Probiotics Play Key Role in Dietary Management of Type 2 Diabetes


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Key Takeaways

  • Research on the gut microbiome and the role it plays in disease pathology is evolving. Current studies show the beneficial effects of probiotics in dietary management of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Scientists are learning that specific strains of probiotics found in supplemental form may further enhance dietary management of the disease.
  • There is no one size fits all approached to any disease management. Precision nutrition with a tailored approach for each individual is key to finding what works best for your health.

Probiotics have become a hot topic in recent years thanks in large part to the important role we know the gut plays in the health of our immune systems.

Due to its close association with diet, Type 2 Diabetes has become a key point of focus as doctors attempt to learn more about the intersection of the microbiome and disease pathology.

Currently, researchers are investigating the impact probiotics have in providing a potential option to ameliorate blood sugar control in Type 2 Diabetics and thus far the results are promising. But before we dive into this, we need to revisit first how the microbiome plays such an important role in Type 2 Diabetes disease management.

The Microbiome and Type 2 Diabetes Management

Microorganisms that live on and within the body help make up the microbiome. Given that 70% of the immune system is housed within the gut, it's not a surprise that the microbiome and its role in disease pathology continues to be widely discussed.

Noel Mueller, PhD an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the John Hopkins School of Public Health, has extensively studied the microbiome for years and shared, "Through research, we've learned that the microorganisms play a crucial role in our health. Not only can they positively maintain our health but they can also contribute to disease if the ratio of good to bad microorganisms becomes out of balance", says Dr. Mueller.

Noel Mueller, PhD

Research has shown that the microbiome can be modified throughout life to directly introduce microbial communities ... resulting in better blood sugar control.

— Noel Mueller, PhD

While the microbiome is shaped drastically during the first three years of life, it typically stabilizes around age three and requires dietary and lifestyle interventions to be modified throughout life. With this in mind, Dr. Mueller emphasized the importance of precision nutrition to help enhance the way the microbiome aids in disease management for different individuals, as in the case of Type 2 Diabetes.

"How person A responds to a dietary intervention for Type 2 Diabetes management will be different than person B because their microbiomes are unique," says Dr. Mueller. However, research has shown that the microbiome can be modified throughout life to directly introduce microbial communities via pre and probiotics that can benefit Type 2 Diabetes management resulting in better blood sugar control.

The Role of Probiotics

Research from a comprehensive systematic review demonstrates that probiotics can influence the microbiome positively through improved glucose homeostasis and lowered fasting glucose in relationship to the management of Type 2 Diabetes.

Dr. Mueller, one of the scientists involved in the review, shared how promising the results were for inclusion of probiotics in diabetes management but did note the need for more research regarding improvements in the formulations of probiotics.

While treatment of Type 2 Diabetes via probiotics is relatively new according to diabetes expert Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS RDN CDCES, it's not surprising management of Type 2 Diabetes is coming full circle to encompass the microbiome. "The utilization of probiotics is relatively new for Type 2 Diabetes management, but perhaps not surprising given that diabetes management has evolved over the past few decades."

Dobbins continues, "It now includes a variety of medications that target different organs and tissues beyond the pancreas including the liver, kidneys, muscle and adipose tissue, brain, stomach, and intestines (gut hormones) and now the gut microbiome."

Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN

The utilization of probiotics is relatively new for Type 2 Diabetes management, but perhaps not surprising given that diabetes management has evolved over the past few decades.

— Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN

Evidence indicates that those with Type 2 Diabetes lack the proper balance of bacteria in their gut needed to promote glucose and insulin homeostasis. Recent research shows that there is the potential to correct this by introducing specific probiotic strains that can alter the gut microbiota to facilitate butyrate production (a short-chain fatty acid that offers fuel for the gut) and gut barrier stability.

While the specific strains of probiotics that will help each individual struggling to better control their Type 2 Diabetes need further investigation, there is promise according to both Dr. Mueller and Dobbins with the species Akkermansia muciniphila. This bacteria is one such strain that may actually lower postprandial (after meal) glucose control in subjects who took this in a specifically formulated probiotic supplement which also contained the strains Clostridium beijerinckii, Clostridium butyricum, Bifidobacterium infantis and Anaerobutyricum hallii.

But, taking a pill is not the only way participants in this study saw their blood sugar improve. It was done so in conjunction with diabetes medications and proper diet and lifestyle management tools. Dr. Mueller recommends patients with Type 2 Diabetes take control of their condition with the help of their treatment team through incorporating pre and probiotic foods into their daily diets, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement that contains the Akkermansia muciniphila species, moving more, and getting high-quality sleep.

What This Means For You

If you struggle with the management of your diabetes, you may want to talk to your doctor about potentially incorporating a specifically designed probiotic into your treatment plan.

Remember to continue to take your prescribed medications, and focus on the proactive dietary and lifestyle changes you can make.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Perraudeau F, McMurdie P, Bullard J, et al. Improvements to postprandial glucose control in subjects with type 2 diabetes: a multicenter, double blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial of a novel probiotic formulation. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care. 2020;8(1):e001319.

  2. Rittiphairoj T, Pongpirul K, Janchot K, Mueller NT, Li T. Probiotics contribute to glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Adv Nutr. 2021;12(3):722-734

By Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CPT
Liz is a national nutrition expert, adjunct professor, personal trainer, and author who owns Shaw Simple Swaps, a nutrition communications business.