Study Links Stress Hormone With Higher Blood Sugar In Type 2 Diabetes
- The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
- A new study documents a clear link between the stress hormone cortisol and higher blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
A new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and The Ohio State University College of Medicine documents a clear link between the stress hormone cortisol and higher blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
The study published online in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
In healthy people, cortisol fluctuates naturally throughout the day, spiking in the morning and falling at night, said Dr. Joshua J. Joseph, an endocrinologist and researcher at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Centers Diabetes and Metabolism Research Center who led the study. But in participants with type 2 diabetes, cortisol profiles that were flatter throughout the day, had higher glucose levels.
Previous research has shown that stress and depression are two of the major causes of a flatter cortisol profile. These sustained levels of cortisol make it much more difficult to control blood sugar and manage the disease, which is why it is so important for those with type 2 diabetes to find ways to reduce stress.
Practice Mindfulness To Promote A Feeling Of Calm
Whether you choose deep-breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga, mindfulness techniques are designed to help you reduce stress.
A short-term randomized controlled trial of 60 people with type 2 diabetes found that those who used mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques saw improved fasting blood sugar and A1C and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Researchers published those results in 2018 in the Journal of Diabetes Research.
Explore a variety of relaxation techniques, Belfort De Aguiar suggests, to find one that works for you. If you have trouble winding down, apps such as Headspace and Calm are popular, budget-friendly options for learning how to practice mindfulness.
How Stress Affects The Body
When the body is under stress, it releases cortisol. Cortisol is synthesized from cholesterol and then released from the adrenal glands. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is a unit in the brain comprised of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands, is what regulates the production of cortisol and how much of it is released during periods of physical and emotional stress.
When the body sends signals of stressboth emotional and physicalit releases cortisol to help the body respond to a perceived threat, control blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. It is the hormone that is used for the fight-or-flight response so if there is any immediate danger, the body will be ready to face it or run from it.
Cortisol can also encourage the liver to release glucose and fatty acids to help give the body the energy it needs to deal with stress. From an evolutionary standpoint, the release of cortisol to deal with stress was important for survival. However, times have changed and those types of threats to life are now, for the most part, nonexistent. This means that cortisol is released and not used by the body in ways that it’s meant to be used in some situations.
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Does Stress Affect Blood Sugar
The World Health Organization estimates that more than 400 million people suffer from diabetes and another 1.6 million die from the disease every year. People with diabetes must carefully monitor their blood sugar levels to ensure their health is well managed. Because stress can increase blood sugar levels, its important for people with diabetes to learn to manage stress. Learning how to manage stress can help diabetics live healthier lives.
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Summary: How Stress Affects Your Blood Sugar
In short, stress will generally cause your blood sugar to rise. It will also be difficult to bring it down because of the insulin resistance created by stress hormones and the production of glucose from your livers response to adrenaline.
The larger majority of stressful situations arent something we can easily predict, but once youre experiencing stress, you can predict that your blood sugar might spike.
Remembering to check your blood sugar during and after stressful situations is an important part of diabetes management, but dont add to your stress by expecting to be able to easily correct any high blood sugars during a stressful state.
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How Can Stress Affect Diabetes
At the dawn of time, our ancestors lived in a world of danger. When they were attacked by cave bears, it was a bad idea to stay calm. So whenever they saw danger, their brains sounded a stress alarm that put their bodies into action.
This ability to feel stress got passed down to us in the modern age. The problem is that our brains cant tell the difference between physical danger and social or emotional danger, so they all stress us out in the same way. So today, although bear attacks are less common, stress is a much larger part of our lives. In 2018, a Gallup poll found that 55% of Americans felt stress during a lot of the day, while 45% said they felt worried a lot when asked about how they felt the previous day
Stress can still be helpful when it helps us take on challenges, provided that we get some rest afterward. But when stress lasts for a long time, without giving us a chance to rest, it can do serious damage to our bodies. It can increase our risk for diabetes, or make our current diabetes worse.
How Stress Affects Blood Sugar Levels
Two types of stress can change blood sugar levels:
- Physical stress
- Mental or emotional stress
Each type of stress affects blood sugar levels differently. Physical stress generally causes blood sugar levels to increase. Physical stress includes:
Mental or emotional stress has mixed effects, depending on the type of diabetes you have:
- Type 1 diabetes: Mental stress can increase or decrease blood sugar levels.
