Unlike the type 2 version, type 1 diabetes is an even more serious and virtually incurable form of the disease that prevents your body from making the insulin it needs.
What’s more, type 1 diabetes can harm the body’s major organs over the long haul, affecting the kidneys, blood vessels, nerves, heart and eyes. And, it can even make pregnancy risky for Moms and their babies.
For the longest time, medical science has assumed the origins of type 1 diabetes lie in the pancreas. The results of a recent study have led Italian researchers to look elsewhere, speculating that gut health problems may be a sign of type 1 diabetes.
“Our findings indicate the individuals with Type 1 diabetes have an inflammatory signature and microbiome that differ from what we see in people who do not have diabetes or even in those with other autoimmune conditions such as celiac disease,” says Dr. Lorenzo Piemonti of the Diabetes Research Institute at San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, Italy, according to a press release.
The pancreas or the gut?
Researchers compared samples (via biopsies of the small intestine, but not stool samples) taken from the microbiomes of 54 patients, including 19 type 1 diabetics, 16 healthy controls and 19 additional patients with celiac disease, which can damage the small intestine.
(The connection between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease is a sound one, as up to 11 percent of type 1 diabetics may suffer from celiac disease too, says Dr. Piemonti.)
Overall, patients with type 1 diabetes displayed many more signs of inflammation in the gut’s mucous membrane that were tied to 10 specific genes than those seen in healthy controls or even celiac patients, according to the study appearing in JCEM: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Additionally, the balance of gut bacteria in type 1 diabetes patients was distinctly different compared to the other groups.
“We don’t know if Type 1 diabetes’ signature effect on the gut is caused by or the result of the body’s own attacks on the pancreas,” Piemonti says. “By exploring this, we may be able to find new ways to treat the disease by targeting the unique gastrointestinal characteristics of individuals with Type 1 diabetes.”
Could probiotics make a difference?
Is it possible that a probiotic could make a difference one day in treating patients with type 1 diabetes?
Based on the results of a 2015 study appearing in Diabetes, Cornell University researchers had great luck with engineering a strain of Lactobacillus (gasseri) they fed to diabetic rats for 90 days.
Over that time, levels of high blood glucose fell as much as 30 percent in diabetic rates receiving this strain of beneficial probiotic bacteria. Even more promising, this probiotic bacteria reduced glucose levels in diabetic rats in the very same way as healthy animals.
Is it possible taking a probiotic with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic could make a difference too?
These results may be just the start of a new way to look at and treat type 1 diabetes by rebalancing the bacteria that live in our guts.