The Effect of Stress On Your Blood Sugar and Ketosis and What To Do About It
We all can say that we have too much stress in our lives. Whenever I meet up with a friend that I haven’t seen in a while, the first thing they say is how busy they are, how crazy life is, and how it is hard to fit everything in. Do you get this? Do you say this? We are all too busy for our own good right?
I want to talk about how stress causes damage inside our body, and how stress can pretty much wreck your health and weight loss goals.
• zap your energy
• expand your waistline
• make it hard for you to focus
• give you digestive upset
• keep you from making ketones
• kick you out of ketosis
• and really set you on a path towards disease
I often work with people who just want to change their diet but struggle to achieve their goals when they don’t address the underlying emotional issues and stressors in their lives. Plainly, it just doesn’t work. And if you are trying hard, eating impeccably, adhering to your protocol, even taking the right supplements but not succeeding stress may just be the reason behind it all.
What Is Stress?
Stress is really just wear and tear on the body in response to normal everyday tensions and pressures. There is good stress and bad stress but when your stress exceeds your ability to handle and cope comfortably it begins to affect you on a deeper biological level and affects all of the following:
• how you think
• if you can maintain bodyweight
• losing weight
• gaining weight
• how you react to food
• your ability to assimilate the nutrients from the food you eat
A little bit of stress can be good for you. It can charge you up, invigorate you, and give you an energy boost. Like when you have a deadline at work, studying for a test, planning a special event; these are times when a little bit of stress energy can help you accomplish your goals. But when this stress becomes chronic, something you have all the time, it’s different. It’s not too difficult to recognize when stress is not the good kind, but do you know how quickly stress can become the gateway to many short-term and long-term health consequences and hormone imbalances?
To sum this up so far, the stress that is damaging to you is stress that puts more demand on you, physically or mentally, and exceeds your ability to respond and recover. The stress you are under today could be changing your body’s chemistry: causing high blood pressure, increasing your blood sugar, making you moody and irritable, affecting your ability to work, hurting your relationships, decreasing your physical performance, and be keeping you from burning fat.
I have found that I cannot fully help my clients by just teaching them great nutrition techniques. Sure, we can make positive healthful progress. They truly start feeling better when they learn to eliminate specific foods and to focus on real nutrient dense foods. But there is always a need for more. You can have an impeccable diet and still have:
- blood glucose levels that won’t stabilize
- sleep that doesn’t improve
- trouble making ketones
- hormones that stay imbalanced
- digestive issues persisting
- and the inability to lose weight
- and did I mention… no success with Keto
In order to make lasting change, you need to address your stress and look at your thoughts and beliefs about yourself.
Many of us turn to food when we are stressed as a way to provide comfort, calm down, reduce anxiety, and often we are not fully aware that we do this. Understanding why you sabotage yourself, why you have cravings, why you feel it is so hard to change, why you resist changing your habits, all these things are important in order for you to establish real goals, make a commitment to these goals, and get your heart and head aligned to really be able to let the change take place.
The ultimate goal is to establish new habits that will lead to lasting health changes. It may take a deeper look inside your self to figure out the real reasons behind destructive habits in order to finally let go of them. Sticking to a new nutrition regimen can be quite a challenge if you ignore this part and it may be a big reason why you feel you have tried everything, done so many different diets, why you might feel it is hard to make diet changes, and why nothing has worked.
Let’s look at the effect of stress on your body. What really happens. What the negative impacts are, beyond making you feel moody, anxious, impatient, irritated, and unable to concentrate.
When You Are Stressed Your Body Goes Through A Series of Events
• Logical thought is replaced by irrational and unreasonable thoughts. The hormone cortisol will inhibit the part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex, responsible for high-level thinking, planning, organizing, and computing. The cortisol instead stimulates the limbic area in the back of your brain, responsible for the emotional fight-or-flight.
• The outward physical signs of stress include: an increased heart rate (you may feel your heart pounding), increased perspiration, and tightening muscles, especially in your neck, shoulders, chest, and belly
• Stress causes an increase in the cortisol and adrenalin hormones. This causes an additional slew of negative effects including stopping ketosis and fat burning, hormonal imbalance, high blood sugar, and increased hunger.
• Digestion and nutrient absorption cease to happen because your body is in a sympathetic state and proper digestion will only occur in a parasympathetic state, which is often referred to as the rest and digest state.
• Blood sugar increases because the high cortisol levels will pull protein out of your muscles to be converted into glucose. This blood sugar surge will halt ketone production. You only want this to happen if you are getting chased by a tiger, or during short stressful events, because it gives you the immediate energy you need to flee and survive.
• When the muscle breakdown is chronic, it will result in the inability to build muscle, decreased ability to recover from exercise, and more seriously can result in sarcopenia, which is a situation where the muscles continue to waste away.
• Fat storage increases and lipolysis (fat breakdown for energy) ceases to happen. You can’t burn fat in a stressed state because glucose is the preferred fuel for stress, not fat and ketones. Your fat will stay put and you will store more fat.
• Insulin increases as a result of higher blood sugar. Insulin is a storage hormone so any glucose that is not used up, like from running from the tiger which does not happen, the glucose will be brought to your fat cells as triglycerides and stored.
• High insulin also increases causes damage to blood vessels and increases inflammation, stops fat burning, and causes hormonal imbalances resulting in increased hunger.
• Stress disrupts hormone balance. Sex drive is inhibited and growth hormone (DHEA) is decreased because cortisol uses the same building blocks as sex hormones and DHEA. So, when stress is sustained and triggered over and over, cortisol basically steals the building blocks away from the sex hormones and DHEA.
