While most people know that sugary sweets and desserts can cause diabetes, it is not the only risk factor. Here are the top ways to avoid diabetes.
Diabetes is on the rise. In 1980, it was estimated that 108 million people were affected by diabetes. Today, this number is closer to 422 million. (1)
It is important to understand the causes of diabetes if you have problems with your blood sugar or want to be more informed about what might be causing it. You might be surprised at some of the reasons diabetes occurs.
What is Diabetes?
Essentially, diabetes is a disease where your body can no longer regulate your blood sugar levels effectively.
Our bodies function normally when our pancreas releases insulin in response to carbohydrates being consumed. Insulin helps keep our blood sugar stable by shuttling glucose into our cells to be used for energy and storing the excess as fat. This effectively eliminates glucose from the bloodstream before it causes damage.
This system can go awry in the case of diabetes. Insulin resistance causes cells to resist insulin and insulin to stop transferring glucose into the cells. Your blood sugar levels will rise constantly.
There are two types:
Type 1 Diabetes: It is mostly genetic.
Type 2 diabetes: Poor diet and lifestyle choices can lead to obesity.
Nine Diabetes Triggers
Diabetes can be caused by many lifestyle and environmental factors.
These are nine diabetes triggers you should avoid to lower your chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
1. Too much sugar
Sugar is the most frequent trigger for diabetes, and it’s also the most well-known. One study shows that drinking just one sugar-sweetened beverage per day increases your diabetes risk by 13%! Unsurprisingly, countries where sugar consumption is highest also have the highest rates of type 2 diabetes, while those with the lowest consumption have the lowest rates. (5)
What exactly is “sugar?” We tend to think of sugary sweets and candies, but in reality, any food containing glucose or carbs is dangerous. Simple carbohydrates are just as easily broken down as other sugar molecules and can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Your pancreas can become overworked if your blood sugar levels are constantly raised. Insulin resistance develops when cells become less responsive and resistant to constant sugar spikes.
Steer clear of processed carbohydrates like bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, and soda. These foods are stripped of their natural fibers, which are essential for our blood sugar levels.
Natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup do not seem to cause diabetes. Because they are rich in nutrients and enzymes that lower blood sugar spikes, this is possible.
2. Not Exercising
Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
Researchers believe this is because exercising has beneficial effects on your glucose metabolism. Your cells are more efficient at burning glucose and prevent insulin resistance through movement.
Regular exercise can help control blood sugar. It uses excess glucose in the blood to produce energy and not store it as fat. This is an additional benefit, as obesity and excess fat are risk factors for developing diabetes. (6)
Being overweight increases your risk of developing diabetes.
We already know that glucose is stored in body fat and isn’t used as energy. Obesity is a sign that this is often happening, meaning that your pancreas may already be working overtime to produce enough insulin to manage your excess sugar consumption.
Inflammation is another factor that can lead to diabetes. (7)
Interestingly, chronic stress can also be a potential diabetes trigger. Your body releases a flood of hormones when you are stressed. This triggers your fight-or-flight response. This causes your blood sugar to rise, allowing your body to fight off danger.
Insulin resistance can develop when insulin levels are consistently high. This can also cause overwork to your pancreas. Stress can lead to diabetes, no matter what the cause. (8)
5. Certain medications
Prescription medications can cause diabetes by impairing your pancreatic cells’ ability to produce insulin effectively.
This is just a list of possible medications that could have this effect. It is not complete. Talk to your doctor if you aren’t sure if certain medications could increase your diabetes risk. (9)
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Psychiatric drugs
- HIV drugs
- Pentamidine is a drug used to treat pneumonia
- Glucocorticoids are used to treat inflammatory conditions
- Anti-rejection medications for transplant patients
Chemicals can also cause diabetes you come in contact with every day. For instance, studies show Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical found in plastic containers and can linings, is a risk factor. It acts on insulin and pancreatic cells to create an insulin-resistant state. (10)
Pesticides can increase the risk of developing diabetes. Make sure you scrub your vegetables well and buy organic. (11)
Chemicals like mercury, cadmium, and phthalates can increase your chance of developing type 2 Diabetes. (12, 13, 14, 14)
To avoid unnecessary chemicals, swap out plastic containers with glass, switch to natural shampoos, cosmetics, and household cleaners (or even make your own! You can.
7. Thyroid Diseases
It’s true – thyroid disorders and diabetes often go hand in hand. They both influence and are influenced greatly by hormones that regulate blood glucose control. Some thyroid hormones can even directly influence sugar metabolism and pancreatic function.
Research shows that thyroid disorders are more common in people with diabetes than those without it. (15)
Research has shown that enteroviruses are a subset of viruses that can trigger type 1 diabetes. (16)
Enteroviruses can include mumps, rotavirus, and cytomegalovirus. If you suspect you have been exposed to these viruses and have type 1 diabetes, talk to your doctor.
Genetics plays a major role in type 1 diabetes. However, it could also increase your chance of developing type 2.
Even if you are genetically predisposed to develop diabetes, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will. Lifestyle factors can make a big difference. If you exercise regularly, avoid sugary foods, reduce stress levels, and keep your blood sugar under control, you may be able to avoid the dreaded diagnosis. (17)
The bottom line
Many triggers can cause diabetes. While you can’t fight your own genetics, the best thing you can do is eat a sugar-free diet, avoid chemicals and pesticides, get plenty of exercises, and find effective ways to manage your stress.
You might be worried about your thyroid now that you are aware of the causes of diabetes. Keep your diet in tip-top shape with our 100 Thyroid Friendly Recipes cookbook, developed by clinical nutritionist Kinsey Jackson. Get the nutrients that you need to support your healthy thyroid today!