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 I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Diabetes

Three signs that indicate you could have diabetes, according to an endocrinologist. 

Diabetes is a chronic illness that causes a person's blood sugar to spike, which can cause serious damage to your organs, nerves and blood vessels. Cases in the U.S. are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Diagnosed cases of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are surging among youth in the United States. From 2001 to 2017, the number of people under age 20 living with type 1 diabetes increased by 45%, and the number living with type 2 diabetes grew by 95%." Eat This. Not That spoke with Endocrinologist Dr. Brian Fertig, M.D., F.A.C.E., Founder and President of the Diabetes & Osteoporosis Center and the author of "Metabolism & Medicine," who explained why diabetes is becoming more common and signs to look out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why is Diabetes Becoming More Common?


Dr. Fertig says, "Ultimately, this can be attributed to the advancing age of the baby boomer generation as well as lifestyle behaviors inseparably linked to changing social and societal stressors, and the wide availability of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food. Generally, when a person is "stressed out," they either overeat or undereat in addition to virtually always eating a poor-quality diet. Calorie excess overwhelms and damages the energy-producing power plants of cells, so that rather than calories being burned they get stored in fat cells, causing weight gain and insulin resistance (and compensatory high blood insulin levels), an often precursor to the onset of diabetes. A poor micronutrient diet impairs the function of metabolic machinery also causing insulin resistance, thus predisposing to diabetes. Moreover, processed food containing synthetic additives (e.g., artificial coloring, flavoring, preservatives, emulsifiers) causes excess insulin secretion from the pancreas leading secondarily to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance and high insulin levels in the blood, present in up to 50% of the adult population in the U.S., contributes not only to diabetes, but to all the major chronic diseases of aging including Alzheimer's disease, heart and vascular disease and cancers. Diabetes, present in roughly 8% of the adult population, predisposes not only to various forms of neuropathy, eye and kidney disease, but may also increase the aggressiveness of the chronic diseases of aging." 

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Who is at Risk for Diabetes?

Woman checking blood sugar level while sitting on bench

According to Dr. Fertig, "While there is a genetic predisposition to all forms of diabetes, those who are under high stress, not actively exercising, and have a poor quantity, quality and/or timing of sleep and diet are also at risk. These lifestyle behaviors further amplify a person's stress response and can also impair cognition. Fundamentally, these all damage the body's ability to produce energy from food.  At its core, this is due to oxidation of the molecular chemistry of the metabolic machinery, which is analogous to oxidation effects of rusting metal and browning of a bitten apple exposed to air. In the body such oxidation causes, and is caused by, inflammation. Other related key disturbances that contribute to the development of diabetes and to many of its complications include high levels of insulin in the blood, insulin resistance, and the storage of fat in and around the cells of vital organs, all of which are all hallmarks of type 2 diabetes." 

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Frequent Urination

supermarket bathroom

Dr. Fertig explains, "This often occurs at the onset of diabetes, before it has been treated when blood sugars are typically very high, which acts as a diuretic. Subsequent dehydration concentrates the blood sugar and increases adrenaline to constrict blood vessels that prevent low blood pressure, which together further elevate the blood sugar level, thus exacerbating frequent urination in a feed forward cycle. In addition to this process occurring at the onset of diabetes, it can occur at any stage of diabetes due to ineffective therapy, non-compliance to therapy, high sugar content in the diet, weight gain or progression of the insulin resistance or declining insulin secretion components of the disease. 

While our kidneys can filter some of the excess glucose this is often not sufficient and the remaining glucose spills over into the urine. If treated, frequent urination can be prevented."    

RELATED: How to Detox Your Body Fast, Say Doctors


Increase in Muscle to Fat Ratio


According to Dr. Fertig, "The loss of muscle mass and gain of fat mass is another sign of diabetes. Weight gain is largely due to insulin resistance in the satiety centers of the brain. We may not initially feel hungry until we start eating but don't feel sated and can't turn it off. Muscle loss is due to a combination of high blood sugars and high blood fat (lipid) levels that are taken up into muscle cells. The associated oxidation and inflammatory effects ultimately lead to the death of the muscle cells and associated muscle atrophy. This reduced muscle to fat ratio tends to worsen in the later stages of diabetes (and insulin resistance)."

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Predisposition to Infection

patient in robe sitting on table at doctor's office

Dr. Fertig states, "Diabetics are predisposed to all kinds of infections because of high levels of blood sugar, which is an inflammatory agent that weakens the immune system. Many diabetics experience recurrent urinary tract infections and/or gum disease largely because of disturbed microbiota in the urinary tract and mouth, respectively. This occurs at all stages of diabetes." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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