How Stress Plays A Role In Diabetes & Prediabetes
1. Stress leads to sugar spikes
When weâre faced with a stressor, our whole body responds. A stressor for our ancestors might have been a bear in the wild, while a common stressor today is the fear of losing a job. But the bodyâs response is the same. Our adrenal glands produce hormones called cortisol and epinephrine , which prepares the body to act. These hormones trigger the liver to release glycogen, which are long chains of sugar molecules that we store just for purposes like this. The rush of sugar can give us an energy boost to run from, or confront, a threat.
Thatâs a natural and needed response to help us deal with a crisis. But what happens when weâre repeatedly feeling stressed over issues we canât immediately resolve? We end up with chronic stress. This means our hypothalamus â the fear center of the brain â is almost always activated to some degree. We end up with high stress hormone levels that frequently cause our bodies to release stored sugars. .
The repeated sugar spikes mean the insulin receptors that let sugars pass into our cells get worn out. Over time, the pancreas has to release more and more insulin to help get the sugars through the worn out insulin receptors. This is known as insulin resistance.
2. Stress causes weight gain, which is associated with insulin resistance
In other words, encouraging the body to store fat is another way that chronic and high stress indirectly contributes to insulin resistance.
Clinical Implications: Assessment And Treatment
Pain is a leading cause of disability and the number one symptom driving patients to seek physical therapy. Although faulty ergonomic practices, postural strain, and repetitive overuse microtrauma must be addressed for the effective treatment of musculoskeletal pain, individuals in the same environment with equivalent ergonomic and postural demands do not all experience pain, and a dysfunctional HPA axis may mediate this discrepancy. Although the factor initiating treatment may be musculoskeletal in origin, a chronic stress response , cortisol dysfunction, and widespread inflammation may initiate, exacerbate, or prolong the pain experience, impair healing, and perpetuate chronic disability. Screening tools such as the Pain Catastrophizing Scale and the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire are becoming increasingly common in clinical practice and utilized to identify maladaptive responses to pain.,, However, in the physical therapy setting, there is less emphasis on the role of nonpain-related stress in the pain experience.
How To Reduce Cortisol: Take The Next Step
Chronic stress leads to the continual release of the stress hormone cortisol.
And a chronically elevated cortisol level is very harmful to both your physical and mental health.
Fortunately, you can moderate cortisol production with healthy lifestyle adjustments.
Eating the right foods, getting a moderate amount of exercise, breathing properly, and employing stress reduction techniques like meditation and tapping can offset the damaging effects of cortisol and decrease its production.
Additionally, you can take cortisol-lowering supplements.
Its easy to get caught up in aspects of life that stress you out work, money, relationships, and health issues, to name a few.
Give yourself permission to have fun!
Engage in activities like hanging out with friends, playing with your pet, and enjoying art, music, and creative hobbies that feed your spirit and make you happy.
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Laughing And Having Fun
It is hard to feel stressed when having a good time, so finding time to have fun can also lower a persons cortisol levels. One study showed cortisol levels decreasing in response to laughter.
Being happy and having a positive outlook appear to be related to lower cortisol levels, and happiness has other benefits too, such as lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system.
Cortisol Levels And Stress: How Cortisol Levels And Stress Are Connected
Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on January 12, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
If youâve ever found yourself in a stressful situation, you may have experienced symptoms associated with the common âfight or flightâ responseâsuch as heart pounding, heavier breathing, muscles tensing, and increased sweating. This is your bodyâs way of reacting to stress, such as when youâre in danger. But what role do cortisol levels play when it comes to stress?
Thatâs what weâll explore in more depth here, so read on if youâre interested in learning more about the connection between cortisol levels and stress.
See how your cortisol levels change throughout the day and whether they may be too high or too low with the easy-to-use, at-home Sleep & Stress Test.
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The Hpa Axis And Cortisol: Influences On Pain
A large body of evidence is dedicated to elucidating the relationship between pain and stress. Numerous prospective studies have reported baseline anxiety scores to be significant predictors of pain, depression, and a reduced quality of life.,, Importantly, pain itself is a stressor, and a maladaptive response to acute pain may intensify the pain experience and condition a sensitized physiologic stress response to pain-provoking stimuli.,,, Exaggerated, prolonged, or recurrent activation of a sensitized stress response to pain or nonpain-related stressors may initiate or exacerbate pain and disability.,, Although the relationship between pain and stress is widely accepted, the underlying neuroendocrine mechanisms involved are less understood.
