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.
Arm Yourself With Quick Fixes
The toll stress takes on your health largely depends on how you react to it, Campbell says. Identify things that help you cool off, and keep them ready-to-go in your back pocket. Maybe you treat yourself to a massage or a manicure, she says. Or maybe you just talk to someone. Okay, a professional massage might not be possible at the moment, but maybe you have a significant other who can lend a hand. Focusing on your breath is another simple way to calm your mind and body, wherever you are. If you have an Apple device, open the free Breathe app, and let it help you slow and deepen your breath.
Ways To Reduce Mental Stress3
- Learn how to relax during stressful moments by using deep-breathing exercises.
- Evaluate your schedule to find how to make changes to relieve stress.
- Exercise regularly and take regular outdoor walks to experience nature, which generally has a soothing effect on the body and soul.
It is important to understand what stress is and how it effects your body. By identfiying and actively finding healthy ways to overcome your stress triggers, you can help to improve your diabetes management.
References1. Glucerna.How Stress Affects Blood Sugar Levels 2020. Abbott Laboratories. Available at: https://glucerna.com/why-glucerna/how-stress-affects-blood-sugar-levels..2. Diabetes UK. Stress And Blood Glucose-Levels.2019. Diabetes Digital Media. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/stress-and-blood-glucose-levels.html .3. Mind Organisation. Stress. 1st ed. London: Mind publications, p.1-15. 2017. Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/media-a/2959/stress-2017.pdf .
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Fill Your Doctor In On Big Life Changes
If a stressful situation is causing your blood sugar to swing, your healthcare team needs to know. Says Campbell, Your doctor may temporarily change your diabetes medication or put you on a higher dose. If necessary, he or she can even make a referral to a mental health professional. Right now, increasingly more primary care physicians, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals are offering telehealth services so that you can get the help you need while maintaining social distancing practices.
Can Diabetes Cause Anxiety And Depression
If youre diabetic and having an anxiety attack or going through depression, your high sugar levels could possibly be the culprit behind it. Diabetes and anxiety may have different aetiologies, however, they are interconnected somehow.
Diabetic people may become worried or anxious over various things. From waking up in the morning and monitoring your glucose levels, to weight changes and diet, diabetes can really stress you out.
Since diabetes is a chronic disease and managing can become a hassle, one can get anxious about short-term as well as long-term health complications.
A diabetic person is more prone to infections, kidney diseases, stroke, and many other debilitating conditions, he/she can develop severe anxiety. This can eventually make monitoring and managing his/ her symptoms more challenging.
To manage stress due to struggling with diabetes, you need to follow healthy lifestyle options such as diet, physical exercise, and other stress-relieving activities.
This chronic disease, diabetes could also be a risk factor for developing depression, found out in some studies. Its still not completely understood why this happens.
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Look For Your Own Personal Approach To Alleviating Stress
Inquire within: What do I like doing to relieve stress? This question is likely to evoke a wide range of replies. For instance, some individuals find exercise relaxing, while others find it stressful. By asking this simple question to yourself, youll serve as a gentle reminder to schedule time for calming activities.
Is Stress Messing With Your Blood Sugar
Stress may raise glucose levels in your blood, leading to hyperglycemia and even diabetes. Learn how to control your condition.
Researchers have linked dozens of physical symptoms to stress overload, from fatigue to weight gain. You can add another symptom to that list: high blood sugar.
When you’re stressed, your body is primed to take action. This “gearing up” is what causes your heart to beat faster, your breath to quicken, and your stomach to knot. It also triggers your blood glucose levels to skyrocket. “Under stress, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, raising blood sugar levels to prepare you for action,” says Richard Surwit, PhD, author of The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution and chief of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, NC. If your cells are insulin resistant, the sugar builds up in your blood, with nowhere to go, leading to hyperglycemia.
We have no shortage of short-term stress in our livesfrom traffic jams to working long hours at a demanding joband our stress hormones, which were designed to deal with short-term dangers like fleeing predators, are turned on for long periods of time, even though we’re neither fighting nor fleeing. What we’re doing is stewing, which can cause chronically high blood sugar.
No matter how busy you are, you can find ways to restespecially if you have diabetes. Here’s how:
Stress Is Affecting Your Type 2 Diabetes
You know the things you eat affect your diabetes. Its easy to see the impact a brownie has on your blood sugar. You also know that exercise, your family history, and even your gender can play a role in the development and severity of your diabetes.
