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Glucose and Stress: A Connection and Way To Prevent

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As humans, almost everything in the environment has the potential to be stressful. Besides the emotional stress that can result from a situation at your workplace or personal front, environmental factors can also lead to stress. Unfortunately, people typically accept high-stress levels as a necessary component of one’s job. However, they are only moderately  aware of the “silent killer.”

According to research, stress can cause blood sugar to spike, regardless of whether it’s related to the job, relationships, or any other aspect of life. Stress and glucose have a close two-way link, which is crucial to understand. It’s also vital to comprehend how stress affects people and develop appropriate stress coping mechanisms to maintain constant blood glucose levels.

The importance of maintaining blood glucose levels is no secret. Since healthy blood glucose levels are a synonym for a healthier safe, regulating your blood glucose levels is essential. Although monitoring blood glucose levels was considered necessary only for people with a risk of diabetes, healthcare innovation has come a long way. Several studies and research papers highlight the importance of healthy blood glucose levels in maintaining overall health. Hence, every individual must monitor their blood glucose levels.

The HealthifyPro 2.0 is an excellent innovation by HealthifyMe that helps you monitor and regulate your blood glucose levels in real-time. It comes with a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that tracks your blood glucose levels after consuming foods, post-exercise and during stress. It immediately alerts the Pro coaches when there is a sudden spike in your blood glucose levels, and the coaches can assist you in regulating it. As a result, you can easily improve your blood glucose levels, preventing the risk of several chronic diseases.

Understanding Stress

Simply said, stress is a form of pressure that triggers physiological and psychological responses in the human body. The basis of this living system is metabolism, which is the total of all chemical events that take place in your body to sustain life. It covers the production and regulation of hormones, neurotransmitters, immunological response, tissue maintenance and repair, detoxification, cognition, and neural processing.

It’s a prevalent misconception that stress is only an emotional condition that frequently manifests as anxiety, depression, worry, or sadness. The reality is that stress can also be chemical, dietary, and physical. For instance, stress can manifest physically as pain or disease. It can also result from events like accidents, losing a friend or relative, or conflicts with other people. Stress is essentially anything that tends to alter the ability to control the body and emotions.

Good vs Bad Stress

The timing and stress level determine whether pressure or stressor is “good” or “bad.” For instance, resistance training or load-bearing exercise places stress on the bones and connective tissue while it helps increase and maintain bone density. This pressure (good stress) will typically accelerate bone growth in most people, which is advantageous. However, excessive load-bearing (bad stress) can cause the bone to break.

The following are the most typical ways that stress affects the body:

  • Trauma emotions
  • Exercise/physical activity
  • Unbalanced nutrient intake, especially unhealthy glucose levels (both deficiencies and surpluses may be harmful)
  • Food, medicine, or supplement intolerances
  • Injuries or contagious diseases
  • Environmental toxins/exposure to xenobiotics
  • The presence of allergens
  • Sleep deprivation

The HealthifyMe Notes

The biochemistry of the body’s stress-response system is the same for all stressors, whether they originate from “external” sources like a dispute with a loved one or “internal” sources like food intolerance. Due to this, no matter where it comes from, all stress is ultimately metabolic stress.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress can have an impact on physical health as well as mental and emotional wellbeing. One may identify stress and manage it by recognising the symptoms. Among the physical signs of stress are:

  • Headaches
  • Muscular strain or pain
  • Overall sensations of illness
  • Exhaustion from sleeping too much or too little

Emotional symptoms of stress include:

  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety

Impact of Stress on Glucose Levels

In response to stress, the adrenal glands atop the kidneys predominantly release the hormones. The brain’s hypothalamus region sends a chemical message to the adrenal glands. It causes the adrenal gland to expand and release the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine (commonly known as adrenaline).

These hormones are released into the bloodstream to aid in the body’s preparation for the ‘fight-or-flight reaction’. They increase heart rate and enlarge blood vessels and airways, which raises blood pressure and tightens muscles.

Norepinephrine’s primary function is to keep blood pressure from dropping, whereas epinephrine is a crucial regulator of blood sugar. When blood sugar levels fall, epinephrine is in charge of converting glycogen (the glucose stored in muscle cells and the liver) into glucose, preserving normal blood glucose levels.

The glucose levels will indirectly increase as a result of stress. Numerous studies have found a relationship between elevated circulating glucose levels and subjective work-related stress. The hormone insulin, which aids in glucose usage by the cells, can make the body insulin resistant if blood glucose levels are consistently high. The stress-related hormones cortisol and epinephrine also increase due to insulin.

Increased stress can spike glucose levels, trapping many people in an uncomfortable vicious cycle. Stress-related behaviours, such as emotional overeating of refined carbohydrates or foods with a lot of added sugar, can result in high blood glucose levels. It also makes one feel extremely tired and unmotivated. One tends to become more stressed as a reaction to persistently feeling exhausted.

As a result of this vicious cycle, you can experience elevated cortisol and glucose levels and a loss of attention due to impaired metabolic function. The disruption of the negative feedback on the brain’s stress hormone pathways can result from insulin resistance. According to research, insulin resistance can cause an aberrant stress response in the brain, increasing stress and depression.

