Can Stress Cause Diabetes?
can stress cause diabetes we know that stress can cause all sorts of health problems but is it possible that it could contribute to the development of diabetes today we’re going to talk about what stresses what the stress response is and we’re going to talk about how all of this relates to the causative factors of diabetes so before we’re done today you’re going to have a clear picture of how it all works coming right up about diabetes about cause and prevention we often hear things about diet and we hear about weight and we hear about exercise but very rarely do we hear about stress so let’s talk about how that all works together first of all we want to talk about.
what is stress
because most people have a very limited idea of what stress is we think of stress as feeling overwhelmed feeling frustrated having more things to do than there is time in the day then that causes a feeling of stress having multiple things going on at once and yes absolutely that’s stress but stress is much much more than that those things we talk about usually that’s just the tip of the iceberg stress is anything that increases the demand on the body anytime something happens that the body has to do something extra that is stress when the body detects when your nervous system detects any sore sort of threat or anything that it has to deal with anything it has to pay attention anything it has to do something about it creates a stress response so it’s not the stress that really matters what matters is the stress because that’s a physiological reaction that’s something that happens in the body so let’s say that we are having a picnic and we’re enjoying our food and then all of a sudden a grizzly bear comes charging across the field heading straight for us we are gonna have a pretty strong stress response at this point I would bet so
now our adrenals first your nervous system detects the danger then it starts sending messages for your body to ramp up its defenses and now the adrenal glands have to start working harder that’s why adrenal glands are involved with stress because adrenal glands make various hormones the primary stress the acute stress hormone is called adrenaline it is a instantaneously acting it is so important that it’s fast that there are actually no synapses between the brain and the adrenal glands do the adrenal gland is in a sense it’s an extension of your nervous system there are no connections in between it has to happen that fast and now when we release some adrenaline than our heart rate goes up
because when the bear comes charging we’re gonna have to have a lot of extra resources we’re gonna run we have to fight we need more oxygen more fuel so the heart beats faster and the blood pressure goes up because we need to move that blood faster and that’s why higher blood pressure does we’re also going to get an increase in muscle tension so when we get ready to jump and run we need some muscle tone so the body starts preparing that instantaneously and it dominates the muscle tension in the flexors in the things that that bend and protect us on the front of the body so we bend our arms kind a like in a defensive posture we pull our shoulders up to the ears to protect the neck we clench our jaw to protect the teeth and the jaw so all of these if you’ve noticed people being tense when they’re stressed these are all stress responses and even though there is no even if there’s no grizzly bear around at the time if we have any form of significant stress we’re gonna exhibit those same behaviors because it’s built in we’re wired that way then we’re gonna also have some other things happening like
we’re gonna get an increase in LDL the body is gonna up regulate the LDL production because low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is necessary for repairs and if we have a fight if we have a bear if we have some thorny bushes if we get injured during the fight then the body wants to repair that as soon as possible so it up regulates that LDL because LDL cholesterol is part of wound healing it’s part of every cell membrane so if we’re going to repair those we need that stuff so we don’t really have a choice this happens instantaneously and
why does the body do that well it’s to keep us alive obviously and stress and stress responses are not a bad thing they help us survive the people who have lost this ability people who have Addison’s Disease their adrenals are completely shot they have they’re sitting ducks they have no ability to respond to stress and it is very very dangerous but for our purposes what we want to talk about today is cortisol this kicks in injust a few seconds later the first stuff happens in in milliseconds but a few seconds later the body also increases cortisol production because
when we have a fight when we have an increased need whether it’s real or imagined then we’re going to want more energy which means more blood sugar and cortisol the purpose of cortisol is to increase blood sugar and why is that infor diabetes because we have in diabetes it’s about blood sugar it’s about insulin and it becomes about cortisol because cortisol raises blood sugar and therefore it also triggers insulin the thing to understand about stress though is that like we said it’s usually underestimated what stress is we think of it as this emotional stress
stress is when your physiology responds and you have something called a sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system the sympathetic is your stress response that’s the fight flight and the other branch the other half of that autonomic nervous system is the parasympathetic which is your feed breed it’s your healing side so today though we’re just going to talk about the sympathetic and to understand that you don’t have to feel it to have a stress response that anytime that your sympathetic nervous system kicks in anytime that you have an increase in heart rate increase in blood pressure increase in muscle tension you’re having a stress response whether you think you do whether you’re aware of it or not and this could be an acute stressor it could be something that you have experienced recently or it could be a past trauma it could be something that was very very significant very severe very enduring that even though you got past it it’s sort of lodged in the body it became a habit that it lasted so long it became sort of like your default baseline and these
