What is the cause of diabetes and are you at risk are questions that are becoming more important as the number of people with this illness rises each year. To understand what diabetes is and why it can happen, you will need to understand a few simple points about how the body processes food. Firstly, just as an engine requires fuel to run, all living creatures need fuel too to live, function and grow. For humans the food we eat, which is broken down by our digestive systems, is also converted into a simple sugar called glucose and then absorbed by the intestines.
The glucose is our fuel supply fed to cells all over the body. To function properly our bodies attempt to keep a constant regulated source of this fuel and a reserve stored in muscles as well as the liver in another form of glucose called glycogen. Mother Nature has cleverly devised this plan because if you think about it, after we have just eaten and digested a meal there will be plenty of glucose washing around our system. However, during the night as we rest we are not taking fuel on board and without a reserve, our supply is soon going to run dry.
To control the flow of glucose and to transport it around the body we have the pancreas at our disposal. It is located just below the ribs and situated behind the liver and stomach. This small, flat organ has two functions to perform. One is to produce numerous enzymes for breaking down carbohydrates, proteins and fats from our food plus a stomach acid neutralizer; the second function of the pancreas is to make the hormone insulin, which transports glucose around the body and aids cells to absorb it.
In a healthy body this all goes according to plan and we function just fine. After food has been consumed, various chemical signals alert the digestive system to swing into action to digest food and convert it, use it, store it, then get rid of the unwanted waste. Amid all this activity, the pancreas is producing as much insulin as is needed to maintain a suitable supply of glucose known as blood sugar levels.
A person becomes diabetic when this system breaks down and the pancreas fails to produce adequate levels of insulin. In some cases the pancreas fails altogether and there is no insulin produced. In a nutshell, a diabetic is a person producing inadequate quantities of insulin, (type 2 diabetic) or none at all (type 1 diabetic.)
What Is The Cause Of Diabetes?
The biggest question is what is the cause of diabetes? Why would your pancreas begin to fail or give up functioning altogether? There are several beliefs about why this happens. In the case of a type 1 diabetic, their insulin producing cells within the pancreas have been destroyed and they must inject supplies of it daily. This can occur because their own immune system turns upon itself which is usually is the result of a viral illness. Rather than just attacking the invaders, the immune system’s response destroys the insulin producing cells too. Evidence appears to show that people with very close relatives such as a parent or a sibling with type 1 diabetes is at increased risk of going on to develop this condition. Genetics then, appears to be another causal factor. The type 1 form is sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes. Although it can occur at any age, it is most often diagnosed in childhood and adolescence.
Type 2 diabetes is different in the fact that the pancreas is producing at least some insulin, but the body is unable to use it properly. This is known as insulin resistance because cells are not responding to the insulin in the normal way. They are instead unable to make use of the insulin and as such cannot absorb the glucose to use it as fuel. The liver and muscles too cannot store excess glucose and blood sugar levels increase.
There are a number of risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes. As with type 1, injury or disease of the pancreas can cause it to function less effectively. If a close family member suffers, there could be a chance of inheriting it. Certain races appear to have an increased risk of developing the condition which could attributed to diet and lifestyle as well as inherited genetics. These factors, to a large extent, cannot be controlled as they are not something that can be changed or altered except in the case of lifestyle and diet attitudes.
One of the major factors involving developing type 2 is down to lifestyle. Poor diet leading to obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol are all contributing influences. Excess fatty tissue and damage to organs and tissues from smoking and alcohol make the body work harder and less effectively in being able to absorb anything such as insulin.
In a lot of instances, a person’s age is a contributor. For many, as they age the desire to be active decreases and inevitably weight increases. Losing muscle mass while gaining weight and not exercising is bad for the body. Plus there is the fact that very often our bodies just plain begin to wear out the older we get. This leads to all kinds of conditions and illnesses including type 2 diabetes.
There is another form called gestational diabetes that occurs during 4% of pregnancies. Experts state they don’t know exactly why this happens, but believe it is hormone related. Hormones from the placenta that are helping the baby develop, appear to begin blocking the mother’s insulin leading to insulin resistance. Unable to process and use glucose naturally, the poor mother effectively becomes a type 2 diabetic during this time. The mother’s pancreas will be going into overdrive to produce extra insulin but to no avail. As explained, it is ineffective through insulin resistance. The excess blood sugar can cross the placenta and while the baby’s own pancreas will attempt to cope with the influx of glucose, it is often stored as fat. Understandably the baby will tend to grow larger. On the good side, gestational diabetes normally stops after the birth. Diabetes can either be a lifelong condition or a passing one depending on the type it is.
The bottom line, stay healthy.