March 18

What causes diabetes?

The importance of exploring the cause of diabetes is closely tied to effective prevention and reversal. You see, when you understand root causes, you can more successfully work at eliminating all the contributors to disease development that you control. In most cases, you have much more control than you think!

So first I’m going to share with you the most important causal factors, then we’ll look at how you can address the major ones to prevent or reverse diabetes as far as possible. We’ll look at both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. These are the most common terms used to talk about diabetes types.

The cause of Type 1 (insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or IDDM) is often explained as due to damage to the pancreas’ beta cells, often from some type of auto immune process. Thus it is characterized by a lack of adequate insulin production.

Type 2 diabetes, also known as NIDDM (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus), is often described as having a strong genetic component or caused by metabolic syndrome characterized by insulin resistance, not lack of insulin. Obesity and stress are often contributing factors as well.

A recent review published by the Europe PMC highlighted some other causes that also impact a smaller but significant number of diabetics. So below are the major categories of things that can cause diabetes.

Viral Infections

Especially in children, certain viral infections can trigger either a direct infection of the pancreas that results in damage to the beta cells or they can trigger an autoimmune response that has the same result. Measles (congenital rubella) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) are the infections most associated with the later development of diabetes.

Cystic Fibrosis 

Diabetes is found in 12% of children with CF and about 33% of adults with CF. 


This condition, where the body stores too much iron, affects 0.5% to 1% of the population. Seven to 40% of these people will develop diabetes which is often characterized by BOTH insulin resistance and insulin insufficiency or low production of insulin.

Medication-Induced Diabetes

This is one of the most important causes because of the number of medications that affect sugar metabolism in the body and sheer number of people prescribed  these medications.

Chronic or long-term use of medications in the steroid family, such as cortisone, are the most common culprits in causing diabetes. They increase insulin resistance, making it more difficult for the body to control blood sugar levels.

Other medications that suppress the immune system and are implicated in causing diabetes include:

  • Anti rejection drugs used in organ transplant recipients
  • Medications for the prevention of heart disease
  • Some antibiotics and antivirals
  • Hormone replacement medications
  • High blood pressure medications (thiazides and beta blockers)
  • Certain medications for schizophrenia
  • Niacin used for raising HDL levels and treating abnormal levels of blood fats
  • Birth control pills

Hormone Imbalances

Many conditions that cause abnormal levels (either high or low) of multiple hormones can also have the effect of affecting glucose metabolism. The hormonal system in our bodies is very sensitive to imbalances and these imbalances often have an impact on a wide variety of tissues. Some times these abnormal levels are caused by rare genetic defects, and others are more common imbalances such as:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Tumors of the pancreas or gut
  • Cushings syndrome


Inheritance – It is well known that a tendency to development of diabetes has a strong genetic link. 

Genetic Mutations-These congenital conditions  are also associated with the development of diabetes:

  • Down Syndrome
  • Malnutrition, especially prenatally
  • mutations in the mitochondria
  • Type 1B diabetes – seen more often in young males of African-American, Indian, Japanese and Latino descent. They don’t make enough insulin (like Type 1) but do not seem to have the antibodies seen with autoimmune causation of this type of diabetes.

So what can we do help to prevent these types of diabetes?

Several major things jumped out me in reviewing all these causes for diabetes. There are a few important areas in which I believe our choices can have a significant effect on the risk for developing diabetes.

Maintaining a healthy immune system – the fewer infections we contract, the fewer complications we can expect. There are so many powerful things we can choose to do that are simple, inexpensive, and we have total control over. In fact, I put some of the most powerful tools and strategies for staying well in my online course, 7 days to boost your immune system.  Using water properly, inside and out, hydrothermal therapy, optimal nutritional choices, learning how to effectively manage stress, and more are extremely effective.

Routine Screening with laboratory testing – Checking for markers for risk factors for developing diabetes can help you catch many of them in the early stages where it’s easier to treat and prevent complications. Labs like Fasting glucose, Hemoglobin A1c, blood lipids (fats) and Iron levels are good examples. You can do this yourself, without having to make a doctor’s appointment using this free assessment tool.

Avoiding the need for medications that raise your risk for diabetes – use lifestyle interventions to lower levels of inflammation and decrease need for corticosteroid medications. You can do this with an anti-inflammatory, plant-based diet. I have a lot of resources for you here at

Treat your high blood pressure so that you can greatly reduce or eliminate the medications needed to control it. Regular exercise and an optimal diet will go a long ways towards that. Here is a good resource. Reverse high blood pressure in 30 days.

Avoid medication for blood lipids – If you suffer from high cholesterol and triglycerides make sure you are doing everything you can to address that through lifestyle, nutrition, and exercise so that you don’t need medications for that.

Evaluate your risks with birth control pills – Seriously consider if you can find an alternative to birth control pills to avoid their effect on your hormonal balance. 

Avoiding Genetic/Pre-natal/and childhood linked causes – When considering these causes, the real place to focus is on maternal health. We often overlook the powerful effect that a mother’s choices make on the future health of her unborn children. Often these effects start even earlier than conception. The relatively new science of epigenetic is showing us that young people, even before becoming parents, make healthy choices in life, they are able to pass on epigenetic factors to their offspring that can literally turn off negative, disease inducing genes that their children inherit. Acquiring German measles (rubella) early in pregnancy can cause loss of the pregnancy, In infants that survive, their risk of developing diabetes is significantly increased. So making sure that young women are vaccinated against rubella is important for child health in the next generation.

Another important point for young mothers to be aware of is the importance of breastfeeding their infants for at least the first year of life. Several studies point to a link between the introduction of cow’s milk to a baby’s diet and the development of antibodies linked to the autoimmune destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas, leading to Type 1 diabetes.

As you can see, there are a wide range of causes as well as a wide range of strategies you can employ to optimize your health and that of your family.

Why not check out one of the resources above today and do something to improve your health?

Gottlieb S. Early exposure to cows’ milk raises risk of diabetes in high risk children. BMJ. 2000;321(7268):1040.

Forlenza GP, Moran A, Nathan B. Other Specific Types of Diabetes. In: Diabetes in America. 3rd edition. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (US), Bethesda (MD); 2018. Available from PMID: 33651540. 


causes of diabetes, diabetes, Type 1, Type 2, types of diabetes

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