Stress and insulin resistance
There is a substantial body of research that has found a link between long-term stress and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a key factor in the onset of diabetes. When we are under constant stress, our brains and hormones may act in ways that make it harder for insulin to fulfill its function properly. Insulin is like a key that allows glucose (sugar) to enter our cells, providing them with the energy they need. However, chronic stress can cause this key to “stick”, thereby making it harder for glucose to enter cells and causing blood sugar levels to rise. This condition, known as insulin resistance, significantly increases the risk of diabetes.
A review by Rahava dated January 2022 and entitled “Molecular Mechanisms Linking Stress and Insulin Resistance” concluded that chronic stress might disrupt the body’s ability to respond to insulin properly. This can increase the risk of insulin resistance and, consequently, diabetes.
For individuals who are already diabetic, this means their bodies may struggle to use insulin effectively. This is particularly problematic as certain diabetes drugs may not work as intended when insulin resistance is very high.
Stress and inflammation
Stress triggers an inflammatory response in the body, typified by an increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Chronic inflammation can also compromise the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, pushing individuals towards pre-diabetes, and eventually diabetes.
Inflammation doesn’t just impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, but it also contributes to the progression of diabetes. Stress-induced hyperinflammation can heighten the risk of diabetes-related complications. An example of such a complication is diabetic neuropathy, a condition characterized by nerve damage that can lead to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and pain in the extremities. Inflammation, especially when chronic and elevated, can contribute to nerve damage and exacerbate symptoms of diabetic neuropathy, thereby further undermining nerve function and intensifying the pain and discomfort experienced by diabetics.
Stress and sleep
Stress and overstimulation can disrupt our sleep patterns, which can lead to poor sleep quality. This, in turn, can contribute to insulin resistance and increase the risk of diabetes. Research has been conducted to investigate the effect of sleep deprivation for 24 hours on insulin sensitivity and cortisol concentration in healthy subjects. The study included 28 healthy individuals, 14 of whom were deprived of sleep and 14 who served as a control group. The findings suggested that acute sleep deprivation can reduce insulin sensitivity in healthy individuals, without significantly altering cortisol levels.
Navigating the battlefield: Tips for managing diabetes and pre-diabetes
- Stress management techniques: Engage in stress-reducing exercises such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. These methods have been shown to reduce cortisol levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
- Regular physical activity: Regular physical activity helps regulate blood sugar levels and reduce stress. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
- A balanced diet: Opt for a balanced diet that is rich in whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats such as avocados and nuts, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Use nature: With guidance from your doctor, consider natural supplements that have been shown to improve insulin resistance and lower blood sugar levels. There are also products available that can help reduce stress and anxiety. When you choose the right supplements, the improvement can be substantial.
- Adequate sleep: Ensure you get between 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Monitoring: Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels.
- Psychological support: If you’re dealing with PTSD or high levels of stress, consider seeking professional therapy or counseling.
- Empowerment in times of crisis: In times of distress, it’s crucial to remember that knowledge is power. By equipping ourselves with information and making informed choices, we can confront the silent battles, and emerge stronger and healthier.