Gluten and diabetes are connected in two ways. Individuals with type one diabetes are at a higher chance of having Celiac disease, a condition that makes a person gluten-intolerant. For individuals with type two diabetes, restricting the consumption of foods containing gluten has shown positive results in improving overall health. Reducing or eliminating gluten from one's diet should only be a part of a broader diabetes treatment plan that one creates with the assistance of a physician.
Since the beginning of agriculture, gluten has been part of the human diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and wheat-based products. In bread, it is the part of wheat that allows the dough to rise and keep its shape during fermentation. Though its role has been important in human history, the wheat-based products where it resides have added to the obesity epidemic. Products such as bread cause blood glucose levels to spike. Constant spikes in blood glucose can lead to type two diabetes, a condition where the body is resistant to the effects of insulin produced by the pancreas.
Type one diabetes, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder, and has nothing to do with eating carbohydrates or sugar. The body attacks itself and destroys the insulin-producing cells within the pancreas. The connection between gluten and diabetes in this case is that roughly 10% of type one diabetics have Celiac disease, another autoimmune disorder that makes them gluten-intolerant. With Celiac disease, one experiences severe gastrointestinal sickness after eating anything containing gluten. As of 2011, the medical community is still researching the relationship between these two disorders in the hopes of finding cures for both.
Besides taking medication, one of the main treatments for type two diabetes is reducing one's intake of sugar and carbohydrates. Avoiding foods high in gluten can accomplish this goal, as gluten exists in foods with high levels of carbohydrates. The same benefit exists for type one diabetics, even if they do not have Celiac disease. Maintaining proper blood sugar through insulin injections and diet guarantees a higher quality of life. It is important to remember that for most diabetics, gluten and diabetes are not mutually exclusive; keeping a small amount of gluten in one's diet will make it easier to adjust to dietary changes needed to treat diabetes.
If one has diabetes, it is important to discuss the link between gluten and diabetes with one's physician. A physician can help a patient build a treatment plan where restricting gluten intake is only one of many steps toward a healthier lifestyle. Though gluten and diabetes can be a detrimental combination, it is easily avoided through the help of a professional.