During the holidays and after a very unique election season, it is easy to see how stress levels may be a little higher than normal. These stress levels affect us in a lot of different and unexpected ways. Stress eating, for example, is a very real and direct way that stress can affect certain health conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Stress is of particular effect on one particular disease; diabetes. Stress eating directly raises blood glucose, obviously, but there are several other ways that stress can induce an effect on your blood sugar that you must watch out for.

Stress releases hormones, like epinephrine and cortisol. Once those are released, one of their direct effects is to raise blood sugar. So with that in mind, it almost makes stress eating seem like a side effect since the simple act of having stress is for the body to direct itself to immediately raise blood sugar levels. Theoretically, this is related to the fight or flight response. When you are stressed your primordial brain and body says “we must act, raise the alarm” and things like Adrenaline kick in, but also energy levels are boosted by raising available blood glucose. Surely a lifesaving scenario in ancient times, today this natural response only serves to exacerbate already potentially high blood glucose levels in diabetics.

Of course, people who aren’t diabetic have controls that reduce blood sugar spikes during these periods, but diabetics and particularly brittle ones may have no such controls, so blood glucose can swing wildly.

Think of it like this. You are diabetic, you don’t have as much of a consistent way to reduce blood glucose levels. You are also stressed, so you decide to eat a delicious extra piece of cake and wash it down with some egg nog. You’ve now introduced a lot of glucose into your system. At the same time, the stress hormones in your body are being dumped into your system triggering the release of even more glucose in relation to the fight or flight response. Add in the potential side effects of steroid medication and you can almost create a perfect storm.

If there is a takeaway here, it’s to keep a close check on your blood sugar levels. This will let you react to rising blood glucose levels by injecting insulin or whatever medication your clinician has prescribed to best combat your diabetes. Stress has almost become a way of life for many of us in modern times. Even those without diabetes can be negatively affected over time by high stress in relation of their blood glucose levels. With this said there are a few ways one can combat stress over time.

  • Take a break – Don’t let your work get you down. Take regular breaks and take a day off if you need to. Stress can eat away at you and you would be surprised how much a vacation day can help. Don’t burn yourself out, you and most likely your employer will regret this in the long run. Take breaks regularly!
  • Eat well – Balance your meals, don’t pig out junk food instead of having lunch. Get some greens in there. Fruits and veggies are your friend here.
  • Reduce intake of caffeine – Caffeine has a lot of effects on the body that we just aren’t sure about, like its effects on blood pressure. Caffeine can be a tool, but it is often overused. Treat it with respect like any other drug.
  • Sleep – Get a full nights rest
  • Exercise – A healthy amount
  • Stay in good humor
  • Consult a physician

There are many other ways to combat stress, and if you are or are not a diabetic, finding ways to minimize the impact of stress is vital.