Could Taking a Probiotic Help Manage My Type 2 Diabetes?
April 07, 2019
By Kendra Wright, Dietetic Intern at Dignity Health Center for Diabetes Management
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are good bacteria found in food and supplements that provide a variety of health benefits. Consuming probiotics increases the number of good bacteria in the digestive tract (also called a “gut”). A healthy gut helps digestion, enhances immunity, aids with weight loss, and reduces the risk and severity of many diseases.
Although probiotics have many benefits, their full effect on diabetes is still being researched. Type 2 diabetes is a disease where the pancreas slowly stops making enough insulin or the body does not use insulin effectively (insulin resistance). Without enough insulin to process all the sugar eaten, the sugar builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugars. Because diet plays a critical role in the management of diabetes, many speculate whether probiotics could improve the effects of diabetes as well.
How can I add probiotics to my diet?
For those who want to add probiotics to their diet, probiotics can be found in many food sources, such as yogurt, kefir (a fermented milk drink), sauerkraut, fermented fruits and vegetables, and some non-pasteurized cheeses and meats. Probiotics can also be taken as a supplement in a pill or powder form. Make sure to switch up brands every few months in order to expose your gut to new bacteria. You may also want to take a prebiotic (food for the bacteria) with your probiotic. Prebiotics are found in supplements or high-fiber foods such as an apple, garlic, onion, artichoke, bananas, oats, etc.
Is there evidence that probiotics improve diabetes outcomes?
New research shows that taking probiotics decreases blood sugar levels and other side effects of diabetes. In a recent study, researchers randomly assigned 136 patients with type 2 diabetes to take either a probiotic or a placebo (a “fake” pill) for 12 weeks. All patients received the same dietary guidelines to balance their intake of carbohydrates (45 to 60 percent of diet), protein (15 to 20 percent of diet), and fat (25 to 30 percent of diet). A blood sample was taken and evaluated at week 1, 6, and 12.
This study found that there was a large difference in A1c (a lab which shows the average blood sugar for the past three months) between the groups. The A1c of those taking the placebo pill slightly increased while the A1c decreased by 14 percent for those taking the probiotic. Fasting insulin levels (a lab that measures insulin resistance) decreased for the group taking the probiotic compared to the placebo group. Although not all the measurements changed between the two groups, those taking a probiotic saw greater changes in lowering their average blood sugar.
These results suggest that taking a probiotic improves blood sugar control by increasing insulin sensitivity and decreasing high blood glucose levels. Although further research is needed to confirm and understand these results, those wanting to prevent or treat type 2 diabetes would likely benefit from including probiotics into their diet.
To talk to a certified diabetes educator or learn about diabetes classes, call Dignity Health Center for Diabetes Management at
Sources available upon request.
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