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Stress and Diabetes

by in Diabetes January 2, 2008

One piece of the diabetes puzzle that often goes un-addressed is stress. Stress is often the reason why people over eat with Type II diabetes in the first place.
Stress also can wreak havoc on blood sugar numbers as well. A dear friend of mine from medical school has type I (insulin dependent) diabetes. I will never forget the lesson I learned about diabetes and stress that day of our winter quarter Gross Anatomy Midterm.
Nothing is more stressful than being in a room full of 50 dead bodies and have 60 seconds to determine in a room stinking of formalin which way was up and which way was down, what part the tagged pins were in, write down the proper medical term and scurry off to the next body as soon as you hear the word “ROTATE”. My friend had checked her sugar before the exam and she was sitting pretty at a 92. After the exam her numbers had shot up near 300! At first I was baffled as she had not eaten anything in that one hour period. Until I remembered what I had been learning about recently in my Physiology class about cortisol. Cortisol is one of our emergency stress hormones that causes the liver to dump it’s stores of sugar so that we can perform at our peak when the proverbial bear is chasing us. Every doctor knows that if you give a diabetic patient an artificial form of cortisol in the form of a corticosteroid such as prednisone that it will seriously mess up their blood sugar numbers.
So, because of that little Gross Anatomy anecdote, I make a point to check in with all my diabetic patients about their stress levels. Frankly in this day and age EVERYONE is stressed out…and having diabetes does not exactly make your life that much easier.
Reducing stress is a long term goal for calming seemingly erratic blood sugar numbers. Meditation, breathing, and exercise are great ways to go about that. Cortisol is not your friend.

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