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Stress can make you sick. Under stress, our liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give us a boost of energy. If we’re under chronic stress, our body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge causing chronic stress which may eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association makes the distinction between physical stress and emotional, or mental, stress. Physical stress happens when the body is taxed by injury or illness, while emotional stress is the type we most often think of: the boss is a jerk, your checking account is on fumes and your car is making that funny noise again, or your insurance doesn’t want to pay for the type of insulin that works best for you. Ugh!

In our modern times, “worries about the coronavirus, the stock market, and the general disruption of life have added to our stress levels, but we know that stress also can make you more susceptible to respiratory illness,” writes Tara Parker-Pope at the New York Times. Not a comforting thought.

One can further break emotional stress into acute stress and chronic stress. Acute stress is being stuck in a traffic jam. Chronic stress is being stuck in a bad marriage — something that is likely to go on for a long time, and take a huge, life-changing effort to relieve.

All of these stressors, physical and mental, short-term and long-term, absolutely have a physical effect on your diabetes, and do so largely though something called the fight-or-flight response. To understand that, we need to consider the early homosapien.

What’s fight-or-flight got to do with it?

Remember that early humans were pretty much defenseless creatures — no claws, no sharp teeth, no tough hide, not that all that strong, and not the fastest runners. And they lived in constant danger of being attacked by predators. In short, we were ill-equipped to survive. But somehow our species rose to the top of the evolutionary chain, and came to rule the planet.

One key way we did this was through the development of a “biological turbo-charging system” that can — for a short time — make us stronger and faster than we usually are. When confronted with danger, our bodies pump out the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) that increases strength to fight with, or speed to flee with. Hence the name fight-or-flight.

As Harvard Medical School experts explain, epinephrine triggers the release of sugar (glucose) and fats from temporary storage sites in the body. These nutrients flood into the bloodstream, supplying energy to all parts of the body.

This biological turbo-charger worked great for Paleo people, and probably also for people in the Middle Ages. And it still does work for modern soldiers confronting enemies, or hikers in the wild who encounter lions, tigers, or bears. But there’s a problem. The body can’t differentiate between danger and stress. Both trigger fight-or-flight.

So today’s most common “danger” isn’t wild animals. There’s no quick resolution — no violent fight, no urgent need to run for miles. Instead, we sit in our sedentary homes and workplaces, our bodies surging with sugar, with no way to burn it off.

That’s how stress messes with diabetes. Acute stress floods us with unwanted (and un-medicated) sugar. Chronic stress is like a leaking faucet, constantly dripping extra sugar into our systems. The impact on blood sugar caused by stress is so significant that some researchers feel it serves as a trigger for diabetes in people already predisposed to developing it.

How to combat stress

So how can you reduce stress so that it has less of an effect on your blood sugar control?

Well, to some extent that depends on the nature of your stress. Anything in life that is stressing you out that’s “fixable,” you should work to fix. That stupid toilet that runs all night and disturbs your sleep? Get it repaired. That’s easy. But sometimes it’s harder: The boyfriend or girlfriend who always puts you down? Time to break up. Not all that easy to do, although it will improve your health on multiple levels.

Meanwhile, things that stress you out that you can’t fix, but that you can avoid, you should avoid. Your family member drives you nuts? You’re not required to visit them, you know.

Lastly, of course, there are things in life that you can’t fix and you can’t avoid, and these you need to develop ways to deal with. Sometimes this involves changing your mental attitude toward it. Other times it’s the use of stress-relief tools, like exercise to burn off that fight or flight sugar, or hot baths and aroma therapy candles to drown the stress so that your body stops releasing the sugar.

Some of the most tried-and-true stress relief tactics are:

  • Exercise of any kind
  • Outdoor activities in the fresh air
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Enjoying soothing music and candlelit atmosphere
  • Spending leisure time with family, friends, and pets

Remember that early humans were pretty much defenseless creatures — no claws, no sharp teeth, no tough hide, not that all that strong, and not the fastest runners. And they lived in constant danger of being attacked by predators. In short, we were ill-equipped to survive. But somehow our species rose to the top of the evolutionary chain, and came to rule the planet.

One key way we did this was through the development of a “biological turbo-charging system” that can — for a short time — make us stronger and faster than we usually are. When confronted with danger, our bodies pump out the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) that increases strength to fight with, or speed to flee with. Hence the name fight-or-flight.

As Harvard Medical School experts explain, epinephrine triggers the release of sugar (glucose) and fats from temporary storage sites in the body. These nutrients flood into the bloodstream, supplying energy to all parts of the body.

This biological turbo-charger worked great for Paleo people, and probably also for people in the Middle Ages. And it still does work for modern soldiers confronting enemies, or hikers in the wild who encounter lions, tigers, or bears. But there’s a problem. The body can’t differentiate between danger and stress. Both trigger fight-or-flight.

So today’s most common “danger” isn’t wild animals. There’s no quick resolution — no violent fight, no urgent need to run for miles. Instead, we sit in our sedentary homes and workplaces, our bodies surging with sugar, with no way to burn it off.

That’s how stress messes with diabetes. Acute stress floods us with unwanted (and un-medicated) sugar. Chronic stress is like a leaking faucet, constantly dripping extra sugar into our systems. The impact on blood sugar caused by stress is so significant that some researchers feel it serves as a trigger for diabetes in people already predisposed to developing it.

Many people are unable to find a way to put the brakes on stress. Chronic low-level stress keeps the HPA axis activated, much like a motor that is idling too high for too long. After a while, this has an effect on the body that contributes to the health problems associated with chronic stress.

