Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about stress as a serious contributor to diabetes. One of the most serious and common issues that diabetics face is stress. Stress is something that people all around the world, both diabetics and non-diabetics, struggle with fairly often. For diabetics, stress affects them a bit differently on a biological level.
Stress and Diabetes
In small amounts, stress can actually be a good thing. It helps you stay alert and perform well in emergencies, or during “fight or flight” situations. But when stress is constant (either from racism, work, family, or other situations) it wears you down physically and emotionally. When you’re under constant stress, your body secretes hormones that lead to a variety of physical problems, including weight gain, headaches, and even heart disease.
Stress affects everyone, but it can be particularly detrimental for people living with diabetes. In fact, the risk of developing diabetes is 43% higher in people with the highest stress levels, compared to those with the lowest stress levels. You might be surprised to find out why. Stress triggers the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase your blood sugar levels, which can be a big problem for people struggling with diabetes. They also slow down your metabolism, causing you to gain weight.
When your body’s stress hormones are activated, they cause your body to begin producing extra hormones and you stock up on glucose. In nature, this was helpful for us so that we could be prepared to fight or run in the event of an attack by another human or by an animal.
However, these days, stress is caused by less urgent things, and is a lot less helpful. The increased storage of glucose can mean serious trouble for diabetics, who can’t process it correctly – or at all.
Therefore, it’s very important that diabetics manage their stress to the best of their ability. Aside from normal stress of day to day life, there are other parts of diabetes that can bring on excess stress that you might not even notice.
Manage Your Stress
It’s very important that you’re able to identify your issues, come up with solutions, and solve your issues. One of the major sources of stress for diabetics is the sheer amount of extra steps and thought that you have to put into everything you do.
Every meal you eat has to be planned, you have to keep track of your blood sugar levels, you have to administer insulin, you have to keep in touch with your doctors, and more.
All of this can really start to pile up on you, especially if you’re new to diabetes and have only recently been diagnosed. One of the best tips for dealing with it is to use your available resources.
You don’t have to deal with diabetes all by yourself – nobody wants to. Get in touch with one of many organizations around the world whose purpose is specifically to help diabetics. The American Diabetes Association is a great resource to start with! They can help you design meal plans, recommend doctors, remind you to keep track of your glucose levels, and more. Don’t be afraid to use them. Please don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about other diabetes support programs in your area.
You should also try a few common stress relieving tips. One is to stop stressing about things you can’t change, and this applies very well to diabetes. Many people get all stressed out and worried about being diagnosed with diabetes, but there’s nothing they can do to change the diagnosis - the control lies in developing a new lifestyle and embracing it.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use functional medicine and lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a low glycemic, whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Is Dietary Supplementation Right For You?
When it comes to managing your blood sugars (in general), pre-diabetes, and diabetes, there are many things that you can do to help control your blood sugar levels. One important aspect is diet. What you eat affects your blood sugar, so it’s important to be mindful of what goes into your body.
But it is very important to note that we are not eating the same foods we ate years ago because the soils have been depleted of critical nutrients through current industrial farming practices. And because the soil is not as good as it used to be, the food supply (grown from the depleted soil) is not as good as it used to be. For example, you are not getting the same levels of chromium and magnesium as you would have gotten 30 or even 50 years ago.
Second, much of the food has been processed and genetically altered, which can impact the inherent and unique nutritional composition that each food possess. For example, ancient einkorn wheat has less gluten, more protein, more Vitamin A, and more beta carotene, than modern genetically modified wheat.
Third, the toxic load in the environment today is much higher than 100 years ago. We can see this with global warming, toxic landfills, polluted oceans and waterways, etc. Toxicity levels interfere with nutrient assimilation and absorption not just into the foods, but into our bodies as well. We often see elevated blood sugar levels with poor nutrition and toxicity.
In addition to diet, there are dietary supplements that can have an impact on blood sugar levels. Dietary supplements for diabetes are becoming increasingly popular as people look for ways to improve their blood sugar control.
For some people, vitamin and mineral supplements offer important health benefits. Supplements are designed to fight deficiencies found in our diet and complement the food we eat regularly. Supplements are basically “helping hands” to our daily food.
If you suspect that you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, consider shifting your focus from supplements to eating better.
And if you are unable to eat better, the supplements in my Blood Sugar Support Bundle may provide the extra boost you need.
These are my favorite Diabetes Prevention Supplements to use! This Blood Sugar Support Bundle will ensure you have the intake of the important vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to decrease inflammation and boost your innate wellness day and night. Taken together, it’s a solid plan for increasing your body’s natural resiliency while encouraging healthy blood sugar levels.
For best results make sure you use these supplements with dietary changes including a whole food plant-based diet, regular exercise (at least 2-3x per week), regular sleep (8 hours per night), and intermittent fasting (at least 1-3x per week).
It’s important to note that supplements are NOT a replacement for your regular medication regimen prescribed by your doctor. However, they can be used in addition to help manage your blood sugar levels.
Supplements have the potential to interact with diabetes medications, so it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen. Have you tried any dietary supplements for your diabetes? Share your experience in the comments below!
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
There are several types of blood glucose meters, lancets, and test strips to choose from. I often recommend this glucometer, lancets, and test strips.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Another alternative for dumbbells/free weights are resistance bands. They are great for physical therapy, yoga, strength training, and excellent for traveling.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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