But do you know how stress is affecting your diabetes? One recent study has shown that stress increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes in older women. But men are at risk too. Anyone with stress faces an increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes or seeing changes in your diabetes if youve already been diagnosed. Both physical and emotional stress can cause changes in your blood sugar levels, which can cause or worsen your diabetes.
How To Deal With Stress As A Person With Diabetes
In general, theres only so much you can do to prevent the blood sugar spikes from different types of stress hormones because we cant always predict stress.
However, if youre dealing with predictable stress or ongoing stress, definitely talk to your healthcare team about an adjustment in your insulin doses that can help tamper those stubborn high blood sugars.
For those unexpected bursts of stress and rapid spikes in your blood sugar:
You should use your established correction factor to determine an appropriate dose of insulin to bring the blood sugar down.
But keep in mind: its very likely your blood sugar will sit at that higher level until your body has recovered from the stressful state. When those stress hormones are pumping and adrenaline is causing your liver to produce more glucose, it can be very difficult to get ahead of it.
For ongoing stress during a period of your life:
If you know the next few months are going to be stressful because of a promotion at work, a divorce, the death of a loved one for example then a simple increase by a few units in your background insulin dose can have a big impact on staying in your goal blood sugar range.
Dont underestimate how much ongoing stress can affect your daily insulin needs. Even on the normal days during a stressful period of your life, your body is still coping with that ongoing stressor.
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How Does Adrenaline Affect Your Blood Sugar
In a non-diabetic body, that surge of adrenaline triggering a surge of glycogen would be accompanied by a surge of insulin, too.
As people with diabetes, were missing the surge of insulin part, which can easily spike your blood sugar from 120 mg/dL to 300 mg/dL in less than an hour.
Adjusting your insulin for this can be tricky. A quick bolus of insulin using your normal correction factor ratio could easily produce little or no effect on the high blood sugar while adrenaline is present.
Personally, Ive found that I needed a significant increase in my background insulin doses on the day of a powerlifting competition in order to keep my blood sugar from spiking due to adrenaline. A quick bolus would have no impact and the only thing that would otherwise bring my blood sugar down was when the competition ended and my body relaxed.
If youre dealing with predictable adrenaline around a sporting event, for example, talk to your healthcare team about making an adjustment in your background insulin.
If youre dealing with sudden, unexpected surges of adrenaline because you just got into a car accident, for example, youll likely have to try lowering it with a bolus of insulin but may not see it come down for a few hours.
When its actually not adrenaline
What Causes Blood Sugar To Rise Without Eating
For the most part, food as you gathered from above, is the main driver for rises in blood sugar. However, life as you know is never a straight line.
There are other factors that can cause blood sugar to rise without eating. Some of that has to do with inter-play of hormones.
Stress hormones like cortisol, catecholamines , mobilize glucose from the stored glucose in the liver. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose in the liver.
These hormones cause a rise in blood sugar without eating both in diabetics and non-diabetics. Any thing that causes stress to your body will cause your blood sugar to rise.
Prescription and some over-the-counter medications like nasal decongestants can also cause your blood sugar to rise without eating.
Below are some of the causes of high blood sugar without eating:
- Steroid medication
- Diuretics pills that make you pee
- Nasal decongestants containing phenylephrine or pseoudoephedrine
- Poor sleep
As you tell from the above list, yes, stress can cause high blood sugar in non-diabetics. Stress from whatever origin has the potential to increase cortisol levels in the blood.
And as I explained earlier anything that causes liver cells to mobilize their glycogen stores unnecessarily will raise your blood sugar. Stress will do just that.
Should non-diabetics check blood sugar?
And Guess what
So, yes, my advice is that non-diabetics can test for blood sugar, if you are looking for some guidance on the matter.
Suggested further reading:
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Identify Sources Of Stress
Being pregnant, preparing for a new baby and learning to manage gestational diabetes are stressful things on their own. But you also lead a life in the real world, with all it stresses and tensions.
Stress has many sources. Name some of your main sources of stress and see if you can identify an action to reduce or eliminate complications of gestational diabetes for you and your baby.
You might find that simply learning as much as you can about gestational diabetes will relieve much of your worry.
The Mental Vicious Circle
Beyond the pure physical impact of stress, theres a confounding mental element: If you are stressed out, your mental bandwidth to deal with complex tasks is reduced. You are less organized, energetic and motivated. So naturally, this impacts diabetes control. When people get stressed out, theyre more likely to eat heavy comfort foods, skip difficult tasks or medications, and to basically ignore their diabetes. This is even more significant when it comes to stresss first cousin: Depression.
