Can Stress Cause Diabetes?

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can stress cause diabetes we know that
stress can cause all sorts of health
problems but is it possible that it
could contribute to the development of
diabetes today we’re going to talk about
what stresses what the stress response
is and we’re going to talk about how all
of this relates to the causative factors
of diabetes so before we’re done today
you’re going to have a clear picture of
how it all works coming right up
I’m doctor Ekberg I’m a holistic doctor
and a former Olympic decathlete and if
you’d like to truly master health by
understanding how the body really works
make sure that you subscribe and hit
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miss anything in the discussion about
diabetes about cause and prevention we
often hear things about diet and we hear
about weight and we hear about exercise
but very rarely do we hear about stress
so let’s talk about how that all works
together first of all we want to talk
about what is stress because most people
have a very limited idea of what stress
is we think of stress as feeling
overwhelmed feeling frustrated having
more things to do than there is time in
the day then that causes a feeling of
stress having multiple things going on
at once and yes absolutely that is
stress but stress is much much more than
those things we talk about usually
that’s just the tip of the iceberg
stress is anything that increases the
demand on the body anytime something
happens that the body has to do
something extra that is stress when the
body detects when your nervous system
detects any sore sort of threat or
anything that it has to deal with
anything it has to pay attention
anything it has to do something about it
creates a stress response so it’s not
the stress that really matters what
matters is the stress
because that’s a physiological reaction
that’s something that happens in the
body so let’s say that we are having a
picnic and we’re enjoying our food and
then all of a sudden a grizzly bear
comes charging across the field heading
straight for us
we are gonna have a pretty strong stress
response at this point I would bet so
now our adrenals first your nervous
system detects the danger then it starts
sending messages for your body to ramp
up its defenses and now the adrenal
glands have to start working harder
that’s why adrenal glands are involved
with stress because adrenal glands make
various hormones the primary stress the
acute stress hormone is called
adrenaline it is a instantaneously
acting it is so important that it’s fast
that there are actually no synapses
between the brain and the adrenal gland
so the adrenal gland is in a sense it’s
an extension of your nervous system
there are no connections in between it
has to happen that fast and now when we
release some adrenaline then our heart
rate goes up because when the bear comes
charging we’re gonna have to have a lot
of extra resources we’re gonna run we
have to fight we need more oxygen more
fuel so the heart beats faster and the
blood pressure goes up because we need
to move that blood faster and that’s
what higher blood pressure does we’re
also going to get an increase in muscle
tension so when we get ready to jump and
run we need some muscle tone so the body
starts preparing that instantaneously
and it dominates the muscle tension in
the flexors in the things that that bend
and protect us on the front of the body
so we bend our arms kinda like in a
defensive posture we pull our shoulders
up to the ears to protect the neck we
clench our jaw to protect
the teeth and the jaw so all of these if
you’ve noticed people being tense when
they’re stressed these are all stress
responses and even though there is no
even if there’s no grizzly bear around
at the time if we have any form of
significant stress we’re gonna exhibit
those same behaviors because it’s built
in we’re wired that way then we’re gonna
also have some other things happening
like we’re gonna get an increase in LDL
the body is gonna up regulate the LDL
production because low-density
lipoprotein cholesterol is necessary for
repairs and if we have a fight if we
have a bear if we have some thorny
bushes if we get injured during the
fight then the body wants to repair that
as soon as possible so it up regulates
that LDL because LDL cholesterol is part
of wound healing it’s part of every
cell membrane so if we’re going to
repair those we need that stuff so we
don’t really have a choice this happens
instantaneously and why does the body do
that well it’s to keep us alive
obviously and stress and stress
responses are not a bad thing they help
us survive the people who have lost this
ability people who have Addison’s
disease their adrenals are completely
shot they have they’re sitting ducks
they have no ability to respond to
stress and it is very very dangerous but
for our purposes what we want to talk
about today is cortisol this kicks in in
just a few seconds later the first stuff
happens in in milliseconds but a few
seconds later the body also increases
cortisol production because when we have
a fight when we have an increased need
whether it’s real or imagined then we’re
going to want more energy which means
more blood sugar and cortisol the
purpose of cortisol is to increase blood
sugar and why is that in
for diabetes because we have in diabetes
it’s about blood sugar it’s about
insulin and it becomes about cortisol
because cortisol raises blood sugar and
therefore it also triggers insulin the
thing to understand about stress though
is that like we said it’s usually
underestimated what stress is we think
of it as this emotional stress but
stress is when your physiology responds
and you have something called a
sympathetic and the parasympathetic
nervous system the sympathetic is your
stress response that’s the fight flight
and the other branch the other half of
that autonomic nervous system is the
parasympathetic which is your feed breed
it’s your healing side so today though
we’re just going to talk about the
sympathetic and to understand that you
don’t have to feel it to have a stress
response that anytime that your
sympathetic nervous system kicks in
anytime that you have an increase in
heart rate increase in blood pressure
increase in muscle tension you are
having a stress response whether you
think you do whether you’re aware of it
or not and this could be an acute
stressor it could be something that you
have experienced recently or it could be
a past trauma it could be something that
was very very significant very severe
very enduring that even though you got
past it it’s sort of lodged in the body
it became a habit that it lasted so long
it became sort of like your default
baseline and these traumas could be of a
physical nature it could be a physical
trauma could be an emotional trauma or
it could be a chemical trauma could be a
poisoning could be chemotherapy could be
a long-standing exposure to something
toxic so any of these things can cause a
sympathetic reaction a fight/flight
response it could cause a stress
response and again
most of these were not aware of probably
80% of these stress responses that
change physiology that changed these
