monthly health topic

diabetes and digestion


Learn how certain types of bacteria and foods can ease good digestion and help keep diabetes under control.

Learn how certain types of bacteria and foods can ease good digestion and help keep diabetes under control.

diabetes and digestion: what’s the connection?

Everyone has bacteria living in their digestive system. Is that good? Actually, yes as long as most of them are of the friendly type! These good bacteria help with digestion, produce biotin (a B vitamin) and Vitamin K, and train the immune system to do its job. A healthy diet promotes the growth of good bacteria and keeps the bad bacteria under control. Antibiotics can upset the balance between good and bad bacteria. A diet that is high in sugar, fat and processed food also allows bad bacteria to take over. This imbalance can lead to digestive problems such as gas, bloating, and poor immunity and may possibly contribute to obesity and diabetes.

In addition to a healthy diet, there are certain foods that will promote good bacteria. Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain “live, active cultures” of friendly bacteria. Common strains of bacteria include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Food sources of probiotics are:

  • Yogurt with live active cultures
  • Kefir, fermented yogurt style drink
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and Kimchi, a spicy Korean dish
  • Miso, a fermented soybean paste
  • Sourdough bread
  • Acidophilus milk

Prebiotics are complex carbohydrates that feed the good bacteria, helping them grow and flourish. These include soluble fiber ingredients such as inulin and fructooligosaccharides (often abbreviated as FOS) which also help in slowing down the absorption of glucose, keeping blood sugars stable. Inulin and FOS are sometimes added to foods to replace some of the sugar, fat or flour or used in combination with artificial sweeteners to improve the aftertaste. Foods with inulin and FOS include:

  • Leeks, garlic, onions
  • Asparagus, legumes
  • Whole grain oats, barley and rye
  • Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, jicama
  • Honey, maple syrup (use sparingly)

Now you have more good reasons to eat foods that can help keep diabetes under control and promote good health. Some of these foods may not be familiar to you, but be adventurous and try them; you may end up liking the results.