Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms and Home Remedies

Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, has become a very common heath problem or disorder of metabolism. It is a complex group of diseases triggered by various causes. People with diabetes have high blood glucose, also known as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.  The digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates or sugar and starches found in many foods into glucose, a form of sugar that enters the bloodstream. With the help of the hormone insulin the bodies absorbs glucose and utilizes it for producing energy. Diabetes develops when the body is unable to produce enough insulin or use insulin effectively. Insulin is made in the pancreas, an organ located behind the stomach. The Pancreas contains clusters of cells called islets; the beta cells within the islets make insulin and release it to the blood.

If the beta cells don’t produce enough insulin or the body is unable to respond to insulin that is present, the glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells in the body, leading to prediabetes or diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which the blood glucose levels or A1C levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. In diabetes the body cells lack enough energy, even though the glucose levels are very high.

The increase in the blood sugar levels damages nerves and blood vessels. It also leads to complications like cardiovascular diseases, strokes, kidney problems, blindness, dental problems and amputations. High blood glucose levels also damage nerves and blood vessels. Diabetes can also lead to depression, fertility issues, and increased risk of other diseases and lack of mobility as the age of the person increases. It is very difficult to find out what exactly triggers diabetes, but health experts say that genes and environmental factors are responsible for rise in blood glucose levels.

There are two types of diabetes- Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. Let us study the causes that give rise to type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes is caused by lack of insulin due to the destruction of beta cells in the pancreas. The Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune disease and it happens when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys beta cells. Generally, the immune system protects the body from harmful bacteria and virus. But in autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks the body’s own cells. The beta cell destruction may be a gradual process but the symptoms of type 1 diabetes develop over a short period of time. In the past, type 1 diabetes was referred to as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in adults or LADA is a kind of developing type 1 diabetes. In this case, diagnosis occurs after 30 years of age. It happens because the body’s immune system destroys the beta cells. So the person will need insulin shots or pumps to control blood glucose levels.

Causes of Type1 Diabetes:

1. Genetic Reasons:

Heredity plays an active role in determining who is likely to develop type 1 diabetes. Genes carry instructions for making proteins which are essential for the functioning of the body cells. Many genes and interactions among genes often increase or prevent a person from developing type 1 diabetes.The key genes vary in different population groups; the variations in genes which affect more than 1 percent of a population group are called gene variants. Certain gene variants that carry instructions for making proteins are called human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) on white blood cells increases the chances of developing type 1 diabetes.The HLA genes are major risk genes for type 1 diabetes, but other risk genes are also present. The HLA genes help in identifying people who are at risk for type 1 diabetes. These genes also provide important clues to help scientist understand how the disease develops and find out the right therapy and preventive measures. Genetic testing helps to detect what types of HLA genes a person carries and also reveal other genes linked to diabetes.

2. Autoimmune Destruction of Beta Cells:

In Type 1 Diabetes the white blood cells or T cells attack and destroy beta cells in the pancreas.The process of destruction begins well before diabetes symptoms come to the surface and continues after diagnosis. Sometimes, type 1 diabetes is not diagnosed until most beta cells have already been destroyed. In this case, the person needs a daily insulin treatment to survive. Scientific research is still on to find out a way to stop the autoimmune process and preserve beta cell function. Sometimes, immune systems of the people who are susceptible to type 1 diabetes respond to insulin as a foreign substance or antigen. To combat the antigens, the beta cells produce antibodies.

3. Environmental Factors:

Sometimes food, viruses and toxins play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes, but the exact nature of their role is not known. Some studies suggest that environmental factors play a crucial role in triggering the autoimmune destruction of beta cells in people who are genetically prone to type 1 diabetes. The environmental factors can still play a role in diabetes even after diagnoses.

