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
What Happens When Your Cortisol Stays High
If youre under constant stress, your cortisol levels will stay high.
And so will your blood sugar levels.
Can you guess the impact this has on your health?
Chronically high cortisol can lead to a host of diseases and health problems, including :
But this isnt the only issue.
Another problem that chronically high cortisol can cause is insulin resistance.
What does this mean for you?
/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.
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.
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.
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 .
Signs You Are Experiencing Diabetic Ketoacidosis
If you are in DKA, its likely that you are nauseous or vomiting.; Your breath may have a fruity or acetone odor as your body tries to offload ketones through your breathing. Its likely that you will be dehydrated with very high BG levels and excessive urination.; You might have aches and pains, and perhaps blurred vision. Not fun!
DKA is serious, and can be life-threatening. Because of dehydration and excessive ketone production, the blood becomes acidic. This is caused by a lack of working insulin. Most cells preferentially burn glucose for fuel. Many cells can also burn fat in small amounts. While glucose burns cleanly, fat produces waste products called ketones. Ketones are acid and upset the pH balance, essentially polluting the atmosphere in our bodies.
We dont tend to burn much fat at a time, so small amounts of ketones can usually be broken down and burned off along with glucose. Its necessary to have enough glucose in the body cells so there is a fuel source, and we also need to have insulin to move the glucose into the cells, where it can be used for energy. If there is no insulin, the glucose cant get inside the cells. The cells are then forced to burn fat as an energy source, and this causes large amounts of ketones to be produced.
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What Causes Blood Sugar To Rise In Non
Dr.;Danielle;Weiss is the founder of;Center for Hormonal Health and Well-Being, a personalized, proactive, patient-centered medical practice with a unique focus on integrative endocrinology. She enjoys giving lectures and writing articles for both the lay public and medical audiences. Dr. Weiss is Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego.;
High blood sugar or glucose, also called hyperglycemia, occurs when there is too much sugar in the blood. High blood sugar is the primary symptom that underlies diabetes, but it can also occur in people who dont have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, either because of stress or trauma, or gradually as a result of certain chronic conditions.
It is important to manage high blood sugar, even if you dont have diabetes, because elevated blood glucose can delay your ability to heal, increase your risk of infections, and cause irreversible damage to your nerves, blood vessels, and organs, such as your eyes and kidneys. Blood vessel damage from high blood sugar also increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Other Ways Stress Causes High Blood Sugar
There are other ways that stress can lead to spikes in blood sugar. During periods of stress, people may participate in behaviors that could lead to high blood sugar such as emotional overeating of refined carbohydrates or foods that are high in added sugars. People may also fail to exercise or take their medications when theyre supposed to. Since stress has the ability to change healthy habits, these factors can all lead to elevated blood sugar levels.
Stress can also affect sleep because stress and sleep are both controlled by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. When a person is under high stress and the axis is encouraging the extra production of cortisol, changes in the axis occur. This leads to problems with getting quality sleep as well as changes in sleeping patterns. When a person isnt getting enough sleep, it can cause glucose intolerance, which describes metabolic conditions that cause high blood sugar levels.
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Eliminate Whats Stressing You Out
While this seems obvious, it should be your first plan of action. You might not be able to completely avoid the stress, but you could reduce it by brainstorming alternatives and problem solving. If you want to avoid rush-hour traffic, try leaving at a different time;or adopt a new route. If a relationship is troubling you, see if you can make amends. If you find you cannot accomplish tasks at hand, find new ways to get organized.
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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The Effect Of Stress On Blood Sugar
Stress triggers an increase in the body’s levels of the fight-or-flight hormone cortisol, as if you were under attack, explains Roger McIntyre, MD, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto in Canada. In response, the body releases extra energy into the bloodstream in the form of glucose.
When chronically heightened, cortisol works against glucose control even in people who dont have diabetes, Dr. McIntyre says. Yet people with diabetes are unable to properly process and store that glucose because of insulin resistance, meaning that glucose accumulates even more in their blood in times of stress.
