It is no secret that Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Unlike Type 2, Type 1 diabetics’ immune systems attack the bodily processes responsible for properly and effectively creating insulin, resulting in low insulin (or no insulin at all), and prompting the onset of diabetes. It has long been known that Type 1 diabetes is a result of malfunctioning immunity, but the question of how the immune system and diabetes interact has long stumped scientists and clinicians. One new study suggests that a decline in gut health actually precedes—and may trigger—Type 1.
Gut Health and the Body
When the term “gut health” is spoken, most people immediately leap to probiotics or eating healthy food. The gut, however, is far more nuanced and complex than a simple dietary regime, and a person’s gut microbiota can be influenced by a wide range of things, including past illness, genetics, and even injuries sustained in seemingly unrelated parts of the body. Although probiotics are often encouraged to ward off viruses and other unpleasant illnesses, there is far more involved in creating and maintaining a thriving, healthy gut.
Gut health involves the entire bacterial structure of the human body, including all of the strains of bacteria (good and “bad”) that comprise the structure of your immune and digestive systems. Rather than simply warding off sickness or digesting your food, your gut is responsible for keeping the rest of your body’s processes in line. This includes the immune function related to Type 1 diabetes.
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Gut Health in Type 1 Diabetes
Far more than just an autoimmune disease, new research has actually found that a shift in the body’s bacterial structure can lead to the changes in immune function that cause autoimmunity. Rather than poor gut health being a result of diet or diabetes, it is gut health that leads to diabetes.
The study found that genetic markers played a large role in changes occurring in gut health that could eventually lead to Type 1. These markers preceded the actual onset of diabetes significantly, and showed gradual shifts in behavior before diabetic symptoms began. This particular study is exciting, in that it offers a possible route for preventing diabetes through screening for biological and genetic markers, and treating the gut before Type 1 has fully developed. Although additional research is needed to create effective, world-wide treatment plans, this study concludes that Type 1 can be prevented and stopped at the source, rather than continuing to treat symptoms and heal complications.