Blood sugar stability, circadian rhythm and stress

Eoin Roe, Chiropractic

Call 087 958 2362

When we hear the word stress we often think of emotional issues at home or work, money pressure and other psychological stress. But there are many physical stressors such as environmental toxins, injury and pain, and for some, poor control of blood sugar caused by skipping meals or eating diets that are too high in carbohydrates.

Your body will respond in the same way to an emotional stressor and a physical stressor.

Unfortunately we can’t always get away from emotional stress, for instance if you are caring for a loved one or going through a divorce, but we can do something about physical stressors.

Blood Sugar Stability and Stress

It is very important for you to maintain stable blood sugar, especially for your brain. Stable blood sugar is normally maintained by eating food and, in times of fasting (when you sleep) by your adrenal glands releasing cortisol and prompting the liver to make blood sugar from proteins and fats.

So if you are skipping meals, especially breakfast, this can cause your blood sugar levels to slump. Combined with a diet that is low in protein and fats, the problem will worsen because your body will find it harder to have an efficient fasting response to raising blood glucose. This can cause sleep problems making you wake in the middle of the night.

Circadian Rhythm

Your circadian rhythm governs your sleep wake cycle. We all know intuitively that if we don’t get enough sleep we will be grumpy or cross. However a lack of sleep is also essentially stressful because if we continue with poor sleeping patterns it will affect our stress response, or more accurately, the hormones that govern our stress response.

It is the hormone cortisol that ties blood sugar stability, the circadian rhythm and stress together. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for waking us up in the morning; it is also the hormone released by the adrenal glands when we are stressed, and one of the actions of cortisol is to prompt the liver to produce blood sugar.  

So, if we don’t have adequate energy stores to maintain stable blood sugar, we will experience a stress response and this will elevate cortisol.  Elevated cortisol will de-stabalise blood sugar and, if that happens during sleep, it will also wake us up.

Looking at the diagram we can see that all of these things interact and, whilst we sometimes don’t have control over the stress we are experiencing, we can change the other two factors in this cycle.  

If you are skipping meals and find that you are getting hangry (angry because you are hungry), waking up in the middle of the night, and eat a diet that is low in protein and fats;  It may well be an indication that your blood sugar is functionally too low. This will cause instability in your blood sugar. The fix for this is to eat more regularly; you should also focus on eating a breakfast that is high in protein and fats and low in carbohydrates and, if very severe, you may need to eat smaller meals more frequently. 

A poor diet that is full of sugar and processed foods will be stressful and inflammatory in its own right but is likely to cause your blood sugar to be too high; and this will often result in you feeling sleepy or have low energy especially after meals.

Again, if you are having problems sleeping or you are just choosing to go to bed too late this will increase your stress. The ideal time to go to bed is around 10pm and seven to eight hours of solid sleep is ideal. An adequate sleep habit is very important and can be difficult to achieve if we constantly chop and change our sleeping pattern – this is particularly challenging for those who are doing night shifts.  

Developing regular sleeping and eating habits can really help you to manage stress and by adding in regular exercise this can help you more resilient and better able to handle the normal stress that life throws up.

I would like to wish all readers a Happy Christmas and New Year.

Eoin Roe is a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and Chiropractor based in Skibbereen at Roe Health Clinic. If you would like to contact him for help with chronic health problems or for pain issues please do so through the website or by calling 087 9582362.

WCP Staff

Next Post

Step into Christmas in Designs

Tue Dec 6 , 2022
It has become something of a tradition that the festive window display in Designs of Skibbereen heralds the start of the holiday magic each year in the West Cork town. Once the fairy lights are switched on and the elves appear in Designs, you’ll often find shoppers standing outside front […]

You May Like