things they go by completely unnoticed
either because we’re not paying
attention or because it just so familiar
to us that it’s just been that way for
so long that that’s just the way it is
and when we have these chronic stresses
when we develop a chronic stress pattern
also called a sympathetic dominance we
tend to produce cortisol at a higher
level for longer periods of time like a
higher baseline activity and they’ve
done some studies where they give
healthy people who are not insulin
resistant they’re very insulin sensitive
they inject cortisol into their bodies
also the medical version of that the
drug version is called cortisone and
within days two weeks they have
measurable changes in insulin resistance
and they start gaining weight even if
they never had a problem with that
before and there’s probably thousands of
you watching who have been on cortisone
you had some sort of pain or
inflammation and they gave you cortisone
or prednisone or one of those zones and
that’s just a synthetic version of
cortisol and it will raise blood sugar
even though the purpose of it is to
control inflammation it will raise blood
sugar it will increase insulin
resistance and it will increase weight
so a lot of you probably recognize that
pattern even if you didn’t know it
before that your blood sugar went crazy
you gained weight and you might even
have become diabetic or pre-diabetic as
a result so this is very well documented
but it’s it’s rarely given the attention
that it deserves so that’s what stress
is that’s what a stress response is it’s
a sympathetic activation it’s an
activation of the sympathetic portion of
your nervous system whether you’re aware
of it or not now what are the cause
positive factors of diabetes well
diabetes is the late stage result it’s
the far-gone version of insulin
resistance and insulin resistance is
when the cells of your body resist
insulin why would they do that because
you’ve had too much insulin for a long
period of time trying to put blood sugar
out of the bloodstream and into the cell
and the cell doesn’t want it and that’s
been going on for a while the cells
start resisting so the variables the
causative factors for diabetes are blood
sugar when blood sugar goes up insulin
goes up if that happens a lot the cells
become resistant eventually and so blood
sugar and insulin go together and now we
understand based on what we talked about
that cortisol because it the purpose of
cortisol is to raise blood sugar it will
stimulate insulin it will increase
insulin resistance those are the basic
causative factors the variables involved
and very very often in the discussion we
hear that oh well you know you just need
to control your calories and you just
need to lose weight and you need to eat
low fat and all these things but they
have it backwards because dietary fat we
we’ve been scared that’s been demonized
we have a fat phobia because we see the
fat on the body so we think that the fat
on the body is the cause and we think
that it’s about calories but dietary fat
does not trigger insulin it is almost a
zero insulin response it’s like 1% of
what a carbohydrate would be so dietary
fat does not cause this and what about
body fat we see that the fat on the body
and we associate overweight people have
more diabetes that’s called a
correlation and then they say that well
you know you should lose some weight and
then typically diabetes gets better
because they see thinner people have
less diabetes but again they get it
backwards it’s not the cause it’s the
effect body fat is not the cause of
insulin resistance it’s the result of
insulin resistance so we have to start
understanding it’s not all that
complicated that’s very very basic
physiological principles blood sugar
goes up insulin goes up cells start
resisting so the things that increased
blood sugar are the ones to avoid so
then back to the question can stress
cause diabetes because we know cortisol
raises blood sugar which can drive
insulin resistance but can it really
cause diabetes in and of itself so I
think it is unlikely that if that was
the only problem that that would cause
diabetes but with everything else that’s
going on with the majority of the
population already having some degree of
insulin resistance now
stress becomes a very very significant
factor so we want to look at the
lifestyle factors and diet is huge
genetics is huge but we don’t really
have much influence over what we got we
can express it differently through diet
activity and stress but these are the
things that we have to work with diet
activity and stress levels so one by
itself they’re all important and if you
already have sort of a tendency then any
one of these will push you over the edge
so if you’re pre-diabetic and you keep
eating lots of carbohydrates and you
have a sedentary lifestyle and you have
a lot of stress then it’s very very
likely that you will become diabetic and
if you just change one of them you’re
not doing as much for yourself as if you
improved all three of them and then the
question of course is how do you reduce
stress how do you reduce
is all and that’s a huge big topic I’m
not going to get into a lot of details
so let’s just very briefly mention that
a stable blood sugar is key because
anytime your blood sugar is low if
you’re hypoglycemic if you are depending
on a carbohydrate metabolism and you
skip a meal now your cortisol is gonna
have to kick in and raise that blood
sugar and now you’re having that stress
if you are fat adapted it’s not a
problem to miss a meal because you don’t
rely on blood sugar to the same degree
so stable blood sugar being fat adapted
having a low carb lifestyle is key in
controlling this and then of course
reducing stress so regular sleep
meditation relaxation breathing
exercises all of those are fantastic
things and we’ll talk more about them in
in other videos but it’s just too big a
topic for this one here breathing
exercises are very powerful I’ve done a
couple of videos on that specifically to
explain how that works the key with a
breathing exercise to reduce stress is
to make the in-breath and the out-breath
about the same length they should be
about four to five seconds and the
out-breath should be if anything just a
little bit longer than the in-breath but
most people breathe 18 to 20 times per
second and when we need to relax when we
do a therapeutic relaxation we need to
slow that down to about 6 breaths a
minute to get this effect and then of
course any other lifestyle changes if
you have a job that’s really really
stressful then you either need to do
more of this or you need to figure out
maybe if you can find another job or
another situation in life so we can do
certain things to change our our
environment and our adaptation and then
the rest of it becomes to improve the
bodies health
so that it can deal with this we have
done some other videos on brain and
stress and I’ll do some more on on that
specifically if you enjoy this
information and you like to learn more
about how the body really works and how
to get as healthy as possible make sure
that you check out our other videos on
insulin resistance and I will see you in
the next video thanks for watching


