Diabetes. A world of possibilities coverThis is chapter 12 of my book “DIABETES. A world of possibilities”, which I’m publishing here for free. You can access all chapters of the book published until now here.

“All disease begins in the gut.” Hippocrates

You have probably already heard that our gut is our second brain. If the brain is our main control center, having a second brain indicates the importance of the gut to our health.

The gut is the first line of defense of our immune system, since the digestive system represents almost the only access point to the human body and, therefore, the main road for viruses and germs looking to enter the body and blood. To combat this, our digestive system begins, when we are born, with a wall of defenses, such as enzymes and good bacteria, to fight the bad bacteria via a defense wall that should only be permeable to molecules having gone through a transformation and processing. This way, the body ensures that those molecules are adequate and small enough not to cause problems.

Interesting fact: the intestinal mucus is the largest area of the body, and gut-associated lymphoid tissue represents the largest immune organ. Accordingly, the intestines play a crucial role in the interaction between the host and the environment.

A very common problem—and many experts say one of the main causes of most allergies, immune system problems, and other health problems—is leaky gut syndrome. This syndrome occurs when the gut lining is damaged and becomes permeable so that larger molecules, such as amino acids, which are not yet sufficiently processed, can enter the bloodstream, causing irritation. When this happens, the body attacks these molecules in the blood in an attempt to destroy them. This process can often lead to allergies to these food proteins in particular, because the body is being irritated by the large particles that reach the bloodstream.

A common cause for the leaking of the intestinesʼ defense barrier may be yeasts and fungi that can grow in the intestinal mucus, pressing with its “finger” through the bowel wall until it’s drilled.

Leaky gut syndrome, although it may develop easily, is also relatively easy to cure by eliminating the foods that cause the problem and reintroducing healthy bacteria, allowing the gut to heal.

Studies have found a link between the consumption of wheat (gluten), bowel irritation, and type 1 diabetes in 50% of the cases studied. The decrease in the gut microbial diversity, increased intestinal permeability, local inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, and abnormal immune responses of mucous membranes may contribute to the onset of autoimmune attacks on the insulin-producing beta cells, which progresses until it causes type 1 diabetes. (59)

These observations, taken from the above study, support the idea that the gut and some foods play a central role in the process of diabetes. If up to 50 per cent of cases with type 1 diabetes appear to be associated with gut problems and gluten, why aren’t we tested, when we are diagnosed with this disease, to check if that’s what’s causing diabetes in our case? The difference can be abysmal: spend your whole life injecting insulin or simply avoiding foods with gluten and regenerate the intestinal flora. According to the study, half of the people with type 1 diabetes might now live without insulin by making some dietary changes.

This is just one example of how food that negatively impacts the digestive system can subsequently lead to autoimmune diseases. Maybe that’s why a diet like the Paleo diet, which excludes foods that lead to the destruction of the digestive system, such as gluten and sugar, has been so successful in healing autoimmune diseases. By eliminating problematic foods, the body has time to heal internal damage and it then appears to stop attacking itself.
Another similar problem is known as celiac disease, which popular researcher Alessio Fasano also assigned to the combination of a genetic susceptibility, environmental triggers (poor diet, toxic chemicals, drugs), and abnormality or permeability in the gut.

Other problems that can be caused by leaky gut syndrome include intestinal diseases, arthritis, rashes, eczema, psoriasis, food allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis, pancreatitis, multiple sclerosis, etc.

Researchers have identified a protein called zonulin, which increases intestinal permeability in humans and other animals. And it is not just coincidence that many of the above mentioned diseases are characterized by an abnormally high presence of zonulin and leaky gut.

They also found that gluten causes excess production of zonulin in certain people with a genetic susceptibility. This could explain why gluten is a direct factor contributing to leaky gut in certain populations.

Recent studies have also revealed that the intestinal flora plays a significant role in determining the permeability of the intestines, and that people with diabetes and healthy people have a significantly different gut flora, suggesting that unregulated gut flora plays an important role in diabetes.

Concerning type 2 diabetes, Chris Kresser, licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicine, says that while genetics plays a role in type 2 diabetes and obesity, recent evidence shows that genetics alone does not cause diabetes unless environmental triggers and a leaky gut are present.

Although we cannot control our genes or some environmental triggers, we can fix the leaky gut problem by eliminating foods that are harmful to our intestinal flora and introducing flora probiotics to repair it.

Other naturopathic doctors and practitioners of alternative treatments also recommend cooling the stomach using cold clay poultices to recover bowel function.

Dr. Fasano’s positive message is that once the autoimmune process is activated, it is not necessarily self-perpetuating, but can be modulated or even reversed by preventing the continuous interplay between genes and environment. The new therapeutic strategies aimed at restoring intestinal barrier function offer innovative approaches to the treatment of these devastating diseases. (60)

In other words, it is possible that type 2 diabetes will not be activated without a leaky gut, and that by healing the gut, the autoimmune process leading to this type of diabetes can be slowed or even avoided.

Personally, the last two specialists that I have consulted (none of them my endocrinologist) have pointed me in this direction: the first thing I have to do is heal my gut and, therefore, my digestive system. That is the thing I have started to “attack” lately. We’ll see where it takes me.

(59) Knip, M. (2009) Diet, gut and type 1 diabetes: role of wheat-derived peptides, in Diabetes 58(8), pp. 1723-1724

(60) http://chriskresser.com/are-you-at-risk-for-diabetes-and-obesity

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