Did Trauma Cause My Diabetes?

What caused killer t-cells to attack the beta cells in my pancreas, preventing them from producing insulin, making my blood sugar skyrocket and triggering my Type 1 diabetes? That was in 1962. No one has come up with a convincing explanation yet. Scientists aren’t even close to figuring out the interactions between the environment, genes, the immune system and who-knows-what-else that result in Type 1 (T1) or Type 2 (T2) diabetes. If you travel around the Internet, it appears that the entire world is one big “risk factor” for these conditions.

Suspects identified by researchers that might play a role in T1D include the smoked mutton consumed by Icelanders between Christmas and New Year’s, various viruses, respiratory infections in early childhood, early exposure to cow’s milk, psoriasis, the timing of infants’ first solid foods, low levels of Vitamin D, and many more. Risk factors for T2D, besides the well-known ones like obesity, could include not enough sleep and phthalates in soaps, lotions, plastics and toys.

But the culprit that interests me the most doesn’t get much attention in the research labs: trauma and major stress. When I was a kid, the conventional wisdom was that traumatic events — loss of a loved one, accidents — played an important role in diabetes onset. This appeared to be substantiated by a number of population studies in the ensuing decades, but the evidence hasn’t impressed major players in diabetes research. In a long summary of biochemical and environmental risk factors for T1D, the NIH barely touches upon the matter, gives it a few throwaway lines:

Although investigations of stress and IDDM [insulin dependent diabetes] have, in general, reported positive associations, most studies have been retrospective and suffered from methodological difficulties in assessing stress and measuring its frequency, intensity, and duration. Thus, prospective evaluations of the interaction among stress, the immune system, and the occurrence of autoimmune diseases are warranted.

Sorry, NIH, but I am convinced that a specific traumatic event played a major, albeit partial, role in triggering my diabetes.

In a blog post that was mainly about my mother and Sonya Sotomayor’s parents, I described the onset of the disease 51 years ago. It happened very soon after my grandfather died. In my grandmother’s apartment in Manhattan, I was so terrified by the mournful screams from my mother and grandmother when they embraced that I ran away and hid. Within two days, after an earache, sniffles, a sore throat and ravenous thirst, I was hauled to a hospital and suddenly became a kid with a scary disease.

By now, I understand that the trauma of mourning contributed to a process that was probably primed to happen anyway. Maybe my pancreas was already getting ravaged before my grandfather died and before any symptoms appeared. Maybe I would have been hospitalized at about the same time even if the women I loved hadn’t shocked me with their keening. Hard-nosed, data-driven scientists might call it a coincidence that those screams occurred just before the diagnosis. As the NIH notes, more research is needed on this one.

But was it a coincidence that after a major earthquake in California, in 1994, the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles experienced a sudden, unusually large influx of kids with newly-diagnosed T1D? Or that after Israel’s second war with Lebanon, the post-war incidence of T1D was higher than normal in areas in northern Israel that had been attacked, and there was no change in other regions? Or that, in Denmark, the children of mothers who were bereaved during their pregnancies were more likely to develop T1D, according to one study?

Or that the British physician Thomas Wills, in the 17th century, noticed that, “Sadness, or long sorrow, as likewise convulsions, and other depressions and disorders of the animal spirits, are used to generate or foment this morbid disposition [diabetes]”?

According to one theory, psychological and/or physical stress are among the factors that cause beta cell “stress” and “accelerate the auto-immune process that leads to their own destruction,” as one researcher puts it. There is at least some evidence that infants under stress have a higher incidence of the “auto-antibodies” — cells that turn around and destroy healthy cells — that are associated with this morbid disposition.

That’s enough evidence for me. But even if you doubt that my reaction to those screams was related to the destruction of my beta cells, you cannot possibly come up with a credible argument against psychologist David Felten, who tells us:

We can no longer pretend that the patient’s perceptions don’t matter … Your mind is in every cell of your body. And your emotions are the bridge between the mental and the physical, or the physical and the mental. It’s either way. Now there is overwhelming evidence that hormones and neurotransmitters can influence the activities of the immune system, and that products of the immune system can influence the brain.

This is hardly headline news. But thinking of the bodymind as one, integrated entity has never come naturally to me. I am, at heart, a Western guy, who has stayed alive mainly by doing what conventional Western physicians have told me to do. I reflexively consider balancing diet, insulin and exercise as the regimen needed to help my diabetic body. But meditation, and doing xi kung, and telling myself not to get angry at the guy who cuts in front of me on the movie line somehow feel like they are meant to help… something else, something I can’t locate, something that is closer to my authentic self than the clanking, flawed, corroding body that is wrapped around it.

Reading more, of late, about diabetes, the brain and behavior has helped to remind me that the physical aspects of this condition should not be placed in a category that is separate from the psychological aspects; they are part of the same condition. But the quickest way to remember that is to picture a frightened 7-year-old boy, running down a hallway in Manhattan. I am still doing my best to help him feel better, and that means dealing with everything that is churning within him, from high blood sugar to the terror that his cells have not forgotten.