- Type 2 diabetes: Mental stress generally increases blood sugar levels.
Stress also can affect your blood sugar levels indirectly by causing you to forget about your regular diabetes care routine. When you’re stressed out, you might:
- Exercise more or less
- Not test your blood sugar level as often
- Forget or delay a dose of medication and/or insulin
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Is Sugar Bad For You
If you love sweets, dont despair. You dont have to give them up forever. Sugar will raise your blood sugar levels more quickly than other carbs, but diabetes experts now say the total amount of carbs is most important. So keep your serving sizes small and take into account the total carbs and calories.
Tips To Reduce Stress
1. When youre stressed, track your blood sugar levels. Be sure to observe when you are stressed, and thats when you should keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels and make any required dietary or medication changes.
2. With time and experience, people learn how to deal with minor life stressors. Simple lifestyle modifications, such as going for a short stroll to clear your head, can make a big difference.
3. Many practice breathing exercises, listen to music, do yoga, or play a sport to let the stress out of their bodies and help them handle glucose more efficiently. According to a study, aerobics exercises could help reduce mental stress levels.
4. Another practical approach to decreasing stress is to talk it out. Sharing your concerns with a friend, family member, or mentor could help you feel better.
5. When you dont get enough sleep, youll find yourself coping with emotional stress. On the other hand, sleeping as much as 9 hours a day can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. As a result, it is critical to regulating sleep hours, not too little, not too much. With HealthifyPro, you can also track the optimum amount of sleep levels.
6. Develop a better grasp of how to care for yourself. It is critical to maintain a regular schedule and not skip a doctors visit. To detect any odd changes in your blood sugar levels, you should use blood-glucose monitoring kits or a CGM.
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How Your Body Reacts To Stress
When your body detects the presence of stress and anxiety, it sees it as an attack. As such, the central nervous system prepares your body for the battle. It does this by producing increased amounts of adrenaline and cortisol.
These two hormones have a direct impact on your coronary system. Your heart starts pumping blood and rushing it to different parts of your body. This is to ensure that all your organs have enough energy to fight the symptoms of stress. And there are many possible symptoms, ranging from heartburn to trouble breathing.
If stress is a constant in your life, it can result in a number of chronic illnesses. These include severe insomnia, infertility, and even heart attack. Moreover, stress also affects your blood sugar levels, which can worsen the symptoms of diabetes.
/9take Out Some Time For Yourself Every Day
This one is a no-brainer. If you are not able to catch a break between work from home and working for home, we suggest revisiting your priorities. Being a patient of diabetes, it is all the more essential for you to take out at least 30 minutes every day and do something that helps you calm down and relax. You can opt for yoga and meditation to wind down or even listen to soothing songs and take a power nap. Get in touch with yourself and understand how you are feeling.
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How To Combat Stress
So how can you reduce stress so that it has less of an effect on your blood sugar control?
Well, to some extent that depends on the nature of your stress. Anything in life that is stressing you out thats fixable, you should work to fix. That stupid toilet that runs all night and disturbs your sleep? Get it repaired. Thats easy. But sometimes its harder: The boyfriend or girlfriend who always puts you down? Time to break up. Not all that easy to do, although it will improve your health on multiple levels.
Meanwhile, things that stress you out that you cant fix, but that you can avoid, you should avoid. Your sister drives you nuts? Youre not required to visit her, you know.
Lastly, of course, there are things in life that you cant fix and you cant avoid, and these you need to develop ways to deal with. Sometimes this involves changing your mental attitude toward it. Other times its the use of stress-relief tools, like exercise to burn off that fight or flight sugar, or hot baths and aroma therapy candles to drown the stress so that your body stops releasing the sugar.
Some of the most tried-and-true stress relief tactics are:
- Exercise of any kind
Reducing Stress In The Moment
- Close your eyes and take deep inhales and exhales for 30 seconds
- Exercise to get your heart rate UP which causes your central nervous system to relax
- Watch your favorite stand-up comedy
- Make a to-do list to get everything off your mind
- Clean your house
- Create a voice memo like your own private therapy session
- Dance to your favorite music
Everything that makes you calm down, makes you smile, or helps your body relax will have a positive effect on your stress level.
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How Does Blood Sugar Regulate
Most of the time, glucose levels increase after you eat a meal. When blood sugar rises, cells in the pancreas release insulin, causing the body to absorb glucose from the blood and lowering the blood sugar level to normal.
