Are You at Risk for Developing Diabetes? Are you a celiac? If so, then the answer could be yes.

Diabetes means that the body has an inability to produce or use insulin. Insulin is an essential hormone that lets you use glucose as energy. Without it, glucose will build up in your blood and cause untold amounts of damage to your organs – especially your kidneys, hearts, nerves, and eyes.

There are three types of diabetes: Type I, Type II, and Gestational Diabetes. We’ll talk about all three, just to understand what the difference is, but the one we are mainly concerned about, as celiacs, is Type 1.

Type 1 Diabetes

Type I used to be called Juvenile Diabetes, because it was thought that only children got it. However, the truth is, anyone can develop Type I diabetes. My son was diagnosed in 2002, when he was 25 years old. It used to be thought that there were two main risk factors for developing Type I diabetes (which means your body is no longer producing any insulin and never will produce insulin on its own again):

  • Genetics and family history – If you have a mom, dad, sister, or brother with Type 1 diabetes, then you should get regularly screened for diabetes.
  • Pancreatic disease, infection or illness – There are many different types of illnesses and diseases that can damage the pancreas, causing Type 1 diabetes. If you have any of these illnesses it’s important to get regular screenings.

In these cases there isn’t much you can do other than take care of yourself, eat right, and get regular screenings.

However now, it is believed that if you have a diagnosis of celiac disease or Type 1 diabetes, you have a 5 to 10 percent higher chance of developing the opposite autoimmune disease. This is even more of a risk factor in children who are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes first, according to Dr. William Hagopian, and Dr. James Grendell.

Dr. James Grendell is chief of the gastroenterology division at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

Type II Diabetes

Type II Diabetes means that your body still produces insulin but for whatever reason you cannot make use of it due to inadequate production or some other factor. Type 2 diabetes is NOT an autoimmune disease. The major risk factors for Type II diabetes are:

  • Obesity – If you are even a little bit overweight, your risk factor for Type II diabetes goes up. However, if you are actually obese you’re at an even higher risk and it’s probably a question of when, not if, you will develop Type II diabetes.
  • Sedentary – If you don’t exercise for at least one hour three times a week, you are sedentary and your risk factor for Type II diabetes goes up. If you have a job that requires you to sit more than four hours a day and you don’t make a special effort to exercise each day, you are also sedentary.
  • Genetics – If you have a family history of diabetes you’re much more likely to develop it as well. This is especially true with first degree relatives like a mom or dad, brother or sister.
  • Glucose intolerance – This is really pre-diabetes. It simply means that you’re at a high risk of developing actual diabetes due to the fact that you already have higher blood sugar levels than is normal.
  • Insulin resistance – If you have cells that resist the insulin your body is pumping out, keeping your blood sugar high, it can make your pancreas work too hard trying to clear the body of sugar.
  • Ethnicity – Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Alaska natives all have a higher incident of Type II diabetes.
  • Age – Even age can play a part, especially if you have any of the other risk factors. You can develop Type II diabetes at any age, but if you’re over the age of 45 you’re more likely to develop it if you have any of the other risk factors.

Gestational Diabetes

This is a condition in which women without previously diagnosed diabetes show high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. The main risk factors are:

  • Maternal obesity – It’s important for any woman planning pregnancy to try to get their BMI normal through diet and exercise.
  • Genetics – If Mom, Dad, brothers or sisters have diabetes or had GD during pregnancy you’re at a higher risk.
  • Member of a high risk group – The same high risk group mentioned for Type II diabetes is also at a greater risk for developing GD.
  • Large birth weight baby – Having a baby more than 9 lbs predisposes you to a higher probability of having GD.
  • Having GD in prior pregnancy – If you had it before, you may develop it again.
  • Polyhydramnios – If you have too much amniotic fluid, you are at a higher risk of developing GD.

Now back to Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, like celiac disease, IS an autoimmune disease and both share similar genetic profiles, which results in which results in a significant amount of overlapping in patients. When celiac disease is associated with Type 1 diabetes, it’s usually asymptomatic, (meaning you won’t have any symptoms associated with celiac disease), and the only way you will be diagnosed is with a blood test or endoscopy.

I did not know this, but celiac disease and Type 1 diabetes share a lot of the same symptoms, such as abdominal pains, gas, unexplained weight-loss, bloating, and abnormal liver functions.

Dr. Grendell explained that knowing ahead of time that celiac may develop can be helpful because early diagnosis of celiac disease will allow the initiation of a gluen-free diet helping to prevent complications, such as growth retardation, iron-deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, and dermatitis herpetiformis, a skin rash that presents itself with a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

Regardless of your risk factors, make going to the doctor for a yearly exam, including a blood sugar check, part of your regular health monitoring. Catching problems earlier rather than later can save you a lot of problems, since having diabetes can contribute to a whole host of other health issues.