Diabetes: The Undercover Digestive Ailment?

Diabetes is an oft-discussed disease in today’s media; this is mostly due to its new status as an epidemic that has placed a severe burden on today’s healthcare system. There are two major “types”, and Type 2 (According to Dr. Francesco Rubino M.D. of the Gastrointestinal Metabolic Surgery section at Weill Medical College of Cornell University) accounts for 90-95% of all reported cases. Because it affects so many aspects of our health and wellbeing, it is easy to be confused about what “kind” of illness diabetes can be described as (it’s etiology, technically speaking).

While it is accepted that “DM” is a chronic and incurable disease; new research is beginning to reveal that it may be an “intestinal illness”—as such there are a variety of potentially new treatments and predictors.[1]

According to Dr. Debmalya Sanyal of the KPC Medical College in West Bengal India “altered gut microbiome can predict diabetes”.

While Type 1 Diabetes is considered a different ball game, the good doctor notes that “a growing body of evidence, however, appears to indicate that type 2 DM (T2DM) may be an operable intestinal illness”. The scientific community already accepts that there is a connection between your gut microbiota and the dysregulation of normal glucose tolerance. As such, it was recently proposed that gut bacteria are capable of contributing to differences in body weight, insulin sensitivity, and glucose metabolism (all key factors in T2DM).

Our diets define our guts, and ultimately have a great influence on our health—anyone with diabetes knows this. What we don’t often recall is that simple dietary changes can have great benefit—like including more fiber each day. For over 20 years scientists have acknowledged that a high fiber diet helps protect its proponents from obesity and diabetes; they just didn’t know how. Not anymore however.

A French-Swedish team of scientists from the CNRS and the Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1 has finally revealed the mechanism responsible for fibers health boosting capabilities. Furthermore, they were able to further clarify the role of the gut and its microbiome in producing glucose during meals.

Such findings are immensely important, as they will further define dietary recommendations to enable prevention and management of the disease. Fiber from fruits and certain veggies that I often promote (cabbage and legumes like beans) in my Paleo-Mediterranean diet are great sources of “fermentable fibers”. They’re not actually readily digestible by the human gut, the bacteria we play host to do the work for us. The protective properties released by these fibers digestion help keep us slim and diabetes free.

How does it work though? Well first, it should be noted that the digestive tract is capable of synthesizing glucose between meals and at night to keep you feeling satiated. When that synthesized glucose is released your hunger fades, your resting energy expenditure is enhanced and your liver dampens its own glucose production.

When you eat fiber rich foods, you trigger this process! Feeling full quicker, using more energy and producing less glucose in your liver then lead to a slimmer waistline and an avoidance of disease. Ingestion of fiber also greatly increases a person’s sensitivity to insulin—also a boon in fighting off diabetes and its effects.[3]

Diabetes is a condition that will become the problem of 300 million people by 2025. At that time, the risk of contracting the disease sometime in your lifetime will be at 20%. Those are steep odds but you can level the playing field. If diabetes has already arrived, gastric bypass may be your friend—but it is major surgery and should not be considered lightly. If you’re not ready for that stop, or prefer to prevent diabetes from happening in the first place, look to changing your diet. Small changes can have a large impact—like adding more fiber—the more changes you make the better you’ll feel. Just remember my rule of thumb: eat well and be well, because it turns out you are what you eat!


[1] http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/Supplement_2/S290.full

[3] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140114090822.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+sciencedaily/most_popular+(ScienceDaily:+Most+Popular+News)