Engage In Creative Projects
Engaging in creative pursuits such as playing a musical instrument, getting involved in a community performance, or creating visual art can also be helpful in lowering cortisol levels.
Kaimal et al. found that engaging in a painting project for 45 minutes dropped cortisol levels drastically in a group of 39 adults participating in art therapy.
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Identify And Work To Address Sources Of Stress
If youre experiencing high levels of stress frequently, its time to do some self-reflection.
Knowing exactly whats causing stress consistently in your life helps you take strategic action to lower cortisol levels.
For example, if youre always stressed about being late to work, try implementing a mindful morning routine and leaving earlier each day. If specific projects at work are stressing you out, consider ways to break them up or delegate.
Remember: its always okay to ask for support if you need it! Your health should come first.
Reduce Your Alcohol Intake Or Better Yet Quit It Altogether
Contrary to what many people believe, alcohol is not a stimulant. It is, instead, a depressant with stimulating effects. In the same article by the American Psychological Association, since the pandemic started, more and more people especially parents with younger children have started turning toalcohol as a way to cope with stress .
This could be due to the popular but misguided belief that alcohol helps you relax. According to WebMD, Verywellmind, and Healthline, while the initial stimulating effects of alcohol may seem relaxing, it is in truth a depressant that affects your central nervous system and impacts how your brain communicates with the nerves in your body. A study published in 2008 by the journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that for every unit of alcohol per week men consumed, their cortisol levels increased by 3 percent .
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Stick To A Regular Eating Schedule
Though it can be tricky at times, sticking to an eating schedule is a great way to keep stress under control. This is in part because it takes the guesswork out of when your next meal will be, which in and of itself can be a source of anxiety. In turn, sticking to a schedule can also help prevent stress-eating, another habit that can contribute to an uptick in cortisol levels, especially since we tend to reach for cortisol-boosting sweets and comfort foods when we’re overloaded.
“Recognize if and when you are engaging in stress eating: Try to keep a regular eating schedule where you avoid ever getting too hungry and avoid ever stuffing yourself to the brim,” advises Miller. “Before grabbing a snack, take a minute to ask yourself if you are truly hungry. You may find that you are really just stressed and looking for something to munch on or you are bored. Try to structure an eating routine where you eat a meal/snack every 3-4 hours while awake.”
What Causes High Cortisol Levels
A number of things can cause high cortisol levels, including:
- physical and emotional stress your body can’t gauge the seriousness of a stressful situation, so something simple like a traffic jam can kick-start your stress response system, as can being ill with a cold
- medication certain medications like corticosteroids and oral contraceptives might increase your cortisol levels
- oestrogen high oestrogen levels in women, for example, in pregnancy, is linked to raised cortisol levels
- an adrenal gland tumour your adrenal glands produce cortisol, so any issues with them can affect your cortisol levels
- a pituitary gland issue an overactive pituitary gland stimulates your adrenal glands to make too much cortisol
- malnutrition for example, if you suffer from an eating disorder
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The Acute Stress Response
In the initial stage of the acute stress response, the amygdala signals the brain stem to release sympathetic adrenergic catecholamines, norepinephrine and epinephrine., Once released into the blood flow, catecholamine neurotransmitters increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration vasoconstrict arterioles and stimulate sweat secretion and pupillary dilation. Importantly, this short-term sympathetic response is proinflammatory, functioning to destroy antigens, pathogens, or foreign invaders adrenoreceptor antagonists have been shown to inhibit stress-induced inflammation and cytokine production by blocking the proinflammatory effects of norepinepherine.,, Although the role of the sympathoadrenal medullary response in chronic pain is important to consider, the details are beyond the scope of this article.
Mindfulness: Calm The Mind
Cortisol is released into the body as a result of stress, but the body cannot distinguish between perceived or a real threat. This inability to distinguish means that thinking about stressful things leads to the same stress response that you would experience in times of real imminent threat.
Calming the mind can be done in various ways, and studies show that things as simple as making a daily effort to focus on positive aspects of your life can lead to drastically lower cortisol levels.
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Gingko Biloba Leaf Extract To Reduce Cortisol
Gingko biloba is another heavily researched supplement great for reducing cortisol. It is a plant extract that’s been used in Chinese medicine for a very long time. Research shows that Ginkgo biloba extract can halt a rise in both blood pressure and cortisol levels in healthy study participants. This means that when you’re stressed out, Ginkgo biloba extract can help limit the amount of cortisol released. In other studies performed on animals, Gingko biloba is shown to attenuate the affects of acute stress. Ginkgo biloba extract is definitely one to add to your arsenal, and the most convenient way to get it is through supplementation.