Everyone gets stressed out at times, but its important to understand that theres a difference between short-term and long-term stress, he says. While lifes inevitable acute stressors getting stuck in traffic, bickering with a family member cause a temporary rise in blood sugar, its the factors that can lead to chronic stress, such as an unhappy marriage, a cruel boss, or the COVID-19 quarantine, that can cause serious damage.
Diabetes is even considered to be an independent factor in the development of depression, according an;analysis published in June 2019 in Preventive Medicine Reviews. That means that if you take two otherwise identical people, the one with diabetes is significantly more likely to struggle with depression.
Does Not Eating Lower Blood Sugar
If you dont eat, your blood sugar levels are lower and medication may drop them even more, which can lead to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia can cause you to feel shaky, pass out, or even go into a coma. When you break your fast by eating, you may also be more likely to develop too-high blood sugar levels.
Stress Affects The Immune System
Chronic stress may also affect the immune system.
In one study, researchers noticed that a particular immune system response to chronic stress is a similar response to one that is involved in the development of type 2 diabetes.
To determine if stressful events are causing an increase in blood sugar, people can measure their blood glucose throughout the day. They should note how they are feeling and when they last ate.
People can then show their readings to their doctor for analysis.
If the doctor notices that stress may be affecting blood sugar, they can explore different techniques to help a person control their stress levels.
The American Diabetes Association recommend that people with diabetes take care of their mind just as much as they do their body.
Stress can be both a contributor to diabetes and a consequence of it. However, there are many effective ways to relieve stress.
The strategy that works best for one person may be different for the next person. Exploring different options can help a person find the strategy that works best for them.
A 2018 study that took place in a clinic in Iran found that taking part in social-related stress management training could improve blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Stress management techniques may help people manage their glycated hemoglobin levels.
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.;
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S Toward Stress Reduction
One of the things you need to do in order to lessen the effect of stress on your blood glucose levels and improve your overall health is to take time in your daily life to rest whenever you can.; The rest periods can be very short but they should be often because only through rest can you lessen your bodys cortisol level and improve your quality of life.
Rest is crucial for long-term spiritual and psychological well-being.; If you dont take time out to reduce your stress levels, you can become ill.; Scientists studying stress in the Netherlands reported that too much fatigue, also known as vital exhaustion causes demoralization, irritability, and fatigue.; It may also increase your chances of getting a heart attack by 100 percent.
These are ways you can take time out of your life for rest and stress reduction:
Can Stress And Anxiety Raise Blood Sugar Levels
Everyone experiences anxiety. In fact, studies show Americans are more;stressed out;than ever.
But can stress and anxiety actually raise the level of your blood sugar? And what does this mean for those who have;diabetes?;;
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How To Reduce Your Stress Levels
Learning what helps;you manage, reduce, and relieve your overall stress level is a vital lesson. Sometimes the simplest thing can help you take a deep breath, lower your blood pressure, lower stress hormones, and release the physical and mental grip of stress.
Here are a few ideas for reducing your stress levels:
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
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S To Find Out If Stress Is Affecting Your Blood Glucose Levels
- Step 1. Rate your stress level from 1-10, where 1 indicates the lowest stress level and ; 10 the highest. Record the stress level along with situation and feelings in your logbook.
- Step 2. Test your blood glucose and record your result.
- Step 3. After a week or two, study your results to see if theres any pattern between your stress levels and your blood glucose levels.
What About The Glycemic Index
Your daily carb total, spread steadily across the day, is one key to good blood sugar control. Some people also use the glycemic index , a rating of how individual foods raise blood sugar levels. Beans and whole-grain breads and cereals have a lower GI than white bread and regular pasta. Juice has a higher GI than whole fruit. Craving a high-GI food? Eat it along with a lower-GI choice to help control your levels.
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