Gut bacteria predicts type 2 diabetes risk
How could your microbiome be such a big factor in risks for COVID-19? It's directly tied to the number one risk group—Type 2 diabetics—and a study that focused on gut bacteria as a major marker for whether you'll develop the disease or not. In a time where we're all much more focused on prevention and protecting our longevity, this was an interesting find.
The Study relating gut bacteria and diabetes
A large study out of Germany found that the behavior of your gut bacteria points to whether or not you’ll develop type 2 diabetes. The researchers followed about 4000 participants who hadn’t had any indication of diabetes at the start of the study, in order to gather clues about potential causes. They found a strong link between diabetes and observations of specific strains of gut bacteria that didn’t behave normally.
Gut bacteria and circadian rhythm—They're connected.
You’ve probably heard by now that your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, controls your sleep-wake times. Your circadian rhythm also controls functions like body temperature, cell repair, and even how your body metabolizes and uses the food you eat.
Researchers have established what normal patterns of gut bacteria look like, particularly with regard to their quantity and activity patterns. When specific strains of gut bacteria do not follow the normal day and night patterns, or when they do not change at all from day to night, there is an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
How do I get my microbiome to behave?
You might be wondering how the heck you get your gut bacteria to change their behavior at any given time. After all, they are autonomous creatures, right?
While you can’t send your gut bacteria an instruction manual, you can keep them healthy. And healthy gut bacteria do what they’re supposed to do.
The following sections identify some things that contribute to a balanced microbiome.
Probiotics to rebalance gut bacteria
Your gut microbiome has strains of bacteria, fungi, and even viruses that you pick up from hugging people, breathing, eating food, and generally interacting with the world. Sometimes they need a little help, like after a course of antibiotics, after a few nights of poor sleep, or after a stressful time. Probiotics can help replenish friendly strains that have been lost to temporary environmental and lifestyle changes. To get probiotics, you can eat fermented foods or take probiotic capsules, which are inexpensive and easy to find.
Fiber and prebiotics are microbiome food
Making yourself a meal containing lots of vegetables, especially prebiotic veggies, is like inviting your friendly gut microbes to a party. You can buy the most expensive probiotics on the market, but if you don’t feed them, they won’t stick around. Treat them well, and they’ll love you back. The bottom line: eat your veggies.
Eliminating sugar helps heal your gut
Sugar feeds unfriendly microbes in your gut and allows them to proliferate, which could crowd out friendly strains. Too many unfriendly bacteria make it difficult for the good guys to carry out the processes that help you, like create vitamins (up to half of your vitamin K is made in your gut!) or fight off pathogens that will make you sick.
Eliminating sugar leaves room for your friendly strains to do the things that keep your body in balance.
Sleep provides the cleaning cycle
Normal sleep patterns allow your cells to do day things while you’re awake, like digest food and make energy, and night processes while you’re asleep, like cell renewal and maintenance. Your gut bacteria have day and night processes, too. When your sleep patterns are irregular, it throws everything off. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl doesn’t matter as much as picking a bedtime and sticking with it, so get on a schedule as best as you can.
The key is to create the environment that your gut bacteria like, and they will do what they are are there to do. Your behavior change will influence theirs.
Bacteria aren’t the only determinant: other indicators of diabetes risk
Of course, your gut bacteria aren’t the only factor in determining whether or not you’ll develop type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you are at higher risk for diabetes if you:
- Are prediabetic
- Are overweight
- Are over 45 years of age
- Are closely related to someone with type 2 diabetes
- Are physically active less than 3 times a week
- Have ever had diabetes during pregnancy or given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
- Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native
You can’t control all of these, but you can control some of them, enough to change your risk level. If you’re prediabetic, it’s probably a good idea to scale back the sugar and carbs to level out your blood sugar. If you’re overweight, it may be time to incorporate healthy lifestyle practices. If you’re not active, start by taking walks, then work up to more strenuous activities that you enjoy.
Sure, your microbiome has a lot of say in whether or not you’ll develop disease. But you have a lot of say as far as what your gut bacteria do. And there’s not a lot of guesswork involved. Healthy behaviors for you, like diet, exercise, sleep, movement, meditation… are healthy behaviors for the good bugs, too. And all of these factor into your overall risk for not only contracting COVID-19, but also whether or not you'll have a rough ride with the virus.