Understanding Diabetic Blood Sugar Fluctuations When Sick
Often diabetic blood sugar fluctuations occur when a
diabetic starts to get sick with a virus, infection, and so on.
This is a natural event for diabetics and they need to understand what to
When any person gets sick their body goes through what is called "general adaptation syndrome." This is a broad set of changes that occurs to the body when it is subjected to stress. There are three stages to this set of changes. The first is the "alarm reaction," when you secrete adrenaline and cortisol, causing your entire body and mind to spring into action against the stressor. The "stage of resistance" is the second stage. In this siege state the body and mind try to pinpoint the threat and activate only the most appropriate resistance mechanisms. In this second stage the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol decreases, while the battle against the stressor is fought only by the most appropriate methods of the organs or systems. The final stage is the "phase of exhaustion." This is the beginning of breakdown, which can lead to further breakdown. This downward spiral may even result in death.
In the exhaustion phase, the specific, appropriate
organs or systems that are fighting the stressor may wear out, and/or become
depleted. Your body and mind then
call in the reinforcements and other organs and systems join the battle.
When this occurs, there is again a surge in the secretion of adrenaline
During the exhaustion phase, most of the systems and
organs in your body are affected and some are harmed. One result is often there is a substantial enlargement of the
cortex of your adrenal glands. In
other words, swollen adrenals, a condition many diabetics suffer.
Other problems occur from continued stress such as a decline in the
immune system due to depletion of white blood cells, the shrinkage of the
thymus, spleen, and lymph nodes, and other declining function and loss of
efficiency. This continual stress
can result in over-secretion of cortisol. Further, stress assaults the mechanism
that naturally shuts off your cortisol production.
This cortisol shut-off usually occurs when the threats against you have
passed, and the body’s feedback mechanism tells it to quit producing cortisol.
Stress may damage this feedback ability and your body may not be able to
shut off the demands of the body for more and more cortisol. (Ref. Dharma Singh
Khalsa, MD, Brain Longevity.)
essential point in relation to diabetics and getting sick is the increase in
cortisol. Cortisol is a response by
the body to what it considers an emergency.
Along with cortisol, the body also increases levels of blood sugar to
handle the emergency. “The glucocorticoids are 21-carbon steroids, with many
actions; the most important of which is to promote gluconeogenesis.
Cortisol is the predominant glucocorticoid in humans.
(Ref. Robert K. Murray, MD, Ph.D., Daryl K. Granmer, MD, Peter A. Mayes,
Ph.D., D.Sc., Victor W. Fodwell, Ph.D., Harper’s
Biochemistry, 25th Edition, Appleton & Lance, Stanford,
Connecticut, 2000, Page 575.)” Also,
“gluconeogenesis, the synthesis of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources, such
as fat and protein. (Oxford Dictionary of
Biology.)” Thus, as the
chemistry books explain, cortisol’s primary job is to promote the production
of blood sugar from the synthesis of fat and protein.
Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone and is released in response to
This is the point at which wild blood sugar
fluctuations can originate, as additional blood sugar is poured into the blood
stream due to gluconeogenesis. The
body is constantly secreting cortisol and surges of sugar to combat the stress
of illness. This is stressful to
the body. This is a lot like stop
and go driving versus driving down a freeway.
The stop and go aspect is hard on you and the car.
When a person begins to get sick, cortisol and blood
sugar levels go up. They stay up
during the illness, and remain up during the recovery. For instance, stress can result in the immune system becoming
depressed, the adrenals becoming swollen, and other adaptations occurring from
these constant struggles of the body. All
of these result in the body maintaining a state of emergency until a short time
after recovery. Additionally, this declining function of the immune system and
declining function of other organs and systems in the body are perceived by the
body as another threat and these result in additional cortisol and blood sugar
Furthermore, cortisol is not meant to be long term.
This means constant production of cortisol eventually wears out the body.
This cortisol overload sends another message to the body of emergency and
creates further surges of cortisol and blood sugar.
Thus, a diabetic will usually have wild blood sugar
fluctuations during stress from the environment, activity, nutrition, mental
aspects, and in particular when sick. Therefore a diabetic needs to understand
the value in controlling stress and in taking swift care when the beginning of
illness and rising blood sugar occur.
There is an article on the web site
www.restoreunity.org called the "Free Radical Cascade" that describes
the necessity for taking care of illness swiftly, so it does not progress into
the siege stage and possibly into the exhaustion stage.
This is vital for diabetics to understand.
The longer they are ill, the longer the dangerous blood sugar
fluctuations will continue. Also
the body will continue to lose the ability to control cortisol and blood sugar
fluctuations, due to damage to the feedback mechanisms mentioned in this
article. The adrenals will
eventually become swollen leading to more problems and this will result in more
blood sugar fluctuations.
Therefore a diabetic needs to understand that illness
and other stressors are a great threat to diabetic blood sugar.
A diabetic needs to realize that stress and blood sugar are interrelated.
Also a diabetic needs to realize that all stress and in particular
illness, is a great threat to the diabetic condition and must be dealt with
swiftly. In the article "Free
Radical Cascade" a swift way of dealing with the beginnings of being sick
In conclusion, an overload of cortisol is a great threat to diabetics. It can lead to wild blood sugar fluctuations, dangerous to diabetics. A diabetic needs to understand this danger so he can put the appropriate value on reducing stress and taking care of himself at the first hint of illness. Another point is a diabetic needs to understand that when he gets sick, blood sugar levels may rise dangerously and stay that way even several weeks into recovery. A diabetic needs to remain calm during this period because worrying excessively will create additional stress and stress can lead to wild blood sugar fluctuations. You can learn to take care of stressors in your life immediately and understand that stress is a great enemy of diabetics. Become informed about your disease so you do not unduly worry and make yourself sicker from your worries and fears. These worries and fears may lead to an increase of cortisol and blood sugar. Remember diabetics, do not panic, this increases cortisol.
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