The Stress & Blood Sugar Connection We Don’t Talk About Enough


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William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.

These days, stressful events like family losses or trouble at work are well-known to be risk factors for triggering the onset of diabetes6. In addition, studies have shown that traumatic experiences, family chaos, and behavioral problems during childhood are also linked to diabetes7.

So what explains this connection? It turns out that the main stress hormone, cortisol, causes blood sugar levels to go up8. Technically, this is an evolutionary adaptation. When we’re trying to fight or flee, we need immediate sugar in our blood to fuel our muscles and cells to get out of a dangerous situation.

It, therefore, makes sense that when we encounter a threat, our body does what it’s designed to do, stopping digestion and other less critical bodily processes, like repair and cleanup mechanisms, and funneling its resources to the heart, brain, and muscles. The only problem occurs when stress is chronic. Too much cortisol for too long can lead to chronically high blood sugar, which can contribute to diabetes and insulin resistance. 

If you’ve got a blood sugar issue, I’m sure that your gut-feeling connection is playing an important role in your imbalance, and that healing will require an approach that tackles both the physical causes of blood sugar imbalances—such as gut microbiome imbalances and excess sugar intake—and the emotional ones, such as chronic stress or the effects of trauma.

Excerpt courtesy of Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel. Copyright © 2023 by Will Cole. Published by goop Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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