4. Viruses and Infections:

A virus can’t cause diabetes on its own, if type 1 diabetes is diagnosed during or after a viral infection then the two can be linked. Also the onset of type 1 diabetes occurs during winters when viral infections are common. Viruses associated with type 1 diabetes are coxsackievirus B, cytomegalovirus, adenovirus, rubella and mumps. These viruses trigger autoimmune destruction of beta cells in susceptible people. For example, cytomegalovirus is associated with beta cell damage and acute pancreatitis. Scientists are trying to identify the virus that is causing the type 1 diabetes, so that they can create a vaccination to counter the problem.

5. Infant Feeding Practices:

Dietary factors may increase or lower the risk of type 1 diabetes. Breastfed infants and infants receiving vitamin D supplements may have a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes. However, early exposure to cow’s milk and cereal diet can increase the chance of getting type 1 diabetes. More research is needed to find out how infant nutrition increases the risk of type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes:

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is caused by the combination of factors, which includes insulin resistance, when the body is unable to use the insulin effectively. It also happens when the body can’t produce enough insulin to compensate for the impaired ability to use insulin. The symptoms of type 2 diabetes remain undiagnosed for years. Here are some possible causes behind type 2 diabetes.

Causes of Type 2 Diabetes:

1. Genetic Reasons:

Genes play a significant part in susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. Certain genes or combinations of certain genes may increase or decrease a person’s risk of developing a disease. Scientists have identified many gene variants that increase susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, many are yet to be discovered. Studies have shown that the variants of TCF7L2 gene increase susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. People who have two copies of the variants, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes are 80% higher. Genes also increase the chances of diabetes by increasing a person’s chances of becoming overweight or obese.

2. Obesity and Lack of Physical Activity:

Physical activity and obesity are related with the development of type 2 diabetes. If people are genetically susceptible to type 2 diabetes, then obesity and a sedentary lifestyle can make them vulnerable to the risk factors associated with the disease. An imbalance between caloric intake and physical activity can lead to obesity, which cause insulin resistance in people who have type 2 diabetes. Excess abdominal fat can lead to cardiovascular diseases; the body in such case produces hormones that can damage blood vessels and other chronic health problems.The muscle, fat and liver cells stop responding to the insulin, this compels the pancreas to compensate by producing extra insulin. If the beta cells are able to produce insulin then the blood glucose levels stay in the normal range. If insulin production falters because of beta cell dysfunction, then the blood glucose levels rise and this directly leads to diabetes.

3. Abnormal Glucose Production by the Liver:

In some cases, an abnormal increase in glucose production by the liver often leads to high blood glucose levels. The pancreas releases the hormone glucagon when the blood glucose and insulin levels were low. Glucagon stimulates the liver to produce more glucose. Generally the glucagon levels go down and the liver stores the extra glucose for later use. However, for some unknown reason the glucagon levels remain high, this cause the liver to produce unneeded glucose and this leads to high blood glucose levels. Metformin is the common drug used to control glucose production by liver.

4. Cell Signaling and Regulation:

Cells communicate through a complex network of molecular signaling pathways. The insulin receptor molecules help to bind the insulin molecules circulating in the bloodstream. The interaction between insulin and its receptor leads to a biochemical reaction that helps the cells to absorb glucose and use it for producing energy. However, problems in cell signaling systems can create a chain reaction that lead to diabetes and other chronic diseases.

5. Beta Cell Dysfunction:

Scientists think beta cell dysfunction is the key cause of type 2 diabetes. Beta cell impairment can cause inadequate or abnormal patterns of insulin release. Beta cells can also be destroyed by increased glucose levels, this is called glucose toxicity.

Symptoms of Diabetes:

Some of the common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss (even though you are eating more)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Cut and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Blurred vision

Top 15 Home Remedies For Diabetes:

Diabetes is a grave medical condition, but with a healthy diet and regular exercise, managing the condition becomes a child’s play. There are various natural remedies for diabetes that will help you control your blood sugar level. Here are a handful of diabetes home remedies every diabetic can rely on to keep fluctuations of sugar levels under control.