Depressions negative effect on diabetes control is well-documented, and deadly serious.
Theres a big difference between being stressed or burnt out, and being clinically depressed, according to Dr. Bill Polonsky, founder of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, in this article on mental health and diabetes.
Depression is a clinically diagnosed or diagnosable medical condition, whereas experiencing stress is not. He explains:
Still, everyday stress on its own can certainly derail your diabetes management, and research shows it can even weaken your immune system.
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What Makes Blood Glucose Go Up Or Down
Food, diabetes medicines, and physical activity have the most effect on blood glucose levels most of the time, but there are other things that can raise or lower blood glucose. Heres a list of some of what can make your blood glucose go up, go down, or go down too much resulting in hypoglycemia. UP Eating carbohydrate-containing foods Not taking the diabetes medicines you need Not taking enough of the diabetes medicines youve been prescribed Taking certain non-diabetesrelated medicines, such as steroids, some oral contraceptives, laxatives , or diuretics Eating meals or snacks too close to each other Inactivity Infection or other illness Changes in hormone levels Stress DOWN Taking diabetes medicines Being physically active Drinking alcohol Taking certain non-diabetesrelated medicines DOWN TOO LOW Not eating enough carbohydrate Taking too high a dose of diabetes medicine Taking certain non-diabetesrelated medicines such as warfarin and some antibiotics Eating meals or snacks too far apart from each other Drinking alcohol, especially on an empty stomach Being more physically active than usual Continue reading > >
What Are The Symptoms Of Stress
Sometimes, the symptoms of stress are subtle and you may not notice them. Stress can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being, and it can also impact your physical health. Recognizing the symptoms can help you identify stress and take steps to manage it.
If youre stressed, you may experience:
Its possible to lessen or limit the stressors in your life. Here are a few things that you can do to manage the effects of different forms of stress.
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Effect Of Long Stress On Blood Glucose Levels
It is important to be aware that repeated episodes of stress can cause serious changes in blood sugar levels, making it harder for diabetics to manage their condition and increasing the risk of hypoglycemia .
Constant stress will also cause adrenal fatigue leading to adrenal failure, which is why it is vital to remove stress from your life, especially if you have diabetes.
How To Cope With Stress
Everyone copes with stressful situations in different ways. If you want to change the way you react so things feel easier, try the Stress Manager tool on our Learning Zone. Answer questions on how you deal with the demands of managing your condition to get a plan of action to help you simplify stressful situations.
Look after yourself
At times of stress, its even more important to remember to look after yourself and treat yourself kindly.
But we know its not always as easy as that. If youre extra busy at work or looking after family then forgetting to eat or take medication can happen.
Its important to get a balance between looking after yourself without putting too much pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly. This can add or lead to stress. But its good to be aware of how easy it can be to give into the habit of letting diabetes self-care slip in times of stress.
Getting enough sleep and building exercise, rest and relaxation time into your routine helps some people cope better with stress.
“When things get hard, I usually go into self-care over drive. If too many hypos are throwing me off, I’ll hole up on the sofa with blankets and some trashy TV to make me feel better.”
Laura, who has type 1 diabetes – read Laura’s story
And you dont need us to tell you that turning to comfort food will raise your blood sugar and make you feel worse. Similarly, drinking more alcohol will affect your blood sugar levels.
Talk to others
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What Happens To My Blood Sugar Levels When Im Stressed
During stressful situations, epinephrine , glucagon, growth hormone and cortisol play a role in blood sugar levels. Stressful situations include infections, serious illness or significant emotion stress.
When stressed, the body prepares itself by ensuring that enough sugar or energy is readily available. Insulin levels fall, glucagon and epinephrine levels rise and more glucose is released from the liver. At the same time, growth hormone and cortisol levels rise, which causes body tissues to be less sensitive to insulin. As a result, more glucose is available in the blood stream.
When you have type 2 diabetes, low blood sugars from too much medication or insulin are a common cause of stress. The hormonal response to a low blood sugar includes a rapid release of epinephrine and glucagon, followed by a slower release of cortisol and growth hormone. These hormonal responses to the low blood sugar may last for 6-8 hours during that time the blood sugar may be difficult to control. The phenomena of a low blood sugar followed by a high blood sugar is called a rebound or Somogyi reaction.
When you have type 2 diabetes, stress may make your blood sugar go up and become more difficult to control and you may need to take higher doses of your diabetes medications or insulin.
During times of stress, individuals with diabetes, may have more difficulty controlling their blood sugars.