As a metabolic disorder, diabetes onset can be triggered by many different factors. The disease’s main characteristic is exceedingly high levels of blood sugar brought about by an insulin deficiency in the affected person. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreatic beta cells and has vital functions in regulating blood sugar levels, as well as playing an important role in the body’s metabolism process. Those who suffer from diabetes have a partial or total lack of insulin, which translates into the body’s failure to regulate blood sugar levels, and bringing about several signs and symptoms.
If left unchecked, the disease can prove to be fatal or, in some scenarios, cause serious consequences such as amputations. Depending on the type of diabetes, the disease is caused by different factors. Recently, researchers have discovered that the regular use of mouthwash, a seemingly harmless element that, if performed regularly, could lead to 50% increased chances of developing diabetes.
But, how does mouthwash use correlate with diabetes?
As a disease caused by excessive consumption of sugars for extended periods of time, the improper processing of food in our digestive tract could likely increase the chance of suffering the disease. That being said, researchers have discovered that mouthwash, a seemingly benign substance, could lead to increased chances of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who don’t use the product.
As many may already know, mouthwash is a substance used to complement our oral hygiene by adding an extra layer of cleanliness to the process of brushing our teeth. The way it performs this function is by targeting any and all bacteria in the mouth and eliminating them, nipping gingivitis in the bud and keeping our breath minty fresh for extended periods of time.
However, mouthwash is a cleaning agent that doesn’t discriminate on the types of bacteria it eliminates. And, as it turns out, there are some beneficial bacteria worth keeping around in our mouths, as they are vital agents in the digestive process, but are also eliminated by the product.
According to a study performed by Kaumudi Joshipura, ScD, and published in the journal Nitric Oxide, these oral microbes play an important role in gut health by metabolizing nitrate from food in our mouths as we chew it into nitrite, which is then transformed into nitric oxide in the gastrointestinal tract. Furthermore, nitric oxide is a very important element in our digestion, acting as a signaling molecule that plays a huge role in regulating metabolism, energy levels, and insulin production. As was mentioned above, insulin is important in regulating blood sugar, so when the supply of this vital hormone fails, type 2 diabetes may ensue.
Without the beneficial bacteria in our mouths, nitrate cannot be converted into nitrite, and the latter cannot be transformed into nitric oxide in the gastrointestinal tract. Without this substance, our body might not know how to regulate insulin levels, potentially causing a spike in blood sugar levels, and forcing the patient into a prediabetic state without any actual damage to the pancreas. Furthermore, there are also other types of beneficial oral bacteria, which help to protect us against other metabolic diseases such as obesity, that gets wiped out by mouthwash and can be potentially replaced by harmful microorganisms.
Another study published in the Journal of Periodontal Health discovered that after a mere 7 days of using mouthwash, the person’s nitrate production could drop by a whopping 90% and also reduce the person’s blood nitrite levels by almost 25%.
In the study performed by Joshipura, the researchers pointed out that those who are at higher risk of suffering from diabetes are the ones that use mouthwash at least twice a day. They concluded by suggesting that, unless the physician explicitly instructed to rinse twice a day, it is recommended to only use mouthwash once a day, or really not at all.
Diabetes is divided into two different types which, although very similar in their symptoms and consequences, are developed in two very different ways. The first one, type 1 diabetes, is also called juvenile diabetes, as it is present very early in the person’s life, often manifesting before preteen years. Type 1 is caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors and is considered an autoimmune disease, as the insulin-producing beta cells are targeted by the body’s immune system, destroying them and completely halting the production of this vital hormone. Those who suffer from type 1 diabetes often need to compensate for the lack of the hormone with insulin injections, and must also adhere to a therapeutic lifestyle, keeping sugar consumption as low as possible, while also keeping active by exercising regularly.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is developed mainly by indulging in unhealthy lifestyle habits for prolonged periods of time. A person who constantly consumes sugary treats and partakes a sedentary lifestyle is more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, as the increased pancreatic workload (in the form of increased insulin production) necessary in order to keep blood sugar levels in check will wear down the pancreatic beta cells at an accelerated pace, introducing the person into a prediabetic state and eventually developing diabetes if left unchecked.
Those who suffer from type 2 diabetes have essentially worn their pancreas down to a point where it can’t produce enough insulin to support their lifestyle, resulting in a spike in blood sugar levels, alongside permanent pancreatic damage. Due to its progressive nature, type 2 diabetes does not create an immediate halt to insulin production. Instead, the pancreas will still produce the vital hormone, but at a decreased rate. Furthermore, due to an excessive production of insulin during extended periods of time, the body will also develop a resistance to it, diminishing the effect of what little insulin the pancreas may still produce. For these reasons, the person is not entirely dependent on insulin injections and can effectively combat the progression of the disease with oral medication, as well as by proactively assuming a healthier lifestyle, following a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.