The International Diabetes Federation estimated that 74.2 million adults in India were living with diabetes in 2021. Diabetes triggers several health conditions that affect the skin, heart, fertility, and even the gut.
Diabetes-related damage to the gut increases the risk of colon cancer, poor digestion, and intestinal malfunction. It even triggers the gut to become a breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria.
Consuming diabetes friendly food can play an important role to ensure a healthier gut. Even though we can’t see them with the naked eye, the tiny organisms living in our gut keep us healthy.
These microorganisms are also known as gut bacteria, gut flora, or microbiota. They work systematically to improve digestion, support immunity, and carry out proper metabolism. Thus, gut health is here to stay, and it’s your responsibility to ensure that.
So how can you achieve a healthy gut? The simplest way is to reduce your junk food intake. And eat more fruits, vegetables and fermented foods.
Gut Health: Why does it matter?
More than 100 trillion bacteria reside in the gut. The gut bacteria perform various roles, including digestion, metabolism, homeostasis, breakdown of dietary fibre, and maintaining overall well-being. When the gut works as it should, your immune system will be resilient. That’s because 70% of your immune system resides in the gut.
A balanced gut microbiome promotes nourishment, detoxification, and optimal immunity. Note that an imbalance of your gut microbiome can lead to a weak immune system, making you vulnerable to infections and inflammations.
The Gut-Brain Connection
The gut is like the second brain since it hosts the enteric nervous system, the gastrointestinal, nervous system. It communicates continuously with the spine and brain but can also work independently. Moreover, the gut-brain connection aids in the signalling between the brain and intestine.
The gut flora balance works as a peacekeeper, essential in modulating brain-controlled functions. Interestingly, the gut produces certain chemicals beneficial for the brain. Thus, an unhealthy gut can potentially trigger several brain disorders.
The Gut-Heart Connection
Your gut plays a heart-protective role, but things can turn harmful for your heart when there’s something wrong with it. For example, when the gut becomes inflamed, chemicals produced by unhealthy gut bacteria leave the intestine and enter the bloodstream.
It can cause an inflammatory reaction and affect the blood vessels. As a result, the vessels lose their elasticity and ignite the possibility of plaque formation. Hence, those with or without diabetes have to maintain good gut health.
Can Diabetes Affect The Gut?
Diabetes can affect many parts of the body, especially the gut. Therefore, people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes experience poor gastrointestinal quality. It leads to gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhoea, and constipation. In addition, due to poor glycemic control, a person with diabetes is twice as likely to experience an abnormal gut function.
Individuals with milder cases of diabetes experience slight discomfort during digestion. However, this usually resolves with dietary changes. Those with severe diabetes must be careful of their food choices as it directly impacts gut health.
Diabetes related damage to nerves in the intestine can deteriorate your gut by altering the composition of its bacterial colonies. Frequently, high blood sugar causes undesirable chemical changes in the vagus nerve, which connects the gastrointestinal tract and brainstem.
This change causes delayed gastric emptying, meaning that the food remains in the stomach for too long. As a result, the gut fails to absorb anything from the food, causing nutrient deficiencies. Subsequently, it often worsens and can cause symptoms like heartburn, reduced appetite, vomiting, and nausea.
Top 9 Gut-Friendly Foods for Diabetics
Kombucha is a fizzy fermented tea made from black or green tea (or both), good bacteria, yeast, and sugar. It contains a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, thereby emerging as gut-friendly probiotics.
Kombucha provides benefits like a balanced gut microbiome and improved digestion due to its probiotic nature. In addition, drinking kombucha positively impacts gut health by decreasing inflammation, which is quite common among people with diabetes. For this reason, kombucha can be considered a healthy way to maintain gut health in people with diabetes.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented cabbages. In addition, it includes a variety of spices, onion, carrot, and radish. Since it is a fermented food, kimchi enhances the level of good bacteria in the gut.
That’s because kimchi undergoes a process of fermentation by the beneficial lactobacillus bacteria. As a result, the probiotics in kimchi sustain gastrointestinal health and reduce the symptom of constipation seen in diabetics.