1. Bitter Gourd:

Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, is one among the most effective ways for preventing sugar level fluctuations. Being a  safe vegetable, this iron-rich gourd can be consumed by anyone. It influences the glucose metabolism in the body and helps stimulate pancreatic insulin secretion. Known to thwart off insulin resistance, bitter gourd is equally beneficial for people suffering from type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

  • Drink some bitter gourd juice on an empty stomach each morning. First remove the seeds of two to three bitter gourds and use a juicer to extract the juice. Add some water and then drink it. Follow this treatment daily in the morning for at least two months.
  • Also, you can include one dish made of bitter gourd daily in your diet.

2. Cinnamon (Dalchini):

Powdered cinnamon can lower sugar levels considerably by stimulating insulin activity in the body. It contains bio-active ingredients that help to prevent and combat diabetes.

  • Mix one-half to one teaspoon of cinnamon in a cup of warm water. Drink it daily.
  • Another option is to boil two to four cinnamon sticks in one cup of water and allow it to steep for 20 minutes. Drink this solution daily until you see improvement.
  • You can also add cinnamon to warm beverages, smoothies and baked goods.

3. Fenugreek Seeds:

These tiny, brown seeds are powerhouses of fiber and other nutrients, all of which possess the potential to improve glucose tolerance and lower blood sugar levels. The rich presence of fiber along with its hypo-glycemic properties make them the most sought after home remedies for diabetes.

  • Soak 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in hot water overnight, and consume the following morning on an empty stomach for best results.
  • Another option is to eat two tablespoons of powdered fenugreek seeds daily with milk. Follow this for a few days to stimulate the secretion of glucose dependent insulin.

4. Indian Gooseberry (Amla):

Indian gooseberry, also known as Amla, is rich in Vitamin C. Indian gooseberry promotes the proper functioning of the pancreas.

  • Take two to three Indian gooseberries, remove the seeds and grind it into a fine paste. Put the paste in a cloth and squeeze out the juice. Mix two tablespoon of the juice in one cup of water and drink it daily on an empty stomach.
  • Alternatively, mix one tablespoon of Indian gooseberry juice in a cup of bitter gourd juice and drink it daily for a few months.

5. Mango Leaves:

Latest studies indicate that tender mango leaves possess the ability to improve blood lipid profiles while regulating insulin levels in the body.

  • Soak 10 to 15 tender mango leaves in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, filter the water and drink it on an empty stomach.
  • You can also dry the leaves in the shade and grind them. Eat one-half teaspoon of powdered mango leaves two times daily.

6. Black Plum or Indian Black Berry (Jamun):

The black plum, fondly known as the ‘jamun’ owing to its resemblance to the popular Indian sweet, is rich in anti-diabetic properties. Jamuns contain hydrolysable tannins, anthocyanins and ellagic acid – all of which are known to lower both blood and urine sugar levels considerably.

Each part of the Jamun plant such as the leaves, berry and seeds can be used by those suffering from diabetes. In fact, research has shown that the fruits and seeds of this plant have hypoglycemic effects as they help reduce blood and urine sugar levels rapidly.

The seeds, in particular, contain glycoside jamboline and alkaloid jambosine that regulate control blood sugar levels.Whenever this seasonal fruit is available in the market, try to include it in your diet as it can be very effective for the pancreas. Else you can make a powder of dried seeds of Jambul fruit and eat this powder with water twice a day. This fruit is native to India and its neighboring countries but you can find it at Asian markets and herbal shops.

7. Curry Leaves:

An Indian kitchen staple, consumption of these leaves in plentiful amounts can also help diabetics. Chew 10 to 12 fresh, cleaned curry leaves everyday for better results. These leaves are known to lower the rate of starch breakdown, thus aiding in keeping the blood sugar at normal levels. It also lowers cholesterol and helps in losing weight.

8. Aloe Vera:

Aloe vera juice helps lower fasting blood glucose levels. It contains phytosterols that have possible anti-hyperglycemic effects for type 2 diabetes.