Working With Your Physician
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Ease Loneliness And Depression
A 2011 study found that pet owners had better self-esteem. Another study determined that pets provided greater social support than humans in mitigating depression. Caring for a pet provides a sense of purpose to the owner, says Barron. Plus, pets are a good social catalyst for meeting people who share your animal interests.
Causes Of High Cortisol Levels
Wondering what underlying conditions could be contributing to your high cortisol levels? Cortisol tends to go up as perceived stress goes up, so anything that triggers a negative mind states things like anxiety, worry, anger or frustration contributes to high cortisol levels. Medication use, inflammation, poor sleep and a poor diet can also trigger high cortisol levels by altering hormonal balances and negatively affecting the immune system.
Corticosteroid medications like hydrocortisone, prednisone pills or other medications used to treat inflammatory-related diseases or symptoms are common causes of high cortisol levels. Aside from corticosteroids, other major factors contributing to higher than usual cortisol production include:
- recent surgery, illness, injury or whole-body infections
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How To Test Your Cortisol Levels
A blood, saliva, or urine test can be done to measure your cortisol levels. Depending on the cause, your GP might sometimes arrange a cortisol test, most commonly using a blood test.
Cortisol blood test
A cortisol blood test is usually done in the morning when your cortisol levels tend to be at their highest. Cortisol levels tend to fall as the day goes on, reaching their lowest point at night before bed.
Cortisol urine test
A cortisol urine test involves collecting all of your urine over the course of a day. This can help to show how your cortisol levels change throughout the day.
How To Choose The Most Popular Supplement To Lower Cortisol
The three most crucial criteria to consider are price, quality, and popularity.Price is an obvious factor to consider, as you want to ensure it is acceptable for your needs.Quality should also be examined because buying a low-quality goods will not help you achieve your main aim of obtaining the best product.Finally, while not as obvious as price or quality, popularity can be just as significant as both when it comes to attracting new customers.
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Set Limits On Work/obligations
This is perhaps the hardest part for many of my own personal clients who are struggling to balance careers, kids, and demanding homelives. As much as we want to do it all, we have real physiologic limits. Humans tend to perceive failure when they are unable to meet expectations.Eventually, this feeling of failure leads to a sense of lack of control and activation of the stress response . Setting personal limits and being somewhat selfish with your time can also help to reduce stress. Make a list of your obligations. Set realistic goals for what you can accomplish. Which of these things are important and which are not worth your time?
Best Adaptogens For Stress
Although all adaptogens have an anti-stress effect, each adaptogen has unique benefits. Some include support for the immune system, anti-inflammatory effects, improving sleep, and reduction of anxiety and depression.
There are adaptogens with a calming effect on the system and ones capable of producing a healthy stimulating effect.
The herbs mentioned in this article may have the ability to regulate cortisol levels, regulate the HPA axis , or both.
So what are the best adaptogens for stress? Read on below.
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High Cortisol Testing And Diagnoses
Your doctor can order a number of tests to determine if you have abnormally high cortisol levels. Both blood and urine testing help reveal a problem, but a 24-hour urine test is used more often than a cortisol blood test to diagnose Cushings disease or syndrome.
The cortisol values listed below, which can be obtained from a blood test, serve as a reference range for whats considered normal. Cortisol levels above this normal range are considered high and can be risky or problematic.
But keep in mind that values differ depending on time of day, age and the type of cortisol test preformed. Saliva tests are now also recommended and appear to be as reliable as a blood sample. Additionally, an overnight dexamethasone suppression test may also be recommended, and it involves taking a dose of a corticosteroid medicine called dexamethasone to determine how blood cortisol is affected.
Because of this, your doctor will always need to evaluate your results in light of your specific symptoms and medical history.
- Normal cortisol ranges for adults and children in the morning are between five to 23 micrograms per deciliter or 138 to 635 nanomoles per liter
- Normal cortisol ranges for adults and children in the afternoon are between three to 16 mcg/dL or 83 to 441 nmol/L
- Normal cortisol for a newborn baby is between two to 11 mcg/dL or 55 to 304 nmol/L
Final Thoughts on Cortisol Levels
Fight Or Flight Response And Cortisol
Once the body senses stress, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and stimulates the release of catecholamines leading to an increased heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure, muscle strength , and increase in alertness.
Cortisol is continuously released to keep the body in this alert state to respond to stressful stimuli. However, this heightened response comes with a higher energy cost, so the metabolic systems will be affected to keep a steady supply of energy coming to the brain .
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