The Future Of Diabetes Treatment: Improving Gut-Brain Communication


French researchers believe they are a step closer to developing an oral diabetes medication that’s both effective and free of side effects. And the key to developing such a drug lies in improving communication of the gut-brain axis (GBA), the researchers theorized in a recent study published in the journal, Gut

Your body has not one but two brains. Your gastrointestinal tract, which stretches from the mouth to the rectum, is also colloquially referred to as the gut, and it’s home to your enteric nervous system, which basically functions as a second brain. In a healthy individual, there’s constant, bi-directional communication taking place between the brain and gut. This crosstalk in the GBA is responsible for virtually every important function in the body, from controlling emotions, cognitive performance, immunity, and in the case of diabetes, insulin production. 

But in those with type 2 diabetes, communication between the gut and brain is compromised. Fat molecules produced by friendly gut bacteria help to break down glucose in the blood. People with type 2 diabetes, the researchers have established, lack a specific lipid (fat) molecule called 12-HETE. After this discovery in mice, the researchers wanted to see if the results were duplicated in human participants. They were. In fact, biopsies of duodenums (that’s the first part of the small intestine) in those with type 2 diabetes had nearly 40% less 12-HETE. 

As explains, here’s why this fact is important: The duodenum, the first part of the small intestine, signals to the brain, which involves a relaxation of the smooth muscles in its lining. However, people with type 2 diabetes have permanently contracted smooth muscles in the duodenum; the signal from the gut to help break down blood sugar is never received by the brain. 

Previously, it was known that indigestible fiber from food, or “prebiotic” fiber feeds friendly gut bacteria. Prebiotic fiber from fruits and vegetables may be more effective for getting good bacteria to colonize the gut than probiotic supplements. That’s because many probiotic supplements are of poor quality; the friendly bacteria don’t colonize in the gut because of the harsh acidic environment of the stomach. 

But the new research is the first to discover the specific lipid molecules (12-HETE) responsible for the growth of friendly bacteria, which in turn improves blood glucose metabolism. 

The researchers hope that this new finding involving gut-brain axis communication will help develop a new type 2 diabetes treatment. 

Another takeaway from the research is that if you have type 2 diabetes, you should eat foods that are very rich in a specific type of prebiotic fiber called “FOS”. The foods with the highest FOS are: Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, onion and garlic, asparagus, leeks and yacon root (which you can buy as a syrup; it’s a very low-glycemic, natural alternative to sugar). 


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