10 Ways To Support A Healthy Gut – Tips For People With Diabetes

We’ve heard a lot about maintaining a healthy gut in recent years. It seems the approximately 100 trillion bacteria living in each of our gastrointestinal tracts have a huge effect on our health: they break down our food and extract vitamins and nutrients, support our immune systems, and help protect against inflammation—and those are just the benefits that everyone agrees on.

Type 2 diabetes and obesity have been linked to a lack of diversity in the microbiome, and some studies have also linked lack of microbiome diversity to developing type 1. Healthy gut bacteria protect and nurture the digestive tract, and the more diverse our microbiome is, the better.

The micro-organisms inhabiting our GI tracts also secrete chemicals that regulate our mood, and a healthy gut may protect against depression and anxiety. In fact, researchers have gone as far experimenting with fecal transplants (yes, it’s what you think it is) to improve both behavioral and gastrointestinal challenges in people with autism.

But supporting a healthy gut doesn’t have to involve such drastic measures. There are simple steps we can take the support the healthy bacteria in our gut so they can keep our intestines, and our whole bodies, in optimal health. Here are our top 10 tips:

1. Don’t be afraid of germs (within reason)

Creating a diverse microbiome requires exposure to a variety of bacteria. One study found that if parents cleaned their children’s pacifiers by sucking on them instead of boiling them, their children were less likely to have eczema. Another study found that children who grow up with dogs were less likely to have allergies and asthma. In both cases, the children were exposed to greater bacterial diversity. Interacting with good old-fashioned dirt also has a positive effect on the microbiome’s diversity.

Exposure to more bacteria may be good for us, because the same technological advances that have increased lifespan across the globe are also limiting our exposure to the good microbes that protect against diseases like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and (according to some experts) both type 1 and 2 diabetes. Using more natural cleaners, the ones that don’t obliterate 100% of bacteria, may help protect our health, as will avoiding antibacterial soaps and sanitizers.

However, not all bacteria are ones we want to be exposed to, and we’re still not recommending that all parents clean their children’s pacifiers with their own mouths. But we’ll see if that changes as research continues.

2. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

Antibiotics are an amazing, life-saving inventions, and we’re grateful for them. But like a lot of good things, overuse can lead to a new set of problems.

Overuse of antibiotics compromises our microbiome diversity. Broad-spectrum antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, which means that they’ll get rid of the bacteria we’re trying to kill, but we won’t necessarily know what we’re sacrificing by potentially killing good bacteria. The World Health Organization has launched a campaign encouraging people to use antibiotics only when necessary to fight the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

“NEXT” for more ways to promote gut health

Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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