Why Stress Management Is An Important Component Of Maintaining Blood Sugar Balance

mbg Editorial Assistant By Eliza Sullivan
mbg Editorial Assistant
Eliza Sullivan is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She received a B.S. journalism and a B.A. in english literature from Boston University.
young woman sitting and meditating on her sofa in the living room

As the number of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes cases in the United States continues to grow, researchers work to find ways to prevent the onset of these conditions and to manage them when they do take hold.

A recent study, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology saw a link between amounts of cortisol and blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes and offers a basis for continued research into behavioral interventions to limit stress in patients with type 2 diabetes.

The link between the stress hormone and blood sugar levels.

According to the report, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Ohio State University College of Medicine found that increases in cortisol, the human stress hormone, had a direct relationship with increased glucose over time.

"In healthy people, cortisol fluctuates naturally throughout the day, spiking in the morning and falling at night," said Joshua J. Joseph, M.D., an endocrinologist who led the study. "But in participants with type 2 diabetes, cortisol profiles that were flatter throughout the day had higher glucose levels."

According to previous research, stress and depression can lead to a flatter cortisol profile, which makes regulation of blood sugar more difficult. And while this study isolated this relationship in participants with type 2 diabetes, the researchers believe the influence of cortisol may be an important component in diabetes prevention.

"Most people with type 2 diabetes know the importance of exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting plenty of rest. But stress relief is a crucial and often forgotten component of diabetes management," Joseph said.

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Finding ways to de-stress is crucial for blood sugar balance.

Because of the influence of cortisol levels on managing blood sugar, finding effective ways to relieve stress can help manage blood sugar levels, especially for those with type 2 diabetes.

"Whether it's a yoga class, taking a walk or reading a book, finding ways to lower your stress levels is important to everyone's overall health," says Joseph, who also serves as an assistant professor in the College of Medicine, "especially for those with type 2 diabetes."

Based on the results of this recent study, Joseph and his team are planning more research: "We have begun a new trial to examine if mindfulness practices can lower blood sugar in those with type 2 diabetes," he explains.

And while mindfulness practices can be an important part of managing stress, he points out that those aforementioned strategies are always good too. "[Mindfulness] isn't the only effective form of stress relief. It's important to find something you enjoy and make it a part of your everyday routine."

Some of our favorite stress management tools? Using favorite essential oils, following along with short meditations, and developing a breathwork practice (which you can learn with us!) are simple things that can make a big difference for stress levels.

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