Effect of Chronic Stress on Blood Glucose Levels

Long term stress can impact the body’s capacity to use glucose. Research also says acute psychological stress results in critical insulin resistance and a markedly decreased glucose level. 

Chronic stress can also raise the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemia is a metabolic stressor that causes symptoms like headaches, anxiety, brain fog, and exhaustion. Therefore, reducing stress in one’s life is crucial since chronic stress can lead to adrenal insufficiency and adrenal fatigue.

Numerous studies have suggested that prolonged stress may also affect people predisposed to developing type 1 diabetes.

Effect of Stress on Type 2 Diabetes

Stress can raise blood sugar levels and make it harder to regulate them. As a result, you may need a higher dose of diabetic medication or insulin for type 2 diabetes. Low blood glucose that occurs after too much medicine or insulin is a frequent concern for people with type 2 diabetes. Epinephrine and glucagon are released quickly in reaction to low blood sugar. Cortisol is released more gradually.

These hormonal reactions to low blood sugar may last for 6 to 8 hours, during which time it may be challenging to control blood sugar levels. This phenomenon of low blood sugar followed by high blood sugar is known as the “rebound” or “Somogyi” reaction.

8 Ways to Cope with Stress

It’s impossible to get rid of all the stress in life. However, there are things that you can do to manage stress and blood sugar levels better. Some measures to cope with stress are:

Observe the Symptoms

Keep track of any daily changes in the symptoms like exhaustion, anxiety or sadness, poor sleep, trouble concentrating, poor digestion, physical discomfort, or trouble managing weight. Observing the symptoms will make it easier for you to manage them.

Stay Physically Active

The cardiovascular system, hormone balance, and blood circulation all benefit significantly from exercise. In addition, physical activity will calm a person and improve sleep quality. As a result, one can reduce tension and control blood sugar. Regular exercise can help decrease blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity.

Eliminate Long-Term Stressors

Long-term stressors deserve reevaluation because they impact long-term blood sugar levels and can lead to chronic health issues. So, if you have any long-term stressors, seek help from people around you or consult a doctor.

Practice Mindfulness

One can lower stress by using mindfulness practices like deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga. According to a study involving 60 individuals with type 2 diabetes, researchers discovered that those who practised stress-reduction methods based on mindfulness experienced better fasting blood sugar and A1C (two indicators of blood sugar management). They also experienced decreased levels of anxiety and depression.

Another research showed that a regimen of 20-minute diaphragmatic breathing exercises for insulin-resistant (type 2 diabetes) patients led to a drop in fasting blood glucose and post-meal glucose levels by the ninth week of the trial.

Stay Organised 

According to research, maintaining good organisational practices in all aspects of life is associated with reduced chronic cortisol levels.

Proper Sleep Routine

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety and depression. Blood sugar levels may fluctuate as a result of poor sleep. Similarly, over-sleeping (8.5 hours or more) can also lead to higher blood sugar levels.

A study highlights that less than 4.5 hours of sleep each night raised blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics compared to individuals who slept 6.5 to just over 7 hours each night.

Avoid Nicotine and Tobacco

Adrenaline is released when nicotine activates the adrenal glands. A quick release of glucose, an increase in heart rate, and a rise in blood pressure follow this. Additionally, nicotine reduces the pancreas’s insulin production, raising blood sugar levels.

Eat Balanced Meals

Including a well-planned diet can aid with stress management and blood sugar regulation. One can better regulate insulin and glucose levels through a healthy meal. Amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are all necessary nutrients for regulating stress.

According to a study, drinking alcohol, eating junk food, drinking sweetened beverages and consuming saturated fat raises blood sugar levels by 16%. Additionally, one should refrain from engaging in unhealthy habits like binge eating. If you struggle with binge eating and overeating, seek professional help to manage your stress better.

The HealthifyMe Note

One can take charge of the metabolic health away from stress by practising self-care techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and many more. These techniques can go a long way when combined with healthy dietary and lifestyle changes.

Glucose Monitoring for Stress Management

One wise strategy for managing glucose levels is continuous blood sugar monitoring. One has complete control over this to observe how various activities affect blood sugar levels. These include eating, exercising, sleeping, hydration, stress and lifestyle factors.

Utilising cutting-edge technologies is essential because blood sugar monitoring can help you achieve optimal metabolic health. 

A new, cutting-edge device called continuous glucose monitoring, or CGM, helps to continuously monitor glucose levels during exercise or at times of stress. You can see the response of the glucose levels to diet, exercise, hydration, and stress through a CGM. Additionally, it evaluates metabolic health and aids in determining insulin sensitivity and resistance.

Conclusion

Nobody can altogether avoid stress because it is an inevitable aspect of life. However, strategies to help manage stressful events and spikes or declines in blood sugar levels are important for preventing long-term chronic health issues associated with stress. When under stress, it can be challenging, but it’s not impossible to manage if you put your health first.

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