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8/28/23 | Education

Stress and Blood Sugar Spikes: Here’s What You Need To Know

Stress is an inescapable facet of modern life. Amidst our bustling routines, packed schedules, and the steadily-increasing demands of our work and personal lives, stress is a constant companion for many of us. While temporary bouts of stress are manageable, chronic stress can lead to harmful consequences. We aren’t strangers to this discussion; however, we have yet to shine a spotlight on one of the most significant effects of perceived stress: blood sugar spikes.

 

Have you noticed the rise in wearable glucose monitors? Leading voices in the health, wellness, and science space, like Peter Attia, M.D. and Kelly LeVeque, are openly touting their CGMs and sharing the information with their communities. In addition to spikes in blood sugar following the consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods, they have also discussed surprisingly big increases in blood glucose after stressful moments or a night of poor sleep.

 

This got us wondering: how many of the individuals stacking their fiber-forward carbohydrates with healthy fats or drinking apple cider vinegar before meals are also adequately managing their stress levels? And are these individuals monitoring their internal environments (like, blood sugar spikes) before sleep or is their focus primarily on their external environment?

 

We know: if you’re here, then you’re in pursuit of vitality and longevity. While we can’t wipe the stress off your plate, we can ensure you’re equipped with the tools and education to make decisions that support your mental and physical health. So, let’s explore the intricate connection between stress, blood sugar spikes, and your overall well-being.

 

 The Stress-Blood Sugar Link

To understand how stress influences blood sugar, we must first understand the body’s natural response to stress. When faced with a stressful situation, the brain signals the release of glucocorticoids and catecholamines. Cortisol mobilizes energy stores, including glucose, by prompting the liver to release it into the bloodstream. This surge in glucose is meant to provide quick energy to cope with the stressor, whether it’s a looming deadline or a near-miss traffic accident.

 

However, in our modern lives, stressors often don’t require us to physically flee or fight. Instead, they linger as looming deadlines, unresolved conflicts, or daily hassles. We spend less time escaping ravenous lions and more time avoiding uncomfortable conversations with our inlaws. On the surface, this seems like an obviously positive swap. But when our body’s fight-or-flight responses remain unexpressed, the “catabolic, anti-reproductive, anti-growth, and immunosuppressive processes” that are intended for momentary survival actually become self-destructive. 

 

“By extending [the length of our stress response], contributing significantly to human illnesses and serving as a triggering or exacerbating factor, chronic stress can make these [responses] harmful.” The glucose released into the bloodstream goes unused, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and disrupted glucose homeostasis. Prolonged elevated levels are associated with myriad health concerns, including insulin resistance and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

 

Implications for Longevity and Health Scores

The implications of chronically elevated blood sugar levels are far-reaching and extend to our long-term health and longevity. Consistently high blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, a condition where cells no longer respond efficiently to insulin’s signals. This, in turn, can influence the development and progression of countless chronic illnesses, from type 2 diabetes and hypertension to emotional distress and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

 

Numerous studies have illuminated the stress-blood sugar connection. In fact, one study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal  found that participants exposed to stressors had higher blood sugar levels than their non-stressed counterparts. A second study in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology revealed that stress-management interventions can lead to significant reductions in blood sugar levels.

 

According to the research, it’s clear: unmanaged stress is a perpetuating factor in insulin resistance, as it contributes to chronically elevated blood glucose, diminished metabolic health, and weakened resilience. Chronic stress can also lead to weight gain, particularly around the abdominal area, which further exacerbates the risk of metabolic disorders.

 

Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels (and buffering stress levels) is essential for mitigating the risk of chronic diseases and supporting a longer, healthier life.

blood sugar

Buffer Your Stress to Improve Your Blood Sugar

If you’re keen on purchasing your own CGM to monitor glucose levels, we won’t stop you. All in the name of health, right? However, wearable device or no wearable device, the following strategies will help you effectively manage your stress and, in turn, improve your metabolic health.

 

  1. Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness practices, such as meditation, have gained considerable attention for their stress-reducing benefits. Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can lower cortisol levels and deescalate the body’s stress response. Dedicate a few minutes each day to mindfulness meditation to calm your mind and improve stress resilience. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a second way to activate the body’s relaxation response. When you feel stressed, inhale deeply through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. If you remember to pop a few good-for-you gummies thirty minutes before your mindfulness practice, your mind and body will be primed for peace. 

