Can Stress Raise Blood Sugar Levels? (+ Tips to Relieve Stress)

You may have noticed your blood sugar going up and down without eating or drinking. But is stress the culprit? Does stress increase blood sugar? How are stress and blood sugar connected?

Your glucose graph, with its ups and downs, may serve as some kind of mood barometer similar to a mirror of your emotions. Yet it’s much more than just how stressed, nervous, or excited you feel.
That’s why we have created this post to dive into the relationship between blood sugar and stress. And answer the question “Does stress increase blood sugar? “

Can Stress Raise Blood Sugar?

The short answer is: Yes. When stressed, the body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, resulting in increased blood sugar levels. This holds true for positive (excitement to enjoy a fun activity) and negative stress (like a meeting with your boss you’re nervous about).

Adrenaline

Adrenaline is the hormone that causes symptoms such as sweaty palms and accelerated heartbeat and can make us anxious and irritable. If these warning signs are ignored, cortisol is released.

Cortisol 

Cortisol is a hormone meant for crisis situations. Think “flight-or-fight” mode. This hormone ensures our survival and allowed our ancestors to run away from a mammoth. Because of its function to signal our body to move, it increases blood sugar. This can still be relevant if we’re running late and need to catch a train or bus, but it’s less important in our everyday activities in front of the computer. 

Daily Habits and Stress

Since stress and blood sugar fluctuations are so inextricably linked, we want to look at some habits that may affect your stress levels, probably without you noticing it. 

Skipping breakfast

Eating a good breakfast that is rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein can help replenish your blood sugar levels and keep them steady throughout the day. When we skip breakfast, the pancreas produces glucagon, which signals the liver to release glycogen, which is then converted to glucose. As a result, skipping breakfast can raise and destabilize our blood glucose levels.

One study showed that skipping breakfast leads to dramatic blood sugar spikes and drops, while another found that those who skip breakfast even once a week have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Eating Late in the Evening 

Is your bedtime irregular? Do you like to snack late at night or have a meal just before you go to bed? This could be a major factor in your stress. A 2020 study says late-night meals can cause blood sugar levels to spike while you sleep, and blood sugar levels are still elevated the next morning.

Not Enough Sleep

We’ve all been there: When we’re stressed, falling and staying asleep becomes a new challenge. And even though we know that sleep is important for our health and recovery, we tend to forget that a lack of quality sleep unbalances blood glucose levels and has a particularly negative effect on insulin resistance. Lack of sleep triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which may be higher due to stress already, and leads to an increase in blood sugar levels.
Read more about blood sugar and sleep here.  

Not Drinking Enough Water 

Let’s be honest: When we’re stressed, drinking is not the first thing we think of. Some people reach for a glass of water when they feel tired and noticed they haven’t had enough to drink yet. But did you know that dehydration also has a big impact on your blood sugar levels?  Even mild dehydration can increase blood sugar levels and start a dangerous cycle: The kidneys force the body to urinate to flush excess glucose from the body, but the more you urinate, the more dehydrated you become. Water accounts for 50-60% of body weight in women and 60-65% in men, so every biological function depends on the availability of water.

Stress and Women’s Health

Women may face particular challenges when it comes to managing stress and blood sugar levels.
Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and menopause can affect blood sugar levels. Additionally, women may be more likely to experience stress related to caregiving responsibilities, work-life balance, and social expectations. So let’s have a look at five ways stress can affect a woman’s health.

Reproductive Health

Stress can disrupt the menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods or even infertility. Chronic stress can also increase the risk of developing conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This is one of the reasons why monitoring your blood sugar levels for women is super helpful. It allows them to understand their body better and potentially see if certain situations make them feel stressed. 

Pregnancy: 

High levels of stress during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications such as preterm labor and low birth weight. Stress can also have long-term effects on the child’s health, such as developmental delays and behavioral problems.

Cardiovascular Health 

High blood sugar levels and chronic stress can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in women, as well as contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. This is especially important because women have a higher risk for stroke than men. 

Mental Health 

Unfortunately, women are twice as likely as men to experience depression and anxiety, and stress is a significant contributor to these conditions. Especially during the second half of the menstrual cycle, women are more likely to experience more intense emotions and mental health changes. Imbalanced blood sugar levels can be a big contributor to this. 

Immune system 

Even though women are known to have a stronger immune system than men, stress can also weaken their immune system, making women more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Checking their blood sugar levels can be a good indicator of a potential infection.

It’s important for women to prioritize self-care and stress management to protect their blood sugar levels and, thus, their health. 

Coping mechanisms have been shown as helpful in managing stress and lowering your blood sugar.

How To Relieve Stress and Lower Blood Sugar

Exercise

Regular physical activity is a great way to relieve stress and improve blood sugar control. Besides its positive impact on short and long-term blood sugar, exercise may help bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.
Yoga and gentle movements have been shown to be especially helpful in relieving stress. If you’re wondering how to lower blood sugar levels fast, we recommend moderate-intensity exercises such as cycling or walking. And as a nice benefit, it will also decrease the negative stress in your body. 

Meditation And Mindfulness 

Certain practices can help to calm the mind and reduce stress on the body.
One easy mindfulness practice is to feel your feet on the ground.  When you feel the support of the ground you enhance the connection between your mind and your body, which in turn improves your sense of awareness in the present moment.
Another great tool to lower stress quickly are breathing techniques, such as alternate nose breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, which will also lower your blood sugar. 

Social Support

Talking to friends and family can help to alleviate stress and provide emotional support. Having supportive relationships with friends, family, or a community can provide emotional, practical, and informational support that can help you cope with stressful situations.

Relaxation Techniques

Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization can all be effective in reducing stress.
One great breathing exercise to release stress is: Coherent breathing, also known as Resonant Breathing. It is a slow breathing technique that involves six breaths per minute. This pattern of slowing down the breathing rate will alter the autonomic nervous system, including blood glucose and heart rate. Studies show that this will change the brain’s activity, decrease stress, and maintain insulin secretion. 

However, with effective coping strategies and support, women can successfully manage their stress and blood sugar levels. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan for managing stress and diabetes, taking into account individual factors such as age, lifestyle, and overall health.

Ready to Look Inside? 

Stress impacts your body in many ways, and one thing that changes inside you is your blood sugar levels. That’s why balanced blood sugar levels can be an important factor in supporting your overall well-being.

With Hello Inside, you’re able to track your glucose levels so you can see what stresses your body and make lifestyle choices that support a healthy life.
Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Hello Inside supports you and your health.

Start our Hello Hormones Program

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

Marie-Luise Huber

Luise has spent the last 15 years learning about nutrition and coaching people toward healthy behaviors. Before becoming Head of Nutrition at Hello Inside, she helped parents plan proper lunches for their children. Luise also optimized food ingredients in Central and Eastern European countries. She supported 1000+ people of all ages on their weightloss journey. Her favorite tip to balance blood glucose is moving her body because Luise loves to run, ski or bike. And she loves to bake (not always blood glucose friendly).

more posts from author

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