Basics, Glycemia

Basics: diabetes and stress

So you’ve switched your diet to a proper human diet with low carb, you do your daily exercise, and you were hoping your blood glucose levels would go down fast. But they seem to resist and stay up.

One other factor in onset of diabetes and then high glycaemia is stress. Stress plays two roles when you have diabetes: it keeps your blood sugar high and it makes you want to abandon your regimen and eat bad food.

Stress increases your blood sugar by making your body release stress hormones (e.g. cortisol). These hormones are supposed to prepare you to fight that other ape that came to steal your food, or run from that giant bear with that crazy look in its eye. To do those things, you needs to have your muscles ready for action. And how does your body do that? It releases glucose into the bloodstream to send to the muscles so that they have fuel once they have exhausted their small local reserves.

What happens is that when you’re under long term stress, your body continues to prepare you to fight or flight, but you never do either. So your glucose levels are constantly up for nothing. Over time, you end up with constantly high glucose levels, i.e. diabetes.

Most people, when they’re stressed, also turn to comfort foods. And these are generally not broccoli and celery. They’re high carb foods because your body loves them, and as you’re stressed, it wants to store glucose for the action that is coming (that bear over there that’s looking at you funny). So you eat badly and you start the diabetes cycle: high glucose, weight gain, less exercise, depression, more glucose, etc.

As a result you can exacerbate existing diabetes, or you can even develop it (along with weight gain and other hormonal dysfunctions). It’s often forgotten about, but stress can be a major factor in diabetes.

It doesn’t have to be stress induced by bears. Few of us are confronted to those things anymore. But simple everyday things can create psychological and emotional stress. One easy test: take your blood glucose, go for a drive in town at rush hour, come back home, and take your blood glucose again. If you’re like me, you’ll have an elevated reading that will take a good while to come down.

Stress management should be part of every diabetic’s regimen.

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