Pounds seem more likely to pile on your body when you are stressed, especially if it is chronic stress. Have you noticed that? And, it’s even worse for diabetics, as there is less leeway to work with in the first place. In my diabetes diet plan, I try to alert you to this cortisol – insulin association and give you ideas of how to counter the weight-gain that automatically starts when you are stressed! But first, let’s learn the biochemistry and then some strategy.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands and it is there to save your life in times of danger. Stress is a healthy reaction when a dangerous situation arises because you AUTOMATICALLY respond — no thinking involved — only instinctual reactions hard-wired as the ‘best chance to save your life’ are what is acted upon.
When you are stressed, an automatic system kicks in. That is why it is imperative to de-stress ( i.e. learn to RELAX) successfully during the day, periodically, and after any consciously stressful event. Otherwise, your biochemistry may remain too long (and even habitually) in Stress Mode, with serious biological consequences, as it over-taxes your organ systems to depletion and exhaustion.
Cortisol’s job is to modualte insulin’s effect on your blood sugar. Cortisol irregularities (caused by aging, chronic stress, insufficient cholesterol and some dietary imbalances) also affect blood sugar levels.
There also is a natural circadian rhythm to cortisol production and release that it is important to understand.
Hormone tests are available to measure your levels and their cycle; these will be blood and urine analyses. Talk to your doctor about getting these done at the proper times of day! Usually, your circadian rhythm can be messed up (as in sleep disorders) when your biological clock can be phase-shifted as much as 12 hours “off” schedule — especially if you stay up too late at night regularly or have done night-time shift work.
You need to get regular, large amounts of natural light for your pineal gland, deep in your brain, to tell your body what time it is properly. Even sitting near a window is NOT the same as being outdoors, as many lightwave frequencies are stopped by the glass. Light bulbs, and especially fluorescents, are NOT substitutes for natural light, but putting a “daylight corrected” bulb in all lights where you spend lots of time (e.g. your desk lamp) will be more helpful than other bulbs would be.
If your biological clock’s circadian rhythm is “on time” by proper calibration with sunlight, then more cortisol will be released about 7 AM, as you are meant to start your day, and then be active; whereas, in the evening, when you need restful sleep, cortisol levels should be low. If you regularly wake in the middle of the night just to start worrying (usually between 2 – 3 AM), and stay awake worrying, with it being hard or impossible to return to sleep, then you know you may have a problem with chronic stress impairing your cortisol rhythms and have possible liver concerns, too, as well as the kidney / adrenal axis cortisol issue.
‘This early wake-up is probably your adrenal gland telling you that there is a problem with your cortisol – insulin hormone system. and therefore blood sugar balancing system’, according to Dr. Andrew Rubman, ND of Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicine in Southbury, Connecticut and a contributor to BottomLine Publications.
The problem can present either as low blood sugars (hypoglycemia – which can also be life-threatening) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia / diabetes) or both, alternating periodically. At this stage, the insulin resistance may yet still be fully reversible. Dr. Rubman’s prescription regimen needs a physician’s guidance, so go to a knowledgeable physician of your own, for a properly individualized regimen.
___ It is important to take sufficient chromium; this trace mineral is essential for insulin to function properly as well as for you to metabolize fat and protein properly. There has been much study and discussion as to what form of chromium is best. Dr. Rubman suggests chromium polynicotinate. I take a chromium supplement with GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor).
Taking chromium will change your blood sugar levels, so you should monitor yourself carefully and discuss this before-hand with a knowledgeable physician or diabetes educator. Taking chromium can help heal your system, but if you are on diabetic medication, you must be guided. Only take the normal amount suggested for you. Never take extra chromium!
Food sources for chromium include: Brewer’s yeast ( but this causes gasiness, bloating or nausea in some people), or use foods like eggs, organic liver, wheat germ, green bell peppers, spinach, apples and bananas.
___ Fiber is essential for your liver, as well as your intestinal tract. Fiber helps your liver release the toxins it collects from all over your body, so fiber intake is essential for proper detoxification. Your liver detoxifies through release of bile. You need a healthy liver for it stores your back-up reservoir of glucose, if you are a little too late for a meal or have an small excess amount of diabetes medication.
Dr. Rubman suggests taking glucomannan – a soluble fiber – for this protocol and to use it in the dose on label 30 minutes before your lunch meal and it MUST be taken with a LARGE glass of water (otherwise people have choked or had bowel impactions). Glucomannan is being used successfully to combat obesity, too. Further information about dosages studies have used for this purpose is available at Physician’s Desk Reference, but you must use this under a physician’s care if you are diabetic! http://www.pdrhealth.com/drugs/altmed/altmed-mono.aspx?contentFileName=ame0412.xml&contentName=Glucomannan&contentId=568
Of course, fiber benefits by helping blood sugars avoid spikes; by blood sugar remaining stable, less excess insulin is produced. Instead of the recommended 30 grams of fiber per day, most Americans get about 10 grams a day. That leaves a lot of toxic sludge and fecal waste that is not being eliminated or is exiting too slowly. This IS something you can easily change!
Such organic foods as black beans, brown rice, steel cut oats, vegetables and fruits are great sources of fiber and be sure to use all skins, if they are meant to be eaten.
___ Vitamin B Complex helps you handle stress. It is used up during stress, so if you live a high-stress life, chances are your needs are higher than usual, too.
When you take a B Vitamin supplement, your urine will turn an almost fluorescent looking yellow if you are taking enough. But, your first choice is to get your basic supply from food, as it contains many synergistic compounds that man-made vitamin pills may not have included. Avocado, salmon (especially chum and coho), steelhead trout, mackerel, halibut with skin, free-range elk, eggs, black-eyed peas, oats, dark green leafy vegetables, onions, garlic, chives, okra, asparagus, ancho and pasilla peppers, radishes, celery, tomatoes, flax seeds, pumpkin and squash seeds, cashew nuts, pinenuts (pignoli), almonds, orange juice, seaweed and seaweed agar and arrowroot are good suppliers of different B Vitamins. No one food is a good source of all the B’s.
Dr. Rubman says many people are functionally deficient and cannot process essential Vitamin B12, which is needed for proper, optimal digestion and for brain health as well as many biochemical reactions. Vegetarians always have to watch their B12 intake, as few foods provide it in their diet if they are vegans. So, Dr. Rubman suggests getting tested for how well your body is deals with B12. In fact, all Vitamin B supplementation should be monitored by a physician, as some people have issues with Vitamin B6 and others with B12, for sure, and for these people, they must be supervised.
Obviously, as part of this mix, think about starting a stress-reduction program: yoga, tai chi, walk slowly after meals, smell the flowers, watch the clouds go by, breathe deeply, use flower essences — especially Bach Rescue Remedy, watch the sunset, enjoy funny movies and read funny books, get in touch with your artistic spirit, listen to classical music, play classical music yourself, meditate, muse and think quietly and just stretch out and relax.
Best to all — Em
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(c)2008 Em at http://diabetesdiedialogue.wordpress.com
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