  1. Thanks a lot for your excellent advice, sir πŸ™πŸŒΊ Hope you are doing well as it looks like you have hurt yourself on your arm. If you are in some pain I hope you will feel better soon πŸ™πŸŒΊ

  2. Another amazing video Dr Ekberg, thank you endlessly.

    I've changed my diet recently I'm on low carb atm and it's going veryy well, my gut health and overall health have improved a lot. However I'm still struggling immensely with my anxiety/stress I keep believing it will jeapodise my efforts to eating and living healthy.

  3. Thanks for the video. Is great explanation of the topic as always from you. Stress is my problem so now fighting against it on all fronts. Keto diet, exercise (moderate), relaxing and affirmations. But is hard to stop stress if one is in stressful circumstances, blocked, thinking that is without option of escape.

  4. I wondered about that.Im the only one in family w.diabetes.Stressful past ,violent husband.(ex)Former teacher to little ones.I tend to worry,get stomach problems. But stress made me eat.Thats bad for health,overeating. On low carb.,no sugar. Now my stress is….I'm hungry! πŸ€”πŸ€—

  5. Wish you were my doctor.
    Thanks for the great info.
    Btw the thumb nail scared the ship out of me. Stress response 😁

  6. This is a superb vid (as usual, from you !) … you explain things in such a way that makes me feel I'm almost on my way to qualifying as a doctor !! Your presentations are brilliantly insightful and informative. Thank you. [BTW: I'm now certain my diabetes is a result of regular, unrelated/unfortunate stress issues over the last 7/8 years !]

  7. My DDD (C1-C2, C4-C5, C6-C7, right foramen) flared up a few weeks ago and I'm just getting over it, but I'm definitely stressed more than I have been since starting keto a little under a year ago. I've been drinking a lot of ginger and turmeric tea with cinnamon in it and otherwise spiking my black tea with cinnamon after eating. Otherwise, I'm getting a lot of turmeric and ginger, trying to keep the inflammation down and trying to avoid external stressors (I also like to add ginger to bone broth.)Β 

    I'm up a couple pounds or two, and my blood sugar was 130 this morning after around 12 hours fasting. Didn't help that I didn't get much sleep last night, and didn't get my 3-mile walk in this morning. Walking has helped to keep the inflammation down.

    Hopefully, I'm about over the hump. Looking forward to an extended fast, but with fresh wild sockeye salmon on sale, I don't want to stop eating it! (I'm freezing a bunch of individual portions, tooβ€”got a full freezer, and I just made a bunch of space over the past month.)
    Thinking maybe the DDD is part of what started me toward diabetes. Fortunately, better nutrition has minimized it (magnesium first, then keto and fasting, and other nutrition advice keto doctors have given on youtube.)

