Cortisol and Diabetes

by John W. Cartmell, LMP, MS

Published in Townsend Letter, Nov. 2006


Cortisol is a primary stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands in response to inflammation from infection, injury, reactive substances like allergens or toxins, and certain digestive disturbances.  

High levels of cortisol decreases metabolism of glucose and increases mobilization and metabolism of fats. Decreased metabolism of glucose contributes to increased blood glucose levels, and increased blood fat levels contributes to insulin resistance. Increased levels of blood glucose and blood fats are classic symptoms of diabetes. When blood cortisol levels are too high, insulin will not lower blood sugar.

Based on this model, any long term condition of excess stress can potentially increase the risk of diabetes and decrease the effectiveness of insulin treatment of diabetes.

To effectively treat diabetes, sources of stress or inflammation, including those related to the diet or digestion should be addressed.

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