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How Does Stress Affect Blood Sugar


How Can You Determine If Mental Stress Is Affecting Your Glucose Levels

Diabetes and stress: how does it affect my blood sugar levels – Ken Tait

Keeping track of additional information, such as the date and what you were doing at the time you were stressed, may help you determine specific triggers. For example, are you more stressed on Monday mornings? If so, you know now to take special steps on Monday mornings to lower your stress and keep your glucose in check.

You can figure out if this is happening to you by capturing your stress and glucose levels. If you feel stressed, rate your level of mental stress on a scale from 1 to 10. Ten represents the highest level of stress. Write this number down.

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, its likely that your mental stress is negatively affecting you blood sugar.

Measuring Your Own Personal Response To Stress

Just like with most other biological processes, your diabetes makes you a master at understanding your own physical state in ways that non-diabetics would never have to. Its something I like to consider a super-power and one of those powers is the ability to quickly and succinctly measure your blood glucose levels.


The first thing, is if you dont have a small notepad or use the notepad on your phone, start carrying one or make sure you have a free notepad app on your phone. This will become your log book for diabetes.

Whenever you feel stress, or have a physical stress event rate your stress from 1-10 with 10 being the highest stress youve ever experienced. Then measure your blood glucose levels.

I also write down how much sleep Ive had the night before and what I was doing at the time of stress.

After a few weeks, this logbook will help you identify if there are any activities or parts of schedules that are predictably raising your blood sugar levels. Then you can manage that particular event. If there is no external event, then you can start using personal stress reduction techniques to lower your overall anxiety and stress levels.

Stress Raises Blood Sugar Levels

Why does extra tension in your body cause your blood sugar to go up even if you haven√Ęt eaten anything? There are a number of factors that go into this, but a primary reason is that stress triggers the body to release cortisol, which is a hormone that helps the body get through tough situations .When cortisol comes out to play, your heart rate and breathing speed up. This also sends glucose and protein stores from your liver into the blood to make energy immediately available to your muscles. In other words, your body releases sugar into the blood so that the energy can get throughout your system. The result: higher blood sugar levels.


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How Does Cortisol Affect Your Blood Sugar

Not only can cortisol contribute to unwanted high blood sugars, but its also essential for treating low blood sugars, too. Lets take a look.

When cortisol levels are high

When cortisol production increases beyond a healthy baseline, it blunts your bodys sensitivity to insulin. This means you need more insulin during those hours in order to keep your blood sugar in your goal range.

While your body does produce cortisol 24 hours a day, there are certain times of day anyone can expect to be producing more, like first the thing in the morning.

If you manage your diabetes with insulin, this also explains why you may notice that you need more insulin in the earliest hours of the day, and with breakfast.


As soon as you wake up in the morning, your body produces a surge of cortisol, explains the Society for Endocrinology. This surge is critical for simply starting your day and functioning fully now that you are awake!

And if your overall baseline cortisol needs increase due to constant, ongoing stress, youll notice that your baseline insulin needs increase, too.

You can read the post How to Avoid High Morning Blood Sugars for more information and practical tips for dealing with morning highs.

When cortisol levels are low

On the flip side, without enough or any cortisol you would struggle with constant hypoglycemia .

How To Combat Stress

Diabetic Confessions: Heres How Stress Affects My Blood ...

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

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How Much Does Your Stress Raise Your Blood Sugar Levels

Your bodys response to stress will be to raise blood sugar levels in proportion to the amount of stress felt, and your own biology.

Because of the long-lasting cortisol levels, your body could have a longer time of higher blood sugar levels.

The stress hormones released also have an effect on your muscle and fat cells that cause them to become more insulin resistant, so that the blood sugar levels stay elevated.

Interestingly, low blood sugar is itself a physical stressor, so it is possible to have a high blood sugar rebound caused by your low blood sugar levels. This is called a Somogyi reaction. Your blood sugar can be difficult to control in this type of rebound state.

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.

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No matter how busy you are, you can find ways to restespecially if you have diabetes. Here’s how:

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How Stress Affects Blood Sugar

Research studies have connected many different physical conditions to having too much stress. Things like chronic fatigue syndrome and obesity have been linked to increased stress levels. It turns out that stress has an impact on blood sugar levels, which has great implications for those suffering from diabetes.

People under increased levels of stress are suffering from a heightened fight or flight response. This causes the adrenal glands to put out norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol when exposed to the stressor. The stomach knots up, the respiratory rate is faster, and the heart rate is faster. The cortisol released by the adrenal cortex causes elevated blood sugar levels in an attempt to provide cellular fuel if the body actually needs to go into fighting or fleeing.

If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, it means that your bodys cells are insulin resistant. The rise in glucose that comes from stress and cortisol release isnt managed well and the blood sugar has no place to go. It means that the blood sugar levels will be too high.


Does Not Eating Lower Blood Sugar

How does stress affect your 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.

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What To Do If You Have A Blood Sugar Spike

For those with diabetes, having a blood sugar spike can be dangerous because too much sugar in the blood passes into the urine. This triggers the body to filter out the fluid, which could lead to dehydration or a diabetic coma.

In the event that blood sugar levels spike because of stressors that cannot be managed, its vital to make managing your blood glucose a priority. You can do this by focusing on things you can control, such as your diet and exercise, checking your blood sugar regularly, and taking your medications as instructed by your physician.

If Possible Eliminate Long

McIntyre says that too much stress can be a warning that something needs to change. Since long-term stressors affect your long-term blood sugar levels and can cause damage to your overall health, theyre even more worthy of a reevaluation. Is it your job thats tipping you over the edge? If so, he suggests that you have a conversation with your boss on how to improve your work environment, apply for a transfer, or even start the hunt for a new job.


Also Check: Type 2 Diabetes And Genetics

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.

The Effect Of Stress On Blood Sugar

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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.

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Blood Sugar Can Increase

Cortisol signals your brain and body that it is time to get ready for action. You may be able feel this as your heart pounds and muscles tense. At the same time, what you may not feel is that cortisol signals a hormone called glucagon to trigger the liver to release glucose into your bloodstream. The result: higher blood sugar.

Cortisols role in preparing your body for action goes beyond mobilizing glucose stores. Cortisol also works to make sure that the energy that you might spend gets replenished. That means you may feel hungry even when you do not truly need the food and that can lead to weight gain. Again, the result is an increase in blood sugar. Lark DPP can help you track food and notice patterns, without stressing over it, so you can keep calories and weight in check.

Dont Let Stress Rule You

Managing your diabetes can often feel like walking a tightrope. And adding in stress management can feel daunting. But we are here to reassure you, you can do it!

As always, keep calm and regularly check your blood sugar and watch the trends in your CGM. If you take insulin, let it run its course when you make small corrections and avoid the angry bolus. Keep good records, use your mySugr App to track yourstressors, and let your coach or doctor guide you on good therapy choices.

  • Diabetes.co.uk, 2019. Stress and Blood Glucose Levels. Available at: .
  • Ranabir, S., Reetu, K., 2011. Stress and hormones. Indian J Endocrinol Metab, Available at: .
  • Mind, 2017. How to Manage Stress. Available at: .
  • Diabetes UK, 2020. Stress and Diabetes. Available at: .
  • Self, 2018. 6 Things That Can Cause Your Blood Sugar to Spike or Drop. Available at: .
  • Cigna, 2020. Sick-Day Guidelines for People With Diabetes. Available at: .
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    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.

    How Stress Affects The Body

    THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CORTISOL AND BLOOD SUGAR (how cortisol and blood sugar interact)

    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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