Stress and Diabetes Connection


Stress Causes Diabetes

While there are several factors that contribute to the development of diabetes, stress is an important one.

This is how:  

Type 2 Diabetes:            

About 95% of diabetics suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which occurs due to a process in the body called insulin resistance.  Stress is a major cause for insulin resistance. Obesity is another important culprit for insulin resistance. Stress through Stress Eating plays the main underlying cause for obesity. In this way, stress significantly contributes to a person’s obesity and risk for developing diabetes. 

Insulin resistance is a process in the body which causes insulin, a chemical in your body, to be less effective in keeping your blood sugar normal. Consequently, your body produces more insulin in order to keep your blood sugar normal. This compensatory increase in the amount of insulin may control your blood sugar for a while, but it’s harmful for the rest of the body. Large amounts of insulin can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for cancer. Insulin resistance also increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. 

After many years of escalating insulin resistance, eventually your insulin producing cells in the pancreas get exhausted and cannot churn out the huge amounts of insulin needed to keep your blood sugar normal. At this point, your blood sugar starts to rise and you end up being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

 Type 1 Diabetes: 

Type I diabetes is the other type of diabetes. It is much less common, accounting for about 5% of diabetics. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your dysfunctional immune system starts to attack and kill your own insulin producing cells. Eventually your pancreas is unable to produce any insulin and you become diabetic. As I mentioned earlier, stress is a major reason for the dysfunction of your immune system. To learn more about diabetes, please refer to my book, “Take Charge of Your Diabetes. 

Stress Worsens Diabetes. 

Many diabetics know that their blood glucose gets elevated when they are under stress, even though their eating habits didn’t change at all.  They also know that with the release of stress, their elevated blood glucose comes down. 

Over the years, I have seen many such examples. I vividly remember one particular case. 

The gentleman was a highly successful businessman who was struggling to keep his blood glucose levels down. Then he went on a vacation to his native homeland in a rural setting. When he came back from vacation, he came to see me. “Doc, you’ve been telling me about the effects of stress on diabetes. You are absolutely right. During my vacation, my blood glucose readings were perfect for the first time. Now that I’m back at work, my blood glucose levels are going up again.” He was genuinely excited to see for himself the strong relationship between stress and high blood glucose levels.  

Even subtle stress can elevate your blood glucose levels. For example, some diabetics get so preoccupied by their blood glucose readings that they stress themselves out. As a result, their blood glucose reading starts to escalate. Then they get more stressed out and a vicious cycle sets in.  

I remember one lady who was always preoccupied with her blood glucose readings. During one visit, I told her to stop checking her blood glucose. Two months later, her diabetes was under better control, as evidenced by her blood test report from the laboratory. She was completely amazed. 

These examples clearly demonstrate the negative impact of stress on diabetes.


This is excerpt from Dr. Zaidi 's latest book, "Stress Cure Now" which can help you manage stress without taking drugs?


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This article was written by Sarfraz Zaidi, MD, FACE. Dr. Zaidi specializes in Diabetes, photoEndocrinology and Metabolism.

Dr. Zaidi is a former assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCLA and Director of the Jamila Diabetes and Endocrine Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California.


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