The Link Between Diabetes And Stress

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The growing burden of diabetes has now become a global health challenge, with projections showing that it continues to increase in developing countries. The origins of this chronic disease are multi-factorial, with poor lifestyle changes and genetics establishing themselves as the leading contributors. The adoption of a detrimental lifestyle, especially, including smoking and sedentary behavior is to blame.

Stress and Diabetes

Recently, research has unfolded the close link between diabetes and stress, citing that it is a top contributor to the life-long disease. Whether physical or mental, research now suggests that pressure can instigate changes in the levels of blood glucose.

In the past, several studies have considered mental strain as a contributor to type 2 and gestational diabetes, but little research has been conducted to prove that. The inconclusive findings have suggested that stressful experiences could trigger the onset of stress or the metabolic control of the disease.

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How Stress Affects Diabetes

If you have diabetes or are regularly stressed, you are at a risk of developing poor control of your blood glucose. This is because strain releases the hormone cortisol which heightens the amount of blood sugar in your system. High cortisol levels are triggered by the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)axis.

High levels of cortisol can lead to Cushing’s syndrome. An increase in visceral adiposity, known to contribute to insulin resistance, also sets in. Being constantly stressed can cause diabetics to neglect diabetes care. For instance, they could begin to eat junk food, smoke, neglect their blood sugar control, and adopt poor lifestyle habits. It is also known as diabetes burnout.  Use this diabetic food pyramid as a guideline as to what food to consume when you have diabetes.

Studies show that a rise in blood sugars in people with type 2 and type 1 diabetes can result from mental or psychological strain. In type 1, the levels are said to drop gradually. Physical strain resulting from illness, for example, causes a spike in blood glucose in all types of diabetes. Work-related stress is said to raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 45 percent, while depression increases the risk by 17 percent. People with any type of diabetes are said to have a 29 percent risk of suffering from depression, while that risk increases by 53 percent in insulin-dependent patients.

The Effects of Obesity-Induced Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress

The adipose tissue is responsible for keeping metabolic homeostasis under control. Type 2 diabetes and obesity are the two major metabolic diseases that have dysfunctions in the adipose tissue and chronic inflammation. Obesity alone heightens the risk of the onset of type 2 and gestational diabetes.

In the modern society, reduced physical activity and high caloric diets have increased the cases of obesity to epidemic proportions. The increased rates of obesity have in turn contributed highly to the occurrence of type 2 diabetes.

The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a stress response used to align the functional capacity.  Endoplasmic Reticulum stress is caused by a fast metabolic process. Also known as a protein-folding factory, ER is a major site for lipid, protein, and glucose metabolism. It also plays a critical role in calcium homeostasis and lipoprotein secretion.

Hypothalamic ER causes insulin resistance, while hepatic ER stress promotes the development of insulin resistance. When not controlled, ER impairs stress synthesis.  Adipose cells act as inflammatory sources resulting in systemic inflammation in obese people. The systemic inflammation associated with obesity can damage vital organs. When present in the adipose tissue, ER stress can be a result of nutrient over-load and local glucose deprivation resulting from this hormone resistance

Determining if Stress is affecting your Blood Glucose

Pressure causes the body to work harder to cope forcing it to release the “fight or flight” response. It does so by releasing hormones including adrenaline and epinephrine. The two hormones add sugar in the blood. More so, your body releases sugar from the muscles, fat reserves, and liver.

You can track the effects of pressure on your blood glucose by keeping records of the time and day you were stressed and what led to the stressful situation. If for instance, you tend to be stressed on a certain day, you can take measures to control the levels of stress every morning of that day. Rate your pressure against the level of your blood glucose. After monitoring this for several weeks, you should have a pattern. If your blood sugars are constantly elevated, there could be chances that stress is affecting you negatively.

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Signs of Stress

Your personality and ability to resist stressful situations affect how you react to pressure. Sometimes, the signs can be subtle and hard to notice. When stressed, you are likely to develop the following symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Intense urge to sleep
  • Tension
  • Not feeling well
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness

Stressed people are also likely to smoke, act out of anger, withdraw from others, overeat, and engage in strange behavior.

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Coping with Stress

Once you have identified the stress triggers of your blood sugars, begin devising ways of keeping them out. Some of the following ways can help in coping with stress for both diabetics and non-diabetics.

  • Meditate and take up yoga classes
  • Learn cognitive behavior therapy
  • Engage in progressive relaxation therapy
  • Find a credible therapist
  • Eat healthy and exercise routinely
  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine makes it harder for the body to handle sugar and boosts the number of stress hormones.
  • Get a relaxing hobby such as reading, watching movies, etc.

People react to pressure differently. Some react in a way that makes them vulnerable. For instance, the feelings could leave them hopeless or anxious making it hard to cope with even minor stressors. Others tend to respond positively and are better able to cope with the situation especially if they have social groups or supportive families.

Although diabetes presents a host of challenges from wearing certain types of shoes, dairy or hourly medications, to adopting a certain diet, it can be managed. You can do so by avoiding the triggers of a spike in blood glucose including stress. Adding a daily meditative session and a workout routine is good for you too.