Probiotics are friendly bacteria that are found in foods such as yogurt and in pill supplements and are important for good health. In recent research, probiotics have proven to be important to type 1 and type 2 diabetics. The hope is that using probiotics to alter the type of bacteria in the gut may prevent Type 1 diabetes, and that probiotics may one day be a part of the treatment strategy for Type 2 diabetics.
Probiotics are live, active bacteria that are also referred to as cultures. In your digestive tract there is a layer of healthy bacteria. Gut or intestinal flora are healthy bacteria that contribute to colon health and the health of your whole body, says AskDrSears.com. Two of the most common strains include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotics promote healthy digestion by making your digestive tract a more acidic environment, thus discouraging harmful bacteria that cause stomach upset.
Type 1 Diabetes
Probiotics have important applications for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Researchers at the University of Florida reported in May 2011 that probiotics can prevent or delay the onset of Type 1 diabetes. Your gut is your body's largest immune system, and taking probiotics is a way of fighting off illness and autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes
The gut flora in Type 2 diabetics may be different from people without diabetes. So say the authors of a report published in Feb. 2010 by "PLoS One," who suggest there is a link between metabolic diseases and the composition of bacterial populations in the intestines. In addition, the report notes that the balance of some bacteria is highly dependent on blood sugar levels. They suggest that gut bacteria should be factored into strategies to control diabetes.
Probiotics may help prevent and treat yeast infections, which is a common problem in diabetes caused by high blood sugar. According to "American Family Physician," probiotics can help reverse some of the side effects of antibiotics, which include destroying healthy bacteria. The most common way to get probiotics is to eat them. Dairy products, especially yogurt, are the most common sources of added probiotics. Check the label for active live cultures. Miso, tempeh and some soy beverages also provide probiotics.
If you're a diabetic and considering probiotics, it's important to avoid supplements that claim disease-curing powers. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine cautions that probiotics haven't been thoroughly studied for certain populations, such as children, the elderly and people with immune system disorders. Talk with your doctor about the safety, benefits and potential problems associated with taking probiotics.