Persistent epinephrine surges can damage blood vessels and arteries, increasing blood pressure and raising risk of heart attacks or strokes. Elevated cortisol levels create physiological changes that help to replenish the body’s energy stores that are depleted during the stress response. But they inadvertently contribute to the buildup of fat tissue and to weight gain. For example, cortisol increases appetite, so that people will want to eat more to obtain extra energy. It also increases storage of unused nutrients as fat.

Fortunately, people can learn techniques to counter their stress response.

Soft tissue calcification is one of the most serious health problems we face as individuals, as modern societies, and, on a global scale, as a species. Cardiovascular disease — which leads to heart attacks and strokes, and accounts for nearly half of all deaths in industrialized countries — is a disease of soft tissue calcification: the calcification of our arteries.

Arthritis, of which basically everyone past the age of 40 suffers, and increasingly more with time and with age, is a disease of soft tissue calcification. It is caused by the calcification of the cartilage in the joints: the joints of the knees, but also of the shoulders; the joints of the hips, but also of the wrists; the joints of the elbows, but also of the feet and the toes; the cartilage between the vertebrae of the neck and the spine all the way down the back, but also of the hands and of the fingers.

Soft tissue calcification also causes kidney stones and kidney disease. How many people above the age of 60 don’t have kidney problems? Hardly any. And how many young men and women in their 20s and 30s already have kidney stones and kidney dysfunction? More and more every year.

Every one of the processes generally associated with ageing, from heart disease and stroke, to Alzheimer’s and dementia, to arthritis and kidney disease, to stiffness in the joints and muscles, but also to the wrinkling of the skin, is intimately linked to soft tissue calcification.

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Olive leaf extract may have several potential health benefits, such as helping lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Although scientists have conducted much of the research in animals, the extract is also beginning to show promise in some human trials.

People in the Mediterranean region have long used olive tree leaves as part of their diet and in traditional medicines. Olive leaves contain several key polyphenols, such as oleacein and oleuropein. Polyphenols occur naturally in plants, and research suggests that they may help protect against a range of conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.

These polyphenols may underlie some of the potential health benefits of olive leaf extract. Olive tree leaves contain oleuropein, which is a polyphenol that may help prevent weight gain.In a 2016 study, researchers orally administered oleuropein to rats with obesity that were consuming a high-cholesterol diet. After 8 weeks, the rats had a lower body weight, less fat tissue, and an improved metabolic profile. Another study from 2014 found that oleuropein supplementation reduced body weight and weight gain in mice that were consuming a high-fat diet.

These findings suggest that olive leaf extract containing oleuropein may have the potential to reduce weight gain and lower the risk of obesity. However, further studies are necessary to confirm this possible health benefit in humans.

Preliminary studies suggest that olive leaf extract may help improve cholesterol levels. In a 2015 study, rats ate either a high-cholesterol or a normal diet. The researchers also gave olive leaf extract to some of the rats in both groups.

After 8 weeks, the cholesterol-fed rats had higher levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol. In the rats that also consumed the olive leaf extract, these cholesterol levels were significantly lower.

These findings may also apply to humans. A 2008 study compared the effects of food supplementation with olive leaf extract with lifestyle advice in 40 identical twins with high blood pressure. After 8 weeks, the team found that olive leaf extract significantly lowered LDL cholesterol levels within the twin pairs in a dose-dependent manner. This means that larger doses had a greater effect. Studies suggest that olive leaf extract may help lower high blood pressure. Olive leaf extract may help treat hypertension, or high blood pressure.

In a 2011 study, researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take either 500 milligrams (mg) of olive leaf extract or 12.5–25 mg of captopril, a medication for high blood pressure, twice per day. After 8 weeks, blood pressure was significantly lower for both groups. The team concluded that the olive leaf extract was as effective at lowering blood pressure in people with stage 1 hypertension as captopril.

In another study from 2017, researchers randomized people with stage 1 hypertension to take either an olive leaf extract containing 136 mg of oleuropein or a placebo each day. After 6 weeks, the people who took the olive leaf extract had much lower blood pressure than those who took the placebo.

Olive leaf extract may also help reduce a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In a 2013 study, researchers randomized 46 middle-aged men who were overweight to take either olive leaf extract or a placebo. After 12 weeks, people in the olive leaf extract group had significant improvements in insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness compared with those who took a placebo. Doctors consider reduced insulin sensitivity and pancreatic responsiveness to be important factors in the development of type 2 diabetes.

There are no official guidelines on how much olive leaf extract a person should take. In the human studies discussed above, participants usually took 500–1,000 mg per day of a standard olive leaf extract. Some of these were in divided doses.

Olive leaf extract is available in the form of capsules, tablets, and a tea. When using these products, it is generally best to follow the manufacturer’s directions on safe dosages. A person should to speak to a doctor before taking olive leaf extract to treat a specific condition.

Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider olive leaf extract to be a dietary supplement rather than a medicine, they do not monitor dose or quality of herbs and supplements. There is also only limited scientific data on the possible side effects or long-term safety.

One study suggests that possible side effects may include muscle discomfort and headache. People who experience severe or concerning side effects should stop taking the extract and speak to their doctor. It is also not clear whether olive leaf extract can interact with other medications. People who are taking prescription medications should speak to a doctor before taking olive leaf extract.

Care for your mind, body and spirit and begin to lessen the occurrences of disease and illness. An enhanced quality of physical and mental fitness is the answer to the sweetness of life.

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Unlocking the potential of those who advance in the world. Mother. Executive Coach. Wellness, Education & Marketing Thought Leader.

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