What's the link between probiotics and glucose control, and what are the best probiotics for blood sugar levels? In this guide, we hone in on the beneficial effects of probiotics in controlling glucose levels, which is especially important for people who suffer from diabetes or other metabolic disorders.
Your gut contains millions of beneficial microorganisms — such as viruses, bacteria, yeast, and fungi — that aid in breaking down substances, such as fibers, into compounds that can be used by your body. These metabolic byproducts have far-reaching effects — not only on gastrointestinal health, but also on metabolic health.
Probiotics, the name for these beneficial microorganisms, can either exist naturally in the gut or can be introduced to the gut by eating fermented foods (such as yogurt and kimchi) or a supplement that contains probiotics. Eden’s is a scientifically tested and formulated synbiotic supplement that contains several probiotic species, together with a selection of prebiotics and polyphenols, that are carefully selected to improve gut health and several other health parameters (metabolic, cardiovascular, immune).
How do probiotics work?
Probiotics, working through a few mechanisms, contribute to improved gut health by:
Together, these mechanisms confer benefits to health such as relieving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lowering harmful triglyceride levels, reducing visceral fat, improving glucose metabolism, and more.
What causes glucose swings?
Glucose is a simple sugar that is the primary fuel for our body and brain. When we eat, carbohydrates we consume eventually get broken down into glucose, raising blood glucose levels. In response, specialized pancreatic cells, called β-cells, begin creating a hormone called insulin. Insulin, in turn, shuttles the glucose from our blood to our cells, where we can use it for energy. Glucose can be stored in our muscles or liver in the form of glycogen, which is made up of many glucose molecules linked together. Any excess glucose is converted to fat.
High levels of blood glucose (hyperglycemia) can be seen in individuals with diabetes — although hyperglycemia does not in and of itself mean you have diabetes. Hyperglycemia can result from a variety of factors, including:
- Behavioral choices involving food and exercise
- Certain medications and medication regimens
- Physical or emotional stress
- Hormonal changes
- Lack of sleep
In contrast, low levels of blood glucose (hypoglycemia) can result from:
- Excess insulin
- Drinking alcohol
- Not enough carbohydrate intake
- Timing of exercise and food intake
- Weather and schedule changes
Our bodies function efficiently when glucose levels are maintained within a fairly narrow range. While small fluctuations during the day are normal, if you feel the effects of high energy followed by energy crashes, this could be a sign that your glucose levels are swinging too much. Getting your glucose levels measured using tests for A1C, fasting blood sugar, glucose tolerance, or random blood glucose can offer insight into your metabolic health.
Another way of monitoring glucose is by using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). A huge advantage of using a CGM is that it can tell you your Time in Range (TIR), which is the amount of time your body spends in its target healthy zone for glucose levels. This range differs for people with and without diabetes and can be a valuable tool to provide glucose data to your healthcare provider.
Our sister company, January AI, uses a CGM to monitor your glucose to help you become more mindful of lifestyle and eating habits. Wear a CGM once to train the AI, and January will continue to provide glucose estimates and insights on an ongoing basis, and enable you to look up the effects of food on your blood sugar before you even eaten them, so you can make smarter decision. Get January here.
What are the symptoms of glucose swings?
In addition to feeling the effects of rapid energy fluctuations, if you experience any of the following, there is a chance it could be due to glucose swings:
|High blood sugar
|Low blood sugar
|Excessive hunger and/or thirst
When glucose swings become chronic
Glucose swings every once in a while — take Halloween, for example — are usually nothing to worry about. However, when glucose swings become chronic, this can be cause for concern. When glucose levels trend upwards, and often, your body suffers from the effects of increased low-grade systemic inflammation, which puts you at increased risk for prediabetes.
Prediabetes is a metabolic condition characterized by higher-than-normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be categorized as diabetes. Prediabetes can still damage your organs and it is important to reverse it as soon as possible. Sticking to a healthy diet, increasing exercise, and managing stress are all strategies to reduce the risk of prediabetes onset. If prediabetes is not successfully reversed, it may indeed develop into type 2 diabetes (T2D).
