I recently wrote an article for mindbodygreen.com about listening to your gut. It's hard to tune into your intuition, however, if you are struggling with digestive issues. Today I want to talk a little bit about the importance of gut health for Type 1 diabetics.
Digestive health is a hot topic in the wellness world today. I've read many articles that promote probiotics for weight loss or fermented foods for healing intestinal issues. I have been through my share of digestive problems over the last few years. I only learned recently that T1Ds are more prone to stomach problems than the average person because diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, which means that our body attacked its own cells. While taking insulin makes up for the fact that the pancreas no longer functions properly, the autoimmunity remains uncured. Celiac disease, another autoimmune condition, is often found in T1Ds, but you don't have to have a gluten allergy to struggle with digestive issues as a diabetic.
Some scientists and physicians claim autoimmunity starts in the gut. Gut permeability is a common factor in autoimmune disorders. The body's immune system attacks its own cells, which generates cell and tissue damage. When the lining of the digestive tract becomes permeable or leaky, this means that several things are happening all at once:
- The protective mucus that lines the digestive tract is thin and worn down.
- Beneficial bacteria are not thriving.
- Inflammation is at an all-time high, triggering an alarm inflammatory response throughout the whole body.
- The barrier system is not intact. This means that food particles and chemicals are able to leak into the bloodstream. (1)
I went through a time when my "beneficial bacteria" were not thriving. I had trouble digesting fruits, vegetables, fats... At one point, the only food I felt comfortable eating were Rice Chex cereal! I had such a variety of symptoms from stomach aches to bloating to constipation to diarrhea. I was miserable! After testing negative for different food allergies and other conditions, I discovered that my gut was out of balance. Here are a few ways I keep my gut healthy now.
- Manage stress.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I was highly stressed out during that year of digestive troubles. Now, I understand that stomach problems are one of my body's ways of communicating to me that I am stressed out. Spending time outside, laughing with my family & friends, and getting enough quality sleep are my top stress management techniques, but you need to find what works best for you.
- Incorporate probiotic-rich food into my diet.
I was taking a high quality probiotic pill for a year and a half to help restore my gut bacteria. Now I find that I can keep up my health just by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi and drinking kombucha.
*A note on kombucha: A little goes a long way. While the label says there are 2 servings in one bottle, I split it into 4 servings. Look for kombucha that has less than 5 grams of sugar. My favorite brand is Health Ade. Well + Good has some great information about what constitutes healthy kombucha.
- Drink bone broth.
While the health benefits of bone broth have not been scientifically proven, this is a wellness ritual that has been used in different cultures around the world for a long time. The gelatin in bone broth can help heal a permeable gut and/or protect a non-leaky one and the high concentration of minerals improves immunity.
Now that you have some ideas for how to keep your gut healthy, head on over to mindbodygreen to read about how to listen to the wisdom that resides there, along with all that beneficial bacteria!