Stress is Making America Fatter
It is not uncommon to find Type 2 diabetes and being overweight co-existing together. We know it’s possible to have Type 2 diabetes without being overweight, but it’s not unheard of either. This is because there is a biological relationship between these two health conditions. Among the underlying factors that lead to both of these conditions, stress is one of the main causes. That’s right………..”STRESS”. Research now shows that stress (on it’s own) increased inflammation. The reality is that when your inflammation is worse…your diabetes gets worse.
STRESS = INFLAMMATION = INCREASE IN DIABETES SYMPTOMS
But guess what? New research is showing another correlation between stress and the other variables above.
The new equation looks like this:
STRESS = INFLAMMATION = INCREASE IN DIABETES SYMPTOMS = Risk of Obesity
The problem is that stress is commonly ignored and not categorized as an important factor by the majority of doctors. Part of the reason is that it’s difficult to quantify “stress”. Yet, we all experience …but at varying degrees. Some people process stress better than others. In addition, we all experience different life experiences, and some of those experiences can be “traumatic”. These traumatic memories don’t’ generally go away. We just learn to deal with them. The problem is that when these “traumatic” life experiences happen, we often carry around the stress of that experience forever.
Stress comes in many shapes and forms. We don’t have to experience a “trauma” to experience stress. We can be stressed with household chores, our marriage, our kids, our work, our health, and so much more. Generally speaking, people living with diabetes are under more physical and psychological stress than the average person. And there are other stressors that we can experience besides these….(see below)
But can stress cause your diabetes? Is stress making you gain weight?
A recent study shows that stress can cause both diabetes and obesity in different ways.
Studies have also indicated that stress is one of the factors that make it difficult for people to lose weight. In most cases, it will not matter what food you eat or how much you exercise, if you are stressed, losing the extra pounds will be a difficult affair.
Stress is a Bigger Issue than Most People Think
The famous psychologist who coined the word “stress” defined it as ‘the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it’. When most people hear the word stress, they quickly start thinking about psychological stress. It is a fact that psychological issues can be major stressors, but there are other causes of stress that are not psychological, yet, negatively impact someone’s health. These include:
- Environmental Toxins
- Too much Exercise
- Autoimmune Disease
- Chronic Infections
Even in cases where psychological challenges are low or nonexistent, the conditions above can cause stress reactions within your body. Chronic stress can play a major part in making you gain weight and more prone to diabetes.
So, How Does Stress Make You Gain Weight?
When stress is chronic and prolonged, a part of the brain called hypothalamus will be activated and this will trigger the adrenal glands to release cortisol. This hormone is released in a particular rhythm throughout the day. Cortisol is high in the morning and tapers off as the day passes. This explains why you feel tired at the end of the day.
Recent research has indicated that stress can increase the levels of cortisol and disrupt the existing rhythm. This is how stress starts to wreak havoc in your body. Among other effects, you might experience the following:
- High blood sugar
- Difficulty of glucose to get into the body cells
- Increased hunger and sugar cravings
- Reduces the body’s ability to burn fat
- Results in cell resistance to insulin
- Increased belly fat, which may lead to a fatty liver
- Increased rates at which the body stores fat
- Increased fatty acids and triglycerides in the blood
All of these conditions can make you gain weight and more prone to diabetes. When they occur together, they are a perfect recipe for ‘diabesity’, a term used to refer to diabetes and obesity together.
According to Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Ohio State University, stress can change the way our bodies process foods.
A study conducted by Professor Jan showed that women eating healthy fats after stressful events burned fewer calories and had the same indicators in their blood that existed when people eat bad fats.
The study involved the women eating breakfast containing foods cooked with healthy and unhealthy fats. If the women were under stress due to stressful events prior to eating the breakfast, it did not matter which fats they were eating. Bad fats are known to cause inflammation and an increased probability of a build-up of plaque in the arteries. Good fats, on the other hand, are supposed to lower inflammation. However, after stressful events, eating bad or good fats will have almost the same effects as indicated by the blood test of the study subjects. You can discover the myths about the difference between the “good fats”, “bad fats”, and the “ugly fats” in one of our previous blog post here.
Is “Stress” Given the Attention It Deserves in Diabetes Management?
It is clear that most people do not think about stress in the management of diabetes. Eating healthy fats is an important part of managing diabetes type 2. However as the study indicated, if you are stressed, chances are that the goods fats will not render effective if you don’t get your stress under control first.
Below you can see an Infographics about stress and its impact in diabetes
When you are stressed, your blood glucose levels will go up. Stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine work to elevate blood sugar levels to provide the “perceived” required energy, similar to what happens in “fight or flight”. People who do not have diabetes will have a mechanism to deal with this increase in glucose. People with diabetes will not have this same effective mechanism and this can make their diabetes worse.
Managing Stress is Very Important
Managing stress is crucial for people with diabetes. This can be through breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation. If it is psychological stress talking to someone can greatly help. The Diabetes Naturally app has a ‘Stress Management Feature’ which you can benefit from. There are also supplements such as the Rhodiola Rosea, and other evidence based solutions which can help in your stress management process.
Stress should not be overlooked in the management of diabetes and obesity. This is because it leads to increased blood sugar levels and craving for sweets foods which can cause these two conditions. Luckily, stress can be managed through a few easy steps with just a little focused attention.