 

  1. Regular Exercise: Exercise is a potent stress-buster. Engaging in physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Regular exercise also helps regulate blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity. Aim for 3-4 high-quality sessions of resistance training per week.

 

  1. A Balanced Diet: Nutrition plays a pivotal role in stress management and balanced blood sugar levels. Regardless of your preferred approach, a diet rich inprotein, fat, and fiber is your greatest asset. Micronutrients like antioxidants and monounsaturated fatty acids also support stress resilience. Avoid excessive consumption of sugary foods, highly processed foods, and caffeinated beverages, as they lead to sharp blood sugar spikes.

 

  1. Adequate Sleep: High-quality sleep is crucial for stress reduction, insulin sensitivity, and metabolic health. Both acute and chronic sleep deprivation (which is anything less than the recommended 7-9 hours per night) can elevate stress hormones and disrupt blood sugar regulation. Prioritize deep, restful sleep; set yourself up for success with these tips and these all-natural supplements.

 

  1. Journal Practice: Maintaining a journaling practice is one powerful way to dump your emotional and physical stress. When your nervous system is triggered, reach for a pen and paper. Try to identify the circumstances that led to your heightened stress response and notice the habitual pattern your mind and body fell into. Then, perhaps you can identify a new, positive coping mechanism to implement in the future.

 

The journey to stress management may be unique for each of us, but the destination remains the same: improved well-being, balanced blood sugar, and a brighter, healthier future.

 

The link between these – stress, blood sugar levels, and overall health – is undeniable. Chronic stress can lead to harmful blood sugar spikes, disrupting metabolic harmony and increasing the risk of various health conditions. However, armed with knowledge and actionable strategies, we have the power to mitigate stress, stabilize blood sugar levels, and take significant steps toward improving our longevity and vitality.

 

By incorporating stress-reduction techniques, like making mindful dietary choices, engaging in regular physical activity, and ensuring restorative sleep, we can strike a balance that promotes optimal blood sugar control. In doing so, we not only reduce the risk of metabolic disorders but also pave the way for a more energized and fulfilling life.

 

How are you buffering your stress today?

 

References: 

 

Chiodini, I., Adda, G., Scillitani, A., Coletti, F., Morelli, V., Di Lembo, S., … & Arosio, M. (2005). Cortisol secretion in patients with type 2 diabetes: relationship with chronic complications. Diabetes Care, 28(7), 1643-1649.

 

Epel, E. S., McEwen, B., Seeman, T., Matthews, K., Castellazzo, G., Brownell, K. D., … & Ickovics, J. R. (2000). Stress and body shape: stress-induced cortisol secretion is consistently greater among women with central fat. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5), 623-632.

 

Golden, S. H., Lazo, M., Carnethon, M., Bertoni, A. G., Schreiner, P. J., Diez Roux, A. V., … & Lyketsos, C. (2008). Examining a bidirectional association between depressive symptoms and diabetes. Journal of the American Medical Association, 299(23), 2751-2759.

 

Hu, F. B., Manson, J. E., Stampfer, M. J., Colditz, G., Liu, S., Solomon, C. G., & Willett, W. C. (2001). Diet, lifestyle, and the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus in women. New England Journal of Medicine, 345(11), 790-797.

 

Jevning, R., Wilson, A. F., & Davidson, J. M. (1978). Adrenocortical activity during meditation. Hormones and Behavior, 10(1), 54-60.

 

O’Connor, L. E., Paddon-Jones, D., Wright, A. J., Campbell, W. W., & Evans, W. J. (2007). A systematic review of the efficacy of leucine supplementation in the elderly. Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, 11(3), 230-237.

 

Sharma, K., Akre, S., Chakole, S., & Wanjari, M. B. (2022). Stress-Induced Diabetes: A Review. Cureus, 14(9), e29142. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.29142

 

Van der Heijden, G. J., Wang, Z. J., Chu, Z. D., Sauer, P. J., & Haymond, M. W. (2010). Manary, MJ. A 12-week aerobic exercise program reduces hepatic fat accumulation and insulin resistance in obese, Hispanic adolescents. Obesity, 18(2), 384-390.

 

Warburton, D. E., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 174(6), 801-809.

 

Zhang, J., & Lam, S. P. (2016). The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Sleep Quality: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1373(1), 62-73.

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