The human body wants blood glucose maintained in a very narrow range. Insulin and glucagon are the hormones which make this happen. Both insulin and glucagon are secreted from the pancreas, and thus are referred to as pancreatic endocrine hormones. Regulation of blood glucose is largely done through the endocrine hormones of the pancreas, a beautiful balance of hormones achieved through a negative feedback loop. The main hormones of the pancreas that affect blood glucose include insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and amylin.
Stress And Glucose Levels
What came first, the chicken or the egg? Were not really sure, but we know both exist today.
Similarly, many people find themselves experiencing both high levels of stress and lower metabolic function.
In short, stress will indirectly cause our glucose levels to rise. Several studies have linked a significant correlation between perceived work-related stress and increased levels of circulating glucose. Chronically high blood glucose levels can cause our body to become resistant to insulin, the hormone that helps our cells use glucose. Insulin is also known to elevate cortisol and epinephrine, hormones associated with the stress response.
In turn, elevated stress can raise glucose levels, putting many in an unpleasant vicious cycle. The stress can push us to overeat, which raises our glucose levels, which leads to us to suffer from notable fatigue and low energy levels. Our response to excessive feelings of fatigue often is you guessed it, becoming more stressed.
So, this vicious cycle leaves us with raised cortisol and glucose levels, and at a lack of focus due to decreased metabolic function. Stress can also impact other metabolic regulating processes such as sleep, further compounding the negative effects were experiencing.
Chronic stress can also impact our bodys ability to utilize its available glucose. In mice, acute psychological stress leads to substantially reduced clearance of glucose after a glucose load and acute insulin resistance.
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How Can Different Types Of Stress Affect Your Diabetes
Stress can affect people differently. The type of stress that you experience can also have an impact on your bodys physical response.
When people with type 2 diabetes are under mental stress, they generally experience an increase in their blood glucose levels. People with type 1 diabetes may have a more varied response. This means that they can experience either an increase or a decrease in their blood glucose levels.
When youre under physical stress, your blood sugar can also increase. This can happen when youre sick or injured. This can affect people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
What Are The Consequences Of Long
The bodys stress response system is usually self-limiting. Hormone levels return to normal once the perceived threat or challenge has passed.
However, if the stressors are always present and you constantly feel threatened, the fight or flight reaction stays on. The long-term activation of the stress response system, and the over-exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones, can disrupt your bodys processes and put you at increased risk of multiple health problems, such as:
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, moody
Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
Having difficulty relaxing, quieting your mind
Feeling bad about yourself , lonely, worthless, and depressed
Physical symptoms of stress include:
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How Can You Determine If Mental Stress Is Affecting Your Glucose Levels
Keeping track of additional information, such as the date and what you were doing when stressed, may help you determine specific triggers.
For example, do you always experience stress on Monday mornings? If so, you know how to take special steps on Monday mornings to lower your stress and keep your glucose in check.
You can determine if this is happening to you by capturing your stress and glucose levels.
After rating your stress, you should check your glucose levels. Continue doing this for the next couple of weeks. Before long, you may see a pattern emerge.
If you notice that your glucose is regularly high, your mental stress is likely negatively affecting your blood sugar.
If youre feeling stressed about your condition, know that you arent alone. You can connect with people online or in your community for solidarity and support.
How Can I Reduce Stress In My Life
There are many things you can do to reduce stress. The following are some suggestions:
- Take your medications as directed and eat healthy meals.
- Use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing.
- Get some exercise. You can reduce stress though activities such as dancing, walking, or biking. Do something that you enjoy.
- Remember to keep your sense of humor. Laughing helps to reduce stress.
- Join a support group. You can meet people with problems similar to yours and make new friends.
- Seek out professional help in order to talk about whats troubling you.
There are additional strategies that you can use to help reduce stress in your life. Talk to your diabetes educator or doctor for more ideas.
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Set Realistic Goals And Expectations
Sometimes, the stress we feel is self-created, especially when we set unrealistic goals or have extra-high expectations of ourselves. Set realistic and achievable goals, and put them down on paper with specific action steps to help you achieve them. Keep your expectations realistic toomaybe you wanted your house to be completely spotless before a dinner party, but will your friends notice that you didnt shine the floors? Will they care that youve got a little clutter lying around? Probably not. Go the extra mile when it really matters, but when it really doesnt, take it easy on yourself, and let goodor even okaybe good enough.