• The immune system down-regulates when you are stressed. You cannot recover from cold and flus quickly. You end up getting sick more often. You are basically setting yourself on a path towards disease.
None of this sounds like a fun place to be, and it obviously leads to ill health. Your body can only recover from stressful events lasting less than 30 minutes or less, after that the high cortisol exposure will have damaging effects and you will feel the burn out that results in chronic fatigue.
Now that you know stress, not just poor food choices, will both keep and kick you out of ketosis, raise your blood sugar, cause high insulin levels, increase fat storage, decrease weight loss, break down muscle tissue, dampen your libido, and decrease your ability to fight off colds and flus, let’s look at what you can do to start decreasing the stress in your life and ways to manage your inevitable stress better.
Manage Your Stress – You Can Start Today
Three Methods I Use and Teach to Help Manage Stress
Heart Breathing (from the www.heartmath.org system)
This is a focused deep breathing exercise that can shift your chemistry and bring positive emotion into your day at any moment. You can do this anywhere – standing, sitting, cooking, driving, at work, shopping… and the more often you do it the faster you will become better at shifting out of your stressful state.
Step 1 Start by becoming aware of your breath and slowing it down. Count in for 5, then hold your breath in for 5, let it out for a count of 5, and then hold it out for a count of 5. Do this breath a few times in a row and then begin to focus on your heart. You may not need to keep counting but do make sure you are exhaling completely and fully.
Step 2 Bring your attention to the area around your heart and breathe into it. You can visualize your heart, put your hand over it, or whatever way works best for you. Imagine that you are breathing in and out of your heart.
Step 3 The next piece is to bring in a positive emotion. While you continue to breathe deeply and slowly into the area around your heart, recall a time when you felt real joy and happiness, when you felt utterly content and did not have a worry in the world. Try to be as vivid as you can and let yourself experience the place, the time, the same feelings, the joy and appreciation you felt in this memory. Really feel these feelings and appreciation that you have for that experience or person.
Step 4 Now connect these feelings to the present moment, when you breathe into your heart for 5, hold for 5, let out your breath fully for 5, and hold it out for 5 bring your experience back to reality and really go there to feel the positive feelings you felt., and let yourself shift into these positive emotions deeply.
Step 5 As you come out of it just notice how you feel in your body, what has shifted, how relaxed you are. You can do this anytime during the day and it is good to practice it multiple times a day. You will get faster and better at it and you will feel yourself shift almost immediately out of stress.
Playing the Appreciation Game
We all know the power of gratitude and appreciation. Here is a simple game for you to shift your brain chemistry that takes on a few minutes, several times a day.
• When you wake up, before you even get out of bed, think of three things you are thankful for or that you appreciate.
• Throughout the day, whenever you go to a different room or different location, find three things to appreciate about the space you are in. Do this at least four or five times during the day.
• Then, when you lie down in bed before you go to sleep find three more things to appreciate or that you are thankful for.
When you add this practice to your daily routine, by the end of each day you will have 5-6 sets of three things you appreciate. You will feel your energy shift. If you are someone who normally notices the negative first (you may not even realize this) you are a glass-half-empty type. After implementing this simple practice, you will start to feel yourself becoming a glass-half-full type.
You want to build your emotional energy reserves by focusing on joyful events, surrounding yourself with people you like that you can have meaningful conversations and relationships with, having fun and taking time for play. Play is really important. Feeling playful, smiling and laughing will change your body’s chemistry.
Start this process by plugging your emotional drains and building your energy reserves. How do you do this? We all have people in our lives that drain us emotionally. You need to figure out the people in your life who are the naysayers, the ones that are draining you, complaining a lot, have unhealthy habits that affect you. You may need to spend less time with these people and let them go their own way. If these are people you must see on a regular basis you can then consciously decide not to engage emotionally with them and keep your energy reserves plugged.
Next look at your own emotional habits. What can you change and what can you let go of? You may not realize how much your stress around these habits is affecting your health, your moods, your energy level, and your ability to be truly happy.
I encourage to look more closely at the stress triggers in your life, to figure out what triggers you to eat emotionally, what triggers your negative moods and then start using these methods to shift out of these states.
The Benefits of Applying Stress-Reducing Methods
After you bring stress-reducing practices into your life you may begin to notice a big shift in the way you feel. Being less stressed has so many positive physiological effects on your body:
• sleeping more soundly
• increased energy
• fat burning and weight loss
• healthy blood pressure
• mental clarity
• normalization of blood sugar
• decreased pain and inflammation
• feeling joy
• better digestion of food and absorption of nutrients
• less digestive distress
• increased physical performance
Managing stress makes it easier to implement bigger changes to your diet because you will feel more in alignment with yourself. When your heart and head become aligned you’ll see these changes becoming so much easier to make long term and the bad habits will be easy to let go of.
Positive emotions, appreciation, and gratitude will shift your chemistry more than anything else. You can start making ketones and reap the benefits of being fat/Keto-adapted. You can lower your cortisol levels. You can immediately lower your insulin levels. You can immediately lower your blood pressure. You can immediately digest a meal better. All of these things can happen in an instant when you practice and when you get the hang of doing some of these techniques.
The biggest take away is that as much as it is about food, it is not only about the food you eat. You could have the best diet and be following a healthy-nutrition regimen to-the-T, but if you do not address the stressors in your life, and work on how you respond to these stressors, you will be unable to progress as far as you want.
Thanks for listening,