  8. in…out…

  9. Thank you, thank you. 3 years ago, I had a Kenalog shot in both my knees and within a week I had all kinds of nasty side effects. I had asked if the shot would affect me since I had Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. I was told no. My thyroid was throbbing. It took me months and lots of doctor's visits to get better but the bottom line the doctors did not help me at all. That goes for the endocrinologist. I asked her about insulin resistance and she refused to discuss it with me and told me I did not have to come back. I actually did not plan to see her again. Yep, I finally have Type 2 diabetes without eating grains for 10 years, no sodas, no Twinkies.

  10. Great video, thx! In a fight-or-flight situation, the body produces more cortisol to increase blood glucose for immediate energy. This, in turn, increases insulin, which decreases blood glucose. At first glance, this seems counterproductive, like hitting a car’s accelerator and brake pedals at the same time. Is there anything that could shed some light on this?

  11. Hello Dr. Sten, I agree with your video. However , It is my belief that drinking coffee thru-out the day is causing my cortisol to spike at 4 am ., thus raising my blood sugar and leaving me with only 5 hours of sleep thru-out the night. I have asked doctors in the past about my blood sugars rising because of coffee consumption . However they did not seem to agree with me. However these are the same doctors who know nothing about a Ketogenic diet for a diabetic..
    I am guessing at this time that taking ( melotonin, gaba, and valerian root) , may help with deep sleep and lowered my blood sugars and cortisol . I will also try the breathing exercises. Thank you for all you do! Do you have any thoughts on keeping cortisol low to have longer sleep hours? Thank You , Tom

  12. Hi doctor, amazing video as always! I have a question due to this video. What do you need to grow taller as a teenager?

  13. Thank you Dr. Always great information in your videos. I found the two reasons for me losing weight too slow (pretty much I can't lose any πŸ™ ) are hormone imbalance (high levels of estrogen, low progesterone) and stress. I have been working in decreasing the stress and at same time stressed because I can't find a natural solution for the hormones hahaha… I am still waiting for your video about loosing weight during menopause. I know I am not the only woman on this situation.

  14. I really enjoy and appreciate your videos. Have learned a lot from you. I’m a 72 year old widow. Lost 35 lbs and a1c went from 6.4 to 5.4 in three months. I have a lot of stress right now with impending driving test and license renewal. This has upset me so much, but should be alleviated in a few days. I look forward to all of your videos. I’m on keto IF diet and intend to continue. My fasting glucose is high 115-130 but think it’s more than dawn effect. Will it ever go down?

  15. A great video as always, dr. Ekberg. I really enjoy your way of simplifying and explaining the topics of your videos.
    I've been wanting to ask you about the effect of dried vegetables on blood glucose level.
    I know dried veges lose a lot of their nutritional benefits but do they go up on the glycemic index as well or drying has no effect on their GI?

  16. Very interesting again Dr Ekberg, πŸ‘πŸΌ Keto + IF and lower stress πŸ€ͺ

  17. Brilliant. Thank you for sharing this important information with us all. 4. Completely avoiding toxic people, even if they're Family, has been my biggest de-stresser. Take care off yourself, & your Elbow. β€πŸ™‚πŸΆ

  18. Congratulations! I’ve been watching your subscribers grow and you hit 100 plus! Love your content. keep them coming. I share your channel with my friends and family. Jamie in Edmonds, WA.

  19. when I explain to my friends and family about the carbohydrate metabolism and how sugar is the devil for us. They question more about fat metabolism. I don't know deeply about fat metabolism like carbohydrate. So an explanation video about Fat metabolism would be helpful. Looking forward to it. Keep up the good work and your crystal clear explanation.

  20. Will the human body simultaneously generate cortisol to increase the blood glucose level and insulin to control it? Is there no central system to regulate both at the same time and just produce the net result that is needed?

  21. Thanks for making such an interesting video… I find your videos very informative and appreciate them very much. I know I have had high stress all of my life… I have had an extremely challenging time losing weight as I don't even go into ketosis with a Keto or Carnivore diet. I only go into ketosis if I do water-only fasting for at least four days and this is difficult for me, but I have the pre-diabetes and extremely high blood pressure… Last week my Doctor wanted me to go to Emergency when he took my blood pressure at 238/?…. I did not get the lower number… He said in his 37 year career he had never seen BP so high as mine. But… I do not want to be on BP meds…. so today is day 5 of taking the meds and I am done with it… but I still need to get my health back… The stress has been extreme since I lost my son a few years ago… I gained 45 pounds since his death and can't seem to get it off.

  22. Thanks, so well explained! As you said this does not get the attention it should, when analyzing the involved factors of weight loss and diabetes. Keep up the good work.

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