on the package.

  • Vet your source. Dietary supplements don't need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which means that manufacturers can sell supplements without verified safety or effectiveness. Asking your doctor for a trusted brand recommendation is a great place to start.

  • Store your supplements properly. Some probiotic strains require refrigeration to protect them from the elements, which may otherwise degrade them before use.

  • Check for interactions. Like any other addition to your healthcare routine, it's important to have your doctor or pharmacist check your chosen probiotic to make sure it won't interact with anything else you're taking.

More than a "gut" instinct

The health of the microbiome for people with t1d is reliant upon more than one factor, but probiotics and diabetes have proven to be a top contender in supporting gut health and beyond. While healthcare providers often recommend aiming to get necessary nutrients primarily from food, taking supplements can help fill the gaps in between.

Curious to examine the connections between type 1 diabetes and the microbiome in more depth? Check out this related article on the Edgepark Health Insights blog.

Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC

Bio: Samantha Markovitz, NBC-HWC is a Mayo Clinic-trained National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and the author of “Type 1 Diabetes Caregiver Confidence: A Guide for Caregivers of Children Living with Type 1 Diabetes.” Drawing from her own experience in living with T1D, Samantha is dedicated to empowering individuals and families to live well and thrive while managing health challenges and achieving their goals.

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