How Your Diet May Make Stress Even Worse (ADA 2021)

By now we’ve all heard that stress has huge effects on our physical health. The scope of the problem may still be surprising.

In a recent presentation at the American Diabetes Association’s annual scientific conference, Wake Forest’s Dr. Carol Shively exclaimed that “Stress accounts for more deaths annually than Alzheimer’s or diabetes.”

Stress is strongly linked to both major illnesses like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, in addition to other major causes of death, such as accidents and suicide. High rates of stress also help explain why there are such appalling disparities in American health outcomes between the socioeconomically secure and disadvantaged communities.

Stress, which is so often due to factors that are entirely out of our hands, is not easy to alleviate. There are some options, but there may be one other modifiable factor that you haven’t thought much about: your diet.

Dr. Shively believes that diet can have a huge impact on how stress can affect our bodies. If stress and diet interact to create real physiological changes, perhaps the negative effects of stress can be ameliorated with dietary change.

Monkeys and Stress

How do you study chronic stress? Dr. Shively does it with the help of the cynomolgus monkey, or crab-eating macaque.

These monkeys are good experimental analogues to human beings, because their responses to stress, diet, and aging are fairly similar to our own.

Cynomolgus monkeys form linear and stable hierarchies. It is immediately obvious to researchers which monkeys are dominant, and which are subordinate. And scientists can say with some confidence that the subordinate monkeys are more stressed.

Subordinate monkeys are the subject of more aggression, spend more time alone, and spend more time in a state of apparent vigilance than do monkeys higher in the social order. They also receive less grooming, a kind of pampering that relaxes monkeys and lowers their heart rate and blood pressure, just like a nice massage. Physiological indications—such as high cortisol levels—confirm that the subordinate monkeys experience more stress.

Social stress of this sort has an undeniable effect on the physical health of these monkeys. Stress leads to increases in visceral fat and atherosclerosis, just like it does in humans, two significant risk factors for chronic disease and early death.

Two Diets

Dr. Shively wondered if different diets might alter the way that stress impacts the monkey’s metabolism.

In a first study, monkeys were assigned to either the Western diet or a Mediterranean diet. They enjoyed these diets for 31 months – on a human timescale, that would be about 8 years.

These two diets were matched for macronutrients, so monkeys in each group ate about the same amount of protein, fat, and carbs. The composition of those nutrients differed quite a lot, however. The Mediterranean fats were more often plant-based, with a very high percentage of healthy monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, resulting in a much healthier ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids. Western carbs were also more likely to come from refined sources, such as high-fructose corn syrup; the Mediterranean carbs were mostly found in fruits and legumes.

The results weren’t surprising. Monkeys on the Western diet ate more food, gained more weight, had higher insulin and triglyceride levels, and had fattier livers than monkeys on the Mediterranean diet. These are similar to the results with humans. The growth of the Western diet, after all, is almost universally seen by experts as a primary cause in the global explosion of obesity and type 2 diabetes. (The two groups of monkeys got the same amount of exercise, by the way.)

The Diet-Stress Connection

When Dr. Shively subjected the monkeys from the two different groups to stress tests, she found that her hypothesis had been confirmed. The monkeys consuming the Western diet got much more stressed, secreting significantly more cortisol in response to social stress.

“The Western diet exaggerates physiological responses to stress, the Mediterranean diet did not.”

A second study split monkeys into two different groups, not by diet, but by stress level. Actually, the monkeys do it by themselves: in any group of four monkeys, two are always dominant, and two subordinate. The subordinate monkeys reliably experience more stress, as explained above.

In this study, all monkeys were fed the same Western-style diet for 3 years. At the end of the study, subordinate monkeys had higher triglycerides, higher fasting glucose, higher levels of circulating insulin, and more insulin resistance than when they began the study. By contrast, the dominant monkeys barely experienced any metabolic change at all, despite eating the same foods.

Nearly 25% of the subordinate monkeys had high enough fasting glucose levels to qualify as pre-diabetic; not a single one of the dominant monkeys had the same condition.

