Updated: December 5, 2021
Humans are responsible for the way they respond to life, but it’s quite difficult to control the environment’s impact on our health and our medical conditions such as diabetes.
It’s well known that the wrong foods can overwork our immune systems, and some can even destroy the natural helpers found in the stomach.
However, there are two significant threats in the world, and learning about them changes the way you manage type one (T1D) or type two diabetes (T2D).
Type one diabetes’ causational factors are debatable, but it’s an autoimmune disorder where the immune system distinguishes beta cells in the pancreas as threats and destroys them. These beta cells are required for insulin production.
In developing treatment or even a cure for an autoimmune disorder, researchers try to answer the question of why it occurs. In several cases, T1D develops in children who had diseases such as mumps, measles, and other viral infections.
The incidence of T1D has increased over the last few decades, and the question has arisen as to what effect the industrialization of our environment may have had.
Associate Professor Mihaela Stefan-Lifshitz from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that common chemical exposure and genetic factors are collectively correlating with increases in numbers.
Exposure to environmental chemicals can damage the beta cells in your pancreas, and it is suspected that this damage could have an effect on the development of T1D in some people.
Environmental chemicals include mercury, lead, asbestos, formaldehyde, air pollutants, pesticides like glyphosate, polychlorinated biphenyls (BPAs), and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs).
This chemical is found in many construction and household products, such as adhesives, plywood, permanent-press fabrics, and insulation materials. It’s a colorless and pungent gas used in building materials.
A study published by the Aston University in Birmingham showed that formaldehyde is correlated with increased risk for T2D, dementia, and depression.
Mercury is another chemical commonly used in fluorescent lamps, medicine, and thermometers, and it can cause beta cell abnormalities in the pancreas, which can lead to an increased risk of diabetes.
This chemical is found in non-organic farm products. It’s an herbicide used to reduce damage from pests and speed up the harvesting process. A study of nearly 2,000 Thai farmers concluded that exposure to glyphosate was associated with diabetes occurrence.
Stress is the second factor increasing your risk for diabetes. Also, it can be a consequence of diabetes. If you think about it, stress can be categorized as another environmental factor.
Linkoping University in Sweden published a study that correlated childhood stress with an increased risk of developing T1D because of the impact stress has on hormones and the immune system.
A review published by the European Depression in Diabetes (EDID) Research Consortium confirms that elevated levels of daily stress also correlate with the development of T2D.
Understanding the Stress Response
Stress is a physical response occurring when you feel threatened. The pituitary glands in the brain instruct the release of cortisol and epinephrine from the adrenal glands near your kidneys.
The fight-or-flight response is psychologically triggered, and this is the stress response understood by most people. What you might not know is that the pancreas, liver, and digestive systems also respond.
Cells have two receptors, one to release insulin and another to store glucose. Stored glucose is released in the form of glucagon during acute stress responses so that the body has the energy to combat a threat. This explains why blood glucose levels and blood pressure rise quickly under stress.
Glucagon should be reserved for times of starvation, which is another internal threat to the body, but it’s also released when you need to be alert and ready to face a threat. This is a response that is supposed to be protective for the body, but sometimes this
“response” can happen too often.
When occasional stress becomes chronic stress, the glucagon release occurs much more often. This frequent release of the glucagon depletes your resources, and the cells become overworked.
Either the cell receptors become resistant to insulin as in T2D, or the pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin overwork themselves until they stop working as in T1D.
Stress is a massive factor in the risk of developing diabetes.
Being aware of the dangers in the environment, including stress, helps you navigate a healthier life. Limiting your exposure to environmental toxins is the best decision.