Probiotics and glucose control: How are they related?
How are probiotics and glucose control related? A mix of preclinical and clinical studies indicate that probiotics are able to positively affect glucose levels, which is especially encouraging for those at risk for or suffering from prediabetes or T2D. Probiotic strains that have demonstrated efficacy in enhancing healthy metabolic activity include:
Best probiotics for blood sugar
While the above list represents just a small subset of efficacious probiotics, there are many different species/strains/doses that researchers are studying to discern their relative ability for blood glucose control and other health parameters. Choosing the best sources of probiotics can feel overwhelming, so see our list of probiotic foods in Probiotics 101; popular choices include yogurt, kefir and even cottage cheese.
For those interested in a probiotic supplement, here’s a helpful 3-Step guide to purchasing them. Thankfully, there are new products that have been tested by teams of scientists. Eden’s synbiotic contains all four of the aforementioned probiotic strains, in a carefully measured synbiotic dose that also includes five prebiotics and four polyphenols. Learn more about why a synbiotic may benefit you more than a single-source probiotic supplement.
3-in-1 Synbiotic Superblend
Probiotics and synbiotics: One part of a glucose control strategy
While this report has detailed one lesser-known benefit — probiotics and glucose control — either in foods containing them or in probiotic supplements (or, preferably synbiotic blends that contain them), we would be remiss to imply that this constitutes the most important piece of the glucose control puzzle. Especially for those at risk for diabetes, or who already have early symptoms (prediabetes) or a definitive diagnosis of T2D, embracing a multi-pronged plan of non-pharmacological treatments for glucose control is imperative, and includes many lifestyle modifications such as frequent exercise, curtailment of smoking, only moderate alcohol consumption, better hydration, and heightened emphasis on sleep hygiene.
As significantly, a total dietary plan is advised, typically including caloric restriction overall (to reduce or maintain weight); moderation of high-glycemic, low-fiber carbohydrates; increased consumption of high-fiber whole foods; a sharp reduction in consumption of processed foods; avoidance of unhealthy saturated and trans fats, yet increased intake of healthy fats and omega-3 fatty-acid-containing fish; and an overall moderation of sodium intake.
To be realistic, many individuals with chronic hyperglycemia do indeed progress to T2D, and some may not be able to reverse their T2D through non-pharmacological interventions alone. However, even in cases where pharmacological management becomes recommended, it is nonetheless vitally important for these individuals to adhere to healthier lifestyle changes, including the best dietary regimen.
For those not yet in need of medication, bear in mind that research has shown that lifestyle/diet interventions alone can reduce the incidence of diabetes by a significant percentage: a 2002 New England Journal of Medicine study documented a 58% reduction in diabetes (vs. control group) in a high-risk population after three years of an intensive lifestyle and diet program. As this report has detailed, probiotics might represent one additive, glucose-balancing component of such an overall healthier diet and lifestyle program.
What's the link between probiotics and glucose control, and what are the best probiotics for blood sugar levels? Probiotics benefit not only gastrointestinal functioning, but also immune health, cardiovascular health, and metabolic status. Probiotics work mainly through two mechanisms: breaking down prebiotic fibers into beneficial compounds and positively altering the gut microbiome. An area of active research includes the effects of probiotics on glucose control, which is increasing as a worldwide concern. Large swings in glucose can make you feel a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and changes in heart rate. Experiencing such swings often, or (worse yet) chronically, can be a sign that you are developing a metabolic disorder, such as diabetes.
Glucose levels can be monitored using clinical tests or via January's CGM and app, which can provide valuable information regarding the time your body spends within normal glucose ranges. To keep those levels as stable and for as long as possible, adopting (and adhering to) lifestyle choices such as regular exercise and a diet that has demonstrated glucose-mitigating features can go a long way to keeping you metabolically healthy or helping you to better manage a metabolic disorder, if you have one. Introducing a probiotic supplement into your daily regimen may represent one easy part of that overall strategy. Talk to your medical provider before beginning any supplement regimen.