This study suggests that the unhealthy diet was not itself enough to cause metabolic dysfunction—both stress and diet had to be present.

Takeaways

Animal studies always have to be taken with a grain of salt – we can’t generally assume that what happens in the body of a crab-eating macaque will happen quite the same way in our own.

Nevertheless, the similarities between monkey and mankind are striking. Both social stress and the Western diet cause some of the very same negative physiological effects in monkeys as they do in humans.

The diet-stress connection is not far-fetched. While it would be almost impossible to prove a causal relationship in studies of humans, other scientists have already explored the interactions between the Western diet, stress, and metabolism. And there is much work to be done on the topic to tease out causation and correlation and test other dietary approaches.

In the meantime, Dr. Shively’s work may give readers one more reason to set aside the junk food and reach for more wholesome choices. Stress already causes so much metabolic damage—and that damage that may only be compounded by what you eat.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Why You May Be Experiencing High Blood Sugar

High blood sugar is part of a life with diabetes, whether it’s type 1type 2LADA, gestational diabetes, even the more rare forms of the disease. But sometimes, hyperglycemia can seem unexplainable, persistent, and stubborn.

This article will outline the reasons why you may be experiencing high blood sugar, and what you can do about it.

What Exactly Happens When Blood Sugar Is High?

High blood sugar, by definition, is when there’s too much glucose in the blood and not enough insulin to help the cells digest it. That extra glucose floating around in the bloodstream is what brings about symptoms of frequent urination, fatigue, brain fog, headache, body ache. In severe cases, it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

People with diabetes manage their blood sugars by taking either oral medications or insulin, and monitoring both their food intake and exercise on a daily basis.

But even when you’ve done everything “right,” like counting carbohydrates and taking your medications, your blood sugar may rise and stay annoyingly (or dangerously) high. These are the top reasons why you may be experiencing unexplainable hyperglycemia.

You’re Stressed

Ever wonder why when you’re stressed about work or school your blood stays high? That’s because the release of natural hormones in your body, like adrenaline and cortisol, spike when you’re stressed, leading to insulin resistance, and in people with existing diabetes, high blood sugars. Whether you’re prepping for a big test, selling your home, hustling for that promotion at work, or fighting with your spouse, stress can send your blood sugars skyrocketing.

Dawn Phenomenon

Dawn Phenomenon describes the high blood sugars and insulin resistance people experience in the morning, usually between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. 

The phenomenon is natural: late overnight, the body releases a surge of hormones in preparation for the new day. These hormones can trigger the liver to dump glucose into the bloodstream. In people with diabetes, the body cannot produce a healthy insulin response, and therefore blood glucose levels spike up.

Many people with diabetes require more insulin during those hours, maybe even twice as much, to counteract this age-old hormonal effect.

A different, less common (but more dangerous) phenomenon may also explain morning blood sugar highs: Somogyi effect.

You’re Sick

When people with diabetes are under the weather (or fighting off an infection), their blood sugars tend to be much higher than normal, and they become much more insulin-resistant.

This can sometimes result in needing 75% (or more!) of your average daily insulin requirements. Make sure you’re staying hydrated, monitoring for ketones, and taking as much insulin as you need to keep your blood sugars in range.

If you cannot control your blood sugars during illness – especially if you’re having trouble eating or drinking – it’s very important to get in touch with your doctor.

You’re Eating Too Many Carbs

Let’s face it: carbohydrates spike blood sugar. It’s something that people with diabetes need to think about nearly every time they eat.

Test your blood sugar frequently to see how your own body responds to different foods. Some people may find that they can comfortably eat fresh fruit, but not added sugars or white rice. Some may find something completely different.

And if you use insulin before meals, you probably already know that carbohydrate counting can be an inexact science. The more carbs you eat, the more insulin you need to take, and the more difficult it is to deliver that perfectly dosed and perfectly timed pre-bolus.

Even a little carbohydrate restriction is likely to help reduce the frequency and intensity of blood sugar highs.

