Studies have shown that gluten-free diets not only improve celiac disease but also lower the risk of type 1 diabetes. The first study looked at the impact of a gluten-free diet on mice mothers and found that the pups could have a lower risk of type 1 diabetes. Assistant professor Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen said, “Preliminary tests show that a gluten-free diet in humans has a positive effect on children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. We therefore hope that a gluten-free diet during pregnancy and lactation may be enough to protect high-risk children from developing diabetes later in life.”
Although mice studies don’t necessarily translate into human results, researchers are optimistic that their findings could offer some insight on benefits to humans. Co-writer Axel Kornerup said, “Early intervention makes a lot of sense because type 1 diabetes develops early in life. We also know from existing experiments that a gluten-free diet has a beneficial effect on type 1 diabetes.”
Another co-writer Karsten Buschard added, “This new study beautifully substantiates our research into a gluten-free diet as an effective weapon against type 1 diabetes.”
The study found that a gluten-free diet changes intestinal bacteria in the mother mouse and her pups. The only side effect observed is the possible difficulty to commit to gluten-free eating. Buschard added, “We have not been able to start a large-scale clinical test to either prove or disprove our hypothesis about the gluten-free diet.”
Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen concluded, “If we find out how gluten or certain intestinal bacteria modify the immune system and the beta-cell physiology, this knowledge can be used to develop new treatments.”
Celiac disease and its association with type 1 diabetes
Unlike type 2 diabetes, which is caused primarily by lifestyle habits later on in life, type 1 diabetes is usually inborn. It is a form of diabetes in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin.
Celiac disease is an intestinal disorder where flare-ups occur due to consuming gluten. This can lead to abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Both type 1 diabetes and celiac disease are autoimmune conditions sharing similar genetic profiles. Roughly three to eight percent of type 1 diabetics will have biopsy-confirmed celiac disease, so people with this condition would benefit from regular celiac disease screening. Celiac disease in type 1 diabetes is often asymptomatic and isn’t found until screening is conducted. If celiac disease is left untreated, it may result in irregular glucose levels. Furthermore, unexplained hypoglycemia may be a result of malabsorption associated with celiac disease.
As you can see, there are some evident connections between type 1 diabetes and celiac disease. Therefore, if you have type 1 diabetes, you should probably get screened for underlying celiac disease, especially if you have recurring low blood sugar.
Tips to manage celiac disease and type 1 diabetes (besides gluten-free diet)
The number one thing a person with celiac disease can do to help control their condition is to follow a gluten-free diet. Besides, tips to help manage celiac disease and type 1 diabetes include:
- Always eat three meals a day to control appetite and blood sugar levels.
- Include gluten-free starches and carbohydrates in each meal to help control glucose levels.
- Reduce your intake of fat, especially saturated fat.
- Consume more fish.
- Limit sugar and sugary foods.
- Reduce salt.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Eat more pulses – beans, lentils, peas, etc. – they are naturally gluten free.
- Drink alcohol in moderation.
- Avoid diabetic-specific foods or drinks – these are often expensive, high in fat and calories, and can work as a laxative.
By following these tips, you can have greater success managing your diabetes and celiac disease.