The combination of aloe vera gel, bay leaves and turmeric is helpful for controlling blood sugar. To make this herbal medicine:

  • Mix together one-half teaspoon each of ground bay leaves and turmeric and one tablespoon of aloe vera gel.
  • Consume it twice daily, before lunch and dinner

9. Guava:

Studies indicate that guava is rich in both vitamin C and fiber, both that help in maintaining normal blood sugar levels. A very good home remedy for diabetes. Just peel the skin and consume one fruit daily to reap its benefits.

10. Ladies’ Finger (Okra or Bhindi):

Ladies’ finger, has constituents such as polyphenolic molecules that can help reduce blood glucose levels and control diabetes.

  • Cut off the ends of a few okras and prick them in several places using a fork. Soak the okras in a glass of water overnight. In the morning, discard the okras and drink the water on an empty stomach. Do this daily for several weeks.
  • Also, include okra in your diet.

11. Holi Basil (Tulsi) Leaves:

The leaves of holy basil are packed with antioxidants and essential oils that produce eugenol, methyl eugenol and caryophyllene. Collectively these compounds help the pancreatic beta cells (cells that store and release insulin) to function properly and increase sensitivity to insulin. An added advantage is that the antioxidants present in the leaves help beat the ill effects of oxidative stress.

Consume two to three tulsi leaves whole or about one tablespoon full of its juice on an empty stomach to lower the blood sugar levels.

12. Flax Seeds (Alsi):

Due to their high fibre content flaxseeds help digestion and aid in the proper absorption of fats and sugars. Consuming flax seed helps reduce a diabetic’s postprandial sugar level by almost 28 per cent. Consume one tablespoon of ground flaxseed powder every morning on an empty stomach with a glass of warm water. However, do not have more than 2 tablespoons per day, as it can be detrimental to your health.

13. Leaves of Bilberry (Neelabadari) plant:

The leaves of bilberry have been used in Ayurveda for many centuries to control diabetes. Recently, the Journal of Nutrition stated that the leaves of the Bilberry plant contain high amounts of anthocyanidin, which enhance the action of various proteins involved in glucose transportation and fat metabolism. Due to this unique property, bilberry leaves are a great way to lower one’s blood sugar levels.
Crush bilberry leaves in a mortar and pestle and consume 100 milligrams of this extract everyday on an empty stomach.

14. Neem:

Found abundantly in India, the bitter leaf has a number of amazing medicinal properties. Neem enhances insulin receptor sensitivity, helps improve blood circulation by dilating the blood vessels, lowers blood glucose levels and reduces one’s dependence on hypoglycaemic drugs. Drink the juice of the tender shoot of neem leaves on an empty stomach for best results.

15. Water:

A universal cure for just about any ailment, water mobilizes sugar levels in the blood stream. So drink plenty of water throughout the day. This is one of the best natural remedy for diabetes.

5 Tips to Prevent Diabetes:

It is important to make diabetes prevention a priority if you have a family history of diabetes and if you are overweight. You need to make lifestyle changes and be careful of what you are eating. You can consult a dietician and chalk out a well-planned diet chart. Here are five simple steps you have to follow to curb diabetes, after all prevention is better than cure!

  1. Get some physical activity daily to burn calories and stay in shape. This will also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  2. Have a lot of fiber in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  3. Always select whole grain foods to cut down calories and blood glucose levels.
  4. You don’t need to follow fad diets or low calorie diets just for the sake of it. Just make healthy eating choices and stick to it.
  5. Visit your doctor if you are 45 years of age or more and if you are overweight. Share your concerns with the doctor. Earlier the diagnosis, the chances of cure becomes higher.

There is no permanent cure for diabetes. The only way you can keep a check is by adhering to a healthy lifestyle. Visit a doctor immediately, if you are facing problems controlling your blood glucose levels. It is true you need to take medicines to control blood glucose, but you can certainly give these natural remedies a try! So follow the home remedies for diabetes outlined above and see the differences they bring in your life!