You’re Eating Hidden Carbs

Ever order a salad at a restaurant, thinking it will be a nice, low-carbohydrate option, only to experience debilitating high blood sugars for hours on end afterward? There are many deceiving foods that we think are low-carb, but are anything but.

Sugar and starches hide in many foods where you wouldn’t expect to find them, especially at restaurants and among the processed foods in the grocery store. Some examples of foods that seem “healthy” but can cause a blood sugar nightmare include:

  • Salads with sweet dressings and croutons or other toppings (or salad in a bread bowl)
  • Soups
  • Smoothies (especially fruit smoothies)
  • Fruit juice
  • Foods labeled “gluten-free”
  • Granola
  • Flavored yogurts
  • Fat-free ice cream
  • Restaurant foods (especially due to extreme portion sizes)

“Healthy” does not necessarily mean “diabetes-friendly.” Fat-free products are often fortified with sugars and starches. And many gluten-free products have even more carbohydrates than their standard gluten counterparts.

If you’ve chosen a restaurant that can provide nutritional information, ask for it, so you’ll know exactly how many carbohydrates you’ll be consuming. Consider asking for salad dressings and sauces on the side. 

Your Insulin Pump May Be Kinked

If you’re insulin-dependent, the first thing you should do at the sign of stubborn high blood sugar is to check to see if you have a kink in your insulin pump cannula. This can block the delivery of insulin, leading to a very frustrating day.

If you’re unsure, change your pump site! Make sure to call your insulin pump manufacturer to let them know of the issue, and they will usually mail you a replacement for free.

You’ve Injected Into Scar Tissue

If there’s no kink in the cannula, or if you’re using syringes to deliver multiple daily injections (MDI), you may have also just picked a “bad” site. When insulin is injected (either manually or with an insulin pump infusion set) into scar tissue, absorption suffers, resulting in unpredictable and high blood sugars.

Make sure to always rotate your sites as much as possible to avoid developing scar tissue and the inevitable high blood sugars they bring.

Your Medications Need Adjusting

Our bodies are constantly changing. It would be silly to expect the same insulin to carbohydrate ratio or insulin sensitivity factors or even the same number of milligrams of our oral diabetes medications for our entire lives.

Make sure you’re seeing your endocrinologist or diabetes doctor regularly; they can help refine your medication regimen.

You may be especially likely to require adjustments if you’ve recently lost or gained weight, have increased or decreased your activity levels, are going through a stressful life change, are pregnant, or planning on becoming pregnant, or haven’t been to the doctor for a while.

Your Medications Are Expired

Always check to make sure your medications aren’t expired! At room temperature, insulin will lose potency

Oral medications can last much longer, but you still need to be cognizant of expiration dates and make sure you’re refilling your prescriptions regularly to avoid taking an expired (and potentially useless) dose.

What to Do When Your Blood Sugar Is High

High blood sugars can range from not-a-big-deal to a life-or-death emergency. Make sure to check your blood sugar often and monitor for any signs of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). If you have blood sugars that are over 250 md/dL for more than a few hours and you have moderate to high ketones, you will need to seek emergency medical care immediately. If you don’t have ketones, but want to feel better as soon as possible, try some of these tactics:

  • Exercise – cardio (a walk, jog or even jumping jacks) can bring blood sugar down quickly
  • Take a correction bolus of insulin
  • Change your pump site
  • Chug water
  • Take a hot shower or bath 
  • Manage stress with a quick yoga sequence or meditation
  • Test for ketones (if you have moderate or high ketones and your blood sugar has been high for several hours, call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away)

Understanding why you’re experiencing high blood sugars is one more way to improve your life with diabetes! Always work with your doctor before changing your oral medication and/or insulin therapy.

Have you ever experienced a mystery, stubborn high blood sugar? What helped you to get it down quickly? Share this post and comment below; we love hearing from our readers!

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Transform Your Greatest Challenge

This content originally appeared on Yoga for Diabetes. Republished with permission.Today I am sharing a guest post from yogini Evan Soroka. Some of you may remember her from the diayogi summit in October. Evan is a wise soul whose lived with type 1 diabetes for the past 20 years and is living proof that yoga is […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

Search

+