Stress has become a mainstay in our lives, and so have the health complications associated with it. The most widespread among these complications is Type 2 Diabetes. If your glucose levels have been rising no matter what, it may be time to take a look at your stress levels. So how are stress and diabetes connected? In this article, we talk about how does stress cause diabetes, and how to manage stress effectively in order to lower your blood sugar levels.Contents:
Stress can be defined as a feeling of strain or tension, be it physical, mental, or emotional. It can be caused by any incident that makes you feel pressured or overwhelmed. The most common causes of stress include work, familial or social relationships, finances, illness and injury.
When you are under stress, your body releases certain hormones (called stress hormones) that prepare you to deal with the stressor (the incident or factor causing stress). These hormones alter the normal functioning of your body in order to make it more alert. This is known as the “fight or flight” response.
Stress can be positive and healthy in the short term as it helps you grow physically, emotionally, or mentally when handled and overcome in the right way. Long-term stress, however, can take a toll on your health and cause problems like Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, depression, etc.
Stress response is your body’s way of responding to a stimulus that may endanger you (physically, mentally, or emotionally). As a result, you may experience a few adverse effects caused by your body’s response to stress.
Here are some of the clear physical and emotional symptoms of stress. You may:
Stress does not directly cause Type 2 Diabetes, but it can be a significant contributor to the condition. When you are under stress, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol. These hormones prepare your body to deal with the stressor by:
When under stress, your body requires more energy in the form of glucose. It produces more glucose by breaking down proteins (a process known as gluconeogenesis) in your liver, in order to supply your brain with more energy.
Cortisol also inhibits the secretion of insulin from your pancreas in order to increase blood glucose levels. It also counteracts the effects of insulin, leading to insulin resistance. Thus, a prolonged elevation in blood cortisol levels can lead to the development of Type 2 Diabetes.
It is difficult to avoid stress in our lives, and having a chronic illness like Type 2 Diabetes may cause stress in and of itself. Though the human body is equipped to deal with short periods of stress, chronic or persistent stress can have several adverse effects, especially in diabetics.
The following are the ways in which stress can affect the health of a diabetic:
As discussed previously, chronic stress and high cortisol levels can increase your blood glucose levels by breaking down protein in your liver. Cortisol also inversely affects the function of insulin, while also inhibiting the secretion of insulin from pancreatic beta cells.
This happens because insulin helps your body conserve and store glucose. However, in times of stress, your body requires a steady supply of glucose in your bloodstream and this leads to increased blood glucose levels.
Stress can often lead to a loss of motivation or interest in self-care, which can result in reduced physical activity or missing medication. People who experience chronic stress may also turn to bad coping mechanisms like binge-eating, smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol, etc., which can negatively affect your blood glucose levels.
The aforementioned activities are often considered risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes in healthy individuals. In diabetics, these unhealthy coping mechanisms may result in further deterioration of health, as lifestyle modifications are a crucial factor in the management of diabetes.
Stress, when managed in a healthy way, can improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. You can take the following measures in order to manage stress and lower your blood glucose levels:
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and improve blood glucose control. Regular physical activity can lower your stress hormone levels and boost your mood. Therefore, exercising for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week can help you combat stress and diabetes.
Practising relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can help you relieve stress. You can also engage in activities such as gardening, reading books, or listening to your favourite music in order to relax.
Building strong connections with your family, friends, colleagues, etc. can lower stress levels and improve your mood. Relying on people close to you and discussing your health condition can also help you cope better.
If you feel overwhelmed or unable to handle your condition alone, consult your doctor or healthcare team for help. A psychologist can help you work through stress in a healthy way, and your physician or diabetologist can assist you in managing your blood glucose levels.
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