Oats are a beloved staple among diabetics, a fibre-rich food to serve your gut. It contains beta-glucan fibre, nourishing the microbiota and restoring healthy gut bacteria. Therefore, this makes oats an excellent food for gut health.
Plus, oats help slow down digestion, thereby controlling the appetite to prevent overheating. That’s particularly beneficial for people with diabetes who are looking to manage their dietary intake. Overnight oatmeal is even better as they’re rich in resistant starch, which lowers gut inflammation. And gut inflammation is a persistent complaint among people with diabetes.
Barley is a solid recommendation for upping gut health. It is a chewy grain with a slightly nutty flavour that can boost your intestinal health. In addition, barley is full of insoluble fibre that adds bulk to your stool and reduces your likelihood of constipation.
Moreover, a study shows that consuming barley for breakfast lowers blood sugar and insulin levels. That’s partly because of its rich magnesium content, a mineral that influences the body’s use of sugar and insulin production.
Bananas, particularly the under ripened ones, are an excellent source of prebiotics. It’s a wonder fruit packed with gut-friendly fibre and potassium. And when the bananas are green, they provide a cluster of fructose molecules to feed
Bifidobacteria bacteria is a beneficial member of the gut flora. Bifidobacteria can enhance gut health by preventing intestinal inflammation. Also, people with diabetes can eat bananas as a mid-meal snack to reduce post-meal bloating and gas.
Curd is the most common and easy to add probiotic food in the diet. It’s good bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus , Lactococcus lactis , Lactococcus lactis cremoris and few more helps improve the health of gut bacteria.
Onions offer oligofructose, a type of gut-healthy, soluble fibre. The gut uses it for detoxification and other beneficial cleansing actions. In addition, people with diabetes should include onion in their diet due to its ability to stimulate higher ghrelin levels, a hormone that controls hunger.
When hunger subsides, people will not resort to unintentional binge eating and excess calorie intake. Moreover, oligofructose from onions helps in bringing down blood sugar levels.
The topic of fruits tends to cause a dilemma regarding diabetes. Most fruits are not suitable for people with diabetes due to their natural sweet content and carbs. However, blueberries have a low glycemic index, thereby serving as a good choice for people with diabetes.
It’s an antioxidant-rich berry with prebiotic fibre. Consuming blueberries would improve the balance of gut microbes. That’s because it boosts the levels of Actinobacteria, a good bacteria. In addition, it lowers the levels of Enterococcus, a bacteria responsible for stomach infections.
With ongoing experiments on its anti-cancerous properties, garlic is also gaining attention for its pivotal role in gut health. They’re laden with inulin, a type of fibre that promotes gut flora growth.
Not to mention, garlic’s antimicrobial properties could combat the pathogens invading the gut. However, the garlic mode of action is specific. It only kills off the harmful bacteria and leaves the good ones completely untouched.
Other Ways to Maintain Gut Health During Diabetes
Limit Antibiotic Consumption
Yes, antibiotics are lifesavers. They treat and prevent infections, thus helping us to stay healthy. However, taking unnecessary antibiotics would be harmful to the gut. After a long period of antibiotic intake, the body starts developing resistance towards it.
Antibiotics should be taken only when they are required and make sure to add probiotic foods or supplements along with them.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the cure for multiple problems. In addition to improving mental well-being, mood, and cognition, getting a sufficient amount of good-quality sleep sustains gut health. Irregular sleep habits, especially among diabetes people, triggers unwanted inflammation. That’s because disturbed sleep pattern negatively impacts the gut.
Do Not Eat a Heavy Dinner
Even when you’re asleep, the gut continues to work. However, consuming large portions during dinner will exert additional pressure on the digestive system. Thus, the gut is deprived of adequate time to rest, leading to its malfunction.
As a result, people wake up in the middle of the night with indigestion, acidity, heartburn, or stomach pain. Moreover, a heavy dinner is a big no for those with diabetes as it spikes blood sugar levels.
Follow a Vegetarian Diet
A study shows that people who followed a strict vegetarian diet for a month had lower levels of gut inflammation due to remarkable improvement in gut microbes. On top of that, they lost weight healthily.