traumas could be of a physical nature it could be a physical trauma could be an emotional trauma or it could be a chemical trauma could be a poisoning could be chemotherapy could be a long-standing exposure to something toxic so any of these things can cause sympathetic reaction a fight/flight response it could cause a stress response and again most of these were not aware of probably80% of these stress responses that change physiology that changed the things they go by completely unnoticed either because we’re not paying attention or because it just so familiar to us that it’s just been that way for so long that that’s just the way it is and when we have these chronic stress when we develop a chronic stress pattern also called a sympathetic dominance we tend to produce cortisol at a higher level for longer periods of time like higher baseline activity
they’ve done some studies where they give healthy people who are not insulin resistant they’re very insulin sensitive they inject cortisone into their bodies also the medical version of that the drug version is called cortisone and within days two weeks they have measurable changes in insulin resistance and they start gaining weight even if they never had a problem with that before and there’s probably thousands of you watching who have been on cortisone you had some sort of pain or inflammation and they gave you cortisone or prednisone or one of those zones and that’s just a synthetic version of cortisol and it will raise blood sugar even though the purpose of it is to control inflammation it will raise blood sugar it will increase insulin resistance and
it will increase weights a lot of you probably recognize that pattern even if you didn’t know it before that your blood sugar went crazy you gained weight and you might even have become diabetic or pre-diabetic as a result so this is very well documented but it’s it’s rarely given the attention that it deserves so that’s what stresses that’s. what a stress response it’s a sympathetic activation it’s an activation of the sympathetic portion of your nervous system whether you’re aware of it or not now what are the cause positive factors of diabetes well diabetes is the late stage result it’s the far-gone version of insulin resistance and insulin resistance is when the cells of your body resist insulin why would they do that because you’ve had too much insulin for a long period of time trying to put blood sugar out of the bloodstream and into the celland the cell doesn’t want it and that’s been going on for a while the cells start resisting
so the variables the causative factors for diabetes are blood sugar when blood sugar goes up insulin goes up if that happens a lot the cells become resistant eventually and so blood sugar and insulin go together and now we understand based on what we talked about that cortisol because it the purpose of cortisol is to raise blood sugar it will stimulate insulin it will increase insulin resistance those are the basic causative factors the variables involved and very very often in the discussion we hear that oh well you know you just need to control your calories and you just need to lose weight and
you need to eat low fat and all these things but they have it backwards because dietary fat we’ve been scared that’s been demonized we have a fat phobia because we see the fat on the body so we think that the fat on the body is the cause and we think that it’s about calories but dietary fat does not trigger insulin it is almost zero insulin response it’s like 1% of what a carbohydrate would be so dietary fat does not cause this and what about body fat we see that the fat on the body and we associate overweight people have more diabetes that’s called a correlation and then they say that well you know you should lose some weight and then typically diabetes gets better because they see thinner people have less diabetes but again they get it backwards it’s not the cause it’s the effect body fat is not the cause of insulin resistance it’s the result of insulin resistance so we have to start understanding it’s not all that complicated that’s very very basic physiological principles blood sugar goes up insulin goes up cells start resisting so the things that increase blood sugar are the ones to avoid so then back to the question can stress cause diabetes because we know cortisol raises blood sugar which can drive insulin resistance but can it really cause diabetes in and of itself so
I Think it is unlikely that if that was the only problem that that would cause diabetes but with everything else that’s going on with the majority of the population already having some degree of insulin resistance nowstress becomes a very very significant factor so
we want to look at the lifestyle factors
Diet is huge genetics is huge but we don’t really have much influence over what we got we can express it differently through diet activity and stress but these are the things that we have to work with diet activity and stress levels so one by itself they’re all important and if you already have sort of a tendency then any one of these will push you over the edge so if you’re pre-diabetic and you keep eating lots of carbohydrates and you have a sedentary lifestyle and you have a lot of stress then it’s very likely that you will become diabetic and if you just change one of them you’re not doing as much for yourself as if you improved all three of them and then the question of course is how do you reduce stress how do you reduce is all and that’s a huge big topic I’m not going to get into a lot of details so let’s just very briefly mention that a stable blood sugar is key because anytime your blood sugar is low if you’re hypoglycemic
if you are depending on a carbohydrate metabolism and you skip a meal now your cortisol is gonna have to kick in and raise that blood sugar and now you’re having that stress if you are fat adapted it’s not a problem to miss a meal because you don’t rely on blood sugar to the same degree so stable blood sugar being fat adapted having a low carb lifestyle is key in controlling this and then of course reducing stress so regular sleep meditation relaxation breathing exercises all of those are fantastic things explain how that works the key with a breathing exercise to reduce stress is to make the in-breath and the out-breath about the same length they should be about four to five seconds and the out-breath should be if anything just a little bit longer than the in-breath but most people breathe 18 to 20 times per second and when we need to relax when we do a therapeutic relaxation we need to slow that down to about 6 breaths a minute to get this effect and then of course any other lifestyle changes if you have a job that’s really stressful than you either need to do more of this or you need to figure out if you can find another job or another situation in life so we can do certain things to change our environment and our adaptation.