With the vast amount of current research on the gut microbiome and its role in health and disease, more and more chronic illnesses are being linked to disruptions in this vital ecosystem.
Studies have shown a link between imbalances in gut microbes and such illnesses as depression, anxiety, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Now, a team of Canadian researchers have found not only a connection between gut microbe composition and Type 1 diabetes, but they also discovered that long-term use and overuse of antibiotics can actually speed up this disease by altering the microbial makeup of the gut.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition often appearing in childhood in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin, which is needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter the cells to produce energy.
University of British Columbia assistant professor and senior author of the study, Deanna Gibson, reported, “The incidence of Type 1 diabetes has doubled in the last few years in Western countries, and this is most obvious in children aged 1 to 5. This suggests that early life events are critical to health. Our research pinpoints the significant role of bacteria and how antibiotic use can alter their normal development in the gut which then can alter the health of these individuals.”
In the study, Gibson and her team compared the gut microbes of healthy mice versus non-obese diabetic mice and learned that the diabetic mice had more harmful and less beneficial bacteria than the healthy group.
Her team then transplanted fecal matter from the diabetic mice to the healthy mice and discovered that this procedure caused an immune response in the healthy mice, leading to the destruction of insulin-producing cells.
Gibson and her team also learned that with the prolonged administration of antibiotics, the onset of diabetes in the mice actually sped up.
They concluded that certain harmful microbes are associated with diabetes and that the early childhood administration of antibiotics can create gut imbalances in favour of these troublesome microbes, thereby increasing one’s risk of getting this disease.
These findings again stress how important it is to use antibiotics only when absolutely necessary – especially when it comes to our children and the future of their health.
Studies such as these should serve as a reminder of the powerful impact that our gut microbiome has on our overall health and how vital it is to support its balance and diversity.