There’s a recognisable difference between the gut of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The former group shows a better and healthy picture. It’s significant because a vegetarian diet offers a high level of prebiotic fibre. After all, fibre is the path to a healthy gut. No animal foods contain fibre, and it exclusively comes from plants.
Diabetic people can follow a plant-based diet to keep the gut microbiome balanced and optimal. However, there are chances of protein deficiency. Thus, incorporate protein-rich foods, plant-based protein powder and less starchy food to stay healthy.
There’s a complex relationship between stress and your gut. Experiencing stress and mental exertion can delay the working of the gut. As a result, it induces gastrointestinal problems like indigestion, diarrhoea, and even infection.
The short term stress can accompany appetite loss and stomach discomfort. Thus, managing stress is the key to healthy gut functioning. To boost gut health, one can start practising yoga, mindful meditations, and regular exercise.
The Bottom Line
Gut health is exceptionally essential for people with diabetes. It is adversely affected by abnormal sugar and insulin fluctuations, which often results from diabetes. Consuming a healthy dose of probiotics, prebiotics, high fibre, and anti-inflammatory foods is excellent to boost your gut health.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is also very important to maintain gut health. Drinking plenty of water assists dietary fibre to do its job correctly and helps keep the gut system running smoothly. In addition, adequate fluid intake is also essential for people with diabetes.
An imbalance in the gut microbiome might weaken the immune system, rendering one susceptible to infections and inflammations. Moreover, an unhealthy gut can also trigger several brain disorders. Hence, maintaining a healthy gut is essential for everyone.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Can gut health affect diabetes?
A. Disturbance in the gut or imbalance of gut microbiome cause adverse health effects. One of them is type 2 diabetes. However, diabetes is directly related to gut health. As a result, it would gradually cause inflammation and spike blood sugar levels, leading to diabetes.
Q. Does gut bacteria affect blood sugar?
A. Yes, an unhealthy gut negatively impacts blood sugar levels. That’s because disordered gut health tends to impair glucose tolerance, increasing the risk of insulin resistance. It, in turn, results in out of whack blood sugar levels.
Q. Is it good for people with diabetes to take probiotics?
A. There are no restrictions in consuming probiotics when you have diabetes. In addition, they are fermented foods harnessing the benefits of good bacteria and yeast. Most probiotics are the lowest in carbohydrates and calories but rich in fibre. People with diabetes can try probiotic supplements as well. However, one doesn’t have to eat any supplements to benefit from probiotics. Just make sure to eat probiotic-rich foods.
Q. Can probiotics reverse diabetes?
A. No, probiotics cannot reverse diabetes. You can eat them to enhance gut health and improve the associated symptoms of diabetes. But probiotics are not a cure for diabetes. However, low carb probiotics can temporarily lower blood sugar levels and make you feel better.
Q. What is the best probiotic for diabetics?
A. The best probiotics for diabetes are those rich in fibre and protein but low in carbs and calories. Some suitable options are kimchi, kombucha, kefir, natto, tempeh, homemade curd and sauerkraut.
Q. Is kombucha good for diabetics?
A. Yes, kombucha is suitable for people with diabetes when you consume them in moderation. It’s a fizzy fermented tea rich in probiotics, good for the gut. However, since kombucha contains sugar, a person with diabetes needs to know how much to consume to prevent blood sugar spikes. Otherwise, it’s a drink suitable for people with diabetes.
Q. What’s the best drink for diabetics?
A. Choosing the right drink is essential to prevent an unpleasant spike in blood sugar. Healthy beverage choices for people with diabetes are water, herbal tea, green tea, green smoothie, kombucha, and butermilk. The worst drinks for diabetes are regular soda, fruit juices with added sugars, cola, and energy drinks.
Q. Can kimchi lower blood sugar?
A. Yes, kimchi offers beneficial effects on blood sugar. Regular consumption of kimchi improves glucose metabolism and lowers blood sugar. It’s highly effective among those with prediabetes. Moreover, kimchi belongs to the fermented food category. Fermentation lowers the carb content of food as it is pre-digested by bacteria.