Most people know that having too many desserts and sweets can cause “sugar,” but that’s not the only risk factor. This is the cause of diabetes and the best way to avoid its worst triggers.
Diabetes is on the rise. An estimated 108 million people had diabetes in 1980; now that number is closer to 422 million.
If you have blood sugar problems or are just wondering what could be causing so many cases of type 2 diabetes, knowing your triggers helps. Some of the Reasons that Causes Diabetes May Surprise You!
What Exactly Is Diabetes?
In essence, diabetes is a disease in which your body can no longer regulate its blood sugar effectively.
When our body is functioning normally, our pancreas releases the hormone insulin in response to consuming carbohydrates. Insulin helps keep blood sugar stable by transporting glucose into our cells for energy and storing excess fat. This process effectively removes glucose from our bloodstream before it can cause damage.
However, this system fails in diabetes. Your cells become resistant to the effects of insulin and essentially refuse to allow insulin to carry glucose, so your blood sugar is consistently high.
“There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is primarily genetic, while Type 2 diabetes is due to poor diet and lifestyle.”
Nine Diabetes Triggers
If you’re curious about what causes diabetes, the truth is that there are many environmental and lifestyle factors that you probably aren’t expecting.
Here are nine common diabetes triggers to avoid so that you can minimize your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
1. Too Much Sugar
Sugar is the most common and well-known cause of diabetes. One study shows that drinking just one sugary drink a day increases the risk of diabetes by 13%. Unsurprisingly, the countries with the highest sugar consumption also have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes, while the countries with the lowest consumption have the lowest rates.
But what exactly is “sugar”? Most of us think of candy and other sweets, but the reality is that anything that contains glucose or carbohydrates is dangerous. Simple carbohydrates are broken down in our body in the same way as other sugar molecules, which leads to rapid blood sugar spikes.
If your blood sugar levels keep rising, it can overload your pancreas. Over time, the cells become less sensitive to constant sugar spikes and insulin resistance develops.
Avoid processed carbohydrates like bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, and soda. These foods have been stripped of their natural fibers, which we need in our diet to alleviate our blood sugar spikes.
Fortunately, natural sugars like honey and maple syrup don’t seem to cause diabetes. This is because they contain enzymes, nutrients, and fiber that help lower blood sugar spikes.
2. Not Exercising
Studies show that physically active people have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Researchers believe this is because exercise has positive effects on glucose metabolism. Exercise helps prevent insulin resistance by making your cells more efficient at burning glucose.
Regular exercise can also help regulate blood sugar by using excess glucose in the blood for energy instead of storing it as fat. This is a clear benefit on its own, as excess fat and obesity are also a risk factor for developing diabetes.
If you are overweight, you automatically have a higher risk of developing diabetes.
As we learned earlier, glucose that isn’t used for energy is stored as body fat. Obesity is a sign that it is common. This means your pancreas may already be working overtime producing enough insulin to control your excessive sugar intake.
Obesity also causes widespread inflammation, which is also linked to the development of diabetes.
Interestingly, chronic stress can also be a potential trigger for diabetes. When you are stressed, your body sends a barrage of hormones to start your fight or flight response. This process automatically increases your blood sugar levels so your body has the energy it needs to fight the danger.
Consistently high insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance. It can also overload the pancreas. Either way, spending too much time feeling stressed can lead to diabetes.
5. Certain Medications
Some prescription drugs can trigger diabetes by impairing the ability of pancreatic cells to make insulin efficiently.
Here is a brief list of some types of medications that may have this effect, but are not exhaustive. Ask your doctor if any of the medications you are taking may increase your risk of diabetes without knowing it.
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Psychiatric drugs
- HIV drugs
- Pentamidine, a drug that treats pneumonia
- Glucocorticoids used to treat inflammatory diseases
- Anti-rejection medicines for transplant patients
The chemicals you come into contact with on a daily basis can also trigger diabetes. For example, studies show that bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical found in plastic packaging and can liners, is a risk factor. This is because it acts directly on pancreatic cells and insulin to create a state of insulin resistance.
Some pesticides have been linked to a higher incidence of diabetes. So scrub the vegetables thoroughly or buy them organic.
Finally, chemicals like phthalates, cadmium, and mercury can also increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
To avoid unnecessary chemicals, switch from plastic containers to glass and to natural shampoos, cosmetics, and household cleaners (or even make your own!).
7. Thyroid Diseases
It’s true: thyroid disease and diabetes often go hand in hand. This is because they affect and are influenced by hormones that regulate blood sugar control. Some thyroid hormones even contribute directly to the pancreatic function and sugar metabolism.
Studies show that people with diabetes also have a higher prevalence of thyroid disease, and the opposite is also true.
While it may sound strange, some research shows that a class of viruses called enteroviruses can actually cause the rarer type 1 diabetes.
Enteroviruses include rotavirus, mumps, and cytomegalovirus. If you have type 1 diabetes in your family and think you may have been exposed to these viruses, keep this in mind and speak to your doctor.
We know genetics play a role in type 1 diabetes, but they can also increase your risk of type 2.
Even if you are genetically predisposed to have diabetes, it doesn’t mean you will have diabetes. Lifestyle factors make a world of difference, and if you are careful not to overeat, keep your stress levels down, and exercise frequently, there is a good chance you can. Avoid this catastrophic diagnosis.