Orginally published in The Insulin Chronicles and, with a different title, in Strangely Diabetic.

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Chronic stress may lead to diabetes

Dr S V Madhu, the lead researcher, said increased secretion of the stress hormone—cortisol—leads to redistribution of fat, central obesity and insulin resistance. He added, “Higher stress levels also causes activation of oxidative and inflammatory pathways resulting eventually in development of type II diabetes.”

Dr Madhu, who heads the medicine and the endocrinology and metabolism division at UCMS, said this is the first study that has used different stress scales to characterize chronic psychological stress and evaluate its role in development of diabetes.

Doctors said, among the stress scales, the ability to cope with stress was found to be the strongest independent predictor of diabetes with an odds ratio of 0.77 that translates to a 33 percent lower risk of diabetes. “This is a positive finding. It shows that de-stressing mechanisms such as yoga, listening to music, sports or travelling can reduce the risk factor,” said another senior doctor.

Simply put, diabetes is a condition in which the body has trouble turning food into energy. All bodies break down digested food into a sugar called glucose, their main source of fuel. In a healthy person, the hormone insulin helps glucose enter the cells. But in a diabetic, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, or the body does not properly use it. Cells starve while glucose builds up in the blood.

There are two predominant types of diabetes. In Type 1, the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. In Type 2, which accounts for an estimated 90-95% of all cases, either the body’s cells are not sufficiently receptive to insulin or the pancreas makes too little of the hormone, or both.

With more than 63 million diabetic patients, India is second only to China in the number of people living with the ailment. However, awareness about the disease remains low, says Dr B M Makkar from Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India, RSSDI.

“Studies show almost 85 percent of type II diabetics are overweight. However, only six to ten percent are aware that being overweight put them at a higher risk for diabetes,” Dr Kakkar added.

City doctors find high stress levels linked to diabetes

Could high stress levels, identified as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and hypertension, also be associated with metabolic disorders like diabetes? A Delhi based study funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and carried out by Delhi government’s Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital and its associated University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), has found “significant” clinical evidence to link high stress levels to diabetes, in patients newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, according to doctors.

The study which is currently under publication, found that individuals who had low glucose tolerance levels diagnosed through glucose tolerance tests (GTT) indicating diabetes, had correspondingly high stress levels and low coping levels for stress, on the basis of questionnaires developed to validate stress. Other scientific indicators were used to identify levels of stress in diabetics.

Dr S V Madhu, head of the department of endocrinology and secretary of the Research Society for Study of Diabetes in India, who was the principal investigator, said, “Stress hormone levels, measured as the human body’s hormonal response to stress was also found to be higher in people diagnosed with diabetes. Hormones associated with stress like cortisol and catecholamines were found to be altered or disturbed in people who had low GTT levels.” He added that established chemical changes in the brain, which are associated with stress were also found to be activated in patients with diabetes. “Certain pathways in the brain, like oxidative stress pathways were found to be disturbed in patients with diabetes, indicating stress,” Dr Madhu explained.

The study identified 1,000 people who were put through diagnostics including glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity tests, and identified 500 as newly detected with diabetes. There stress levels were compared with another 500 who were found to have normal glucose tolerance levels. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that we have been able to establish direct evidence demonstrating that stress plays a clinically significant role in the expression of human diabetes, in India. Again as far as we know, this is the first time that different stress scales have been used to characterise chronic psychological stress to evaluate its role in development of Type 2 diabetes,” Dr Madhu explained.

… contd.


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Acute emotional stress can be risk factor for type-2 diabetes

Adding to the risk factors that can lead to type-2 diabetes – such as being
overweight, a poor lifestyle and genes – acute mental stress can also trigger
the disease, researchers at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center said

Prof. Mona Boaz, head of the epidemiology unit at the hospital,
said a study was done whereby patients hospitalized as a matter of routine had
their sugar levels recorded and were compared with those who were hospitalized
during Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, the eight-day war between
Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Julio Wainstein, head of
Wolfson’s diabetes clinic, said that “one-time severe stress could trigger the
development of type-2 diabetes or diabetes becoming more

Wainstein and Boaz published their findings in the latest
Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics journal. Wainstein explained that there are
differences of opinion on the effects of psychological stress on sugar

“Thus, when the campaign took place, we compared the sugar levels
of patients who were tested three days before the war [November 7 to 10, 2012]
to those during the first four days of the war, November 14 to 17.”

total of 3,375 blood samples were taken, of them 1,856 before and 1,708 during
the conflict. Sugar levels rose significantly during the crisis from 169 mg per
deciliter to 176. While genes and lifestyles are important in the development of
diabetes, the team concluded, acute stress can also be a factor, and chronic
stress can be an environmental trigger in people with a genetic

Wainstein said that diabetes has become an “epidemic” not only
because of junkfood diets but also because of the stress of modern life. He
advises people to use breathing exercises, meditation, psychological treatment
and even hypnotherapy to reduce stress.

Career women at greater risk of heart disease

The last few decades have seen a huge increase in the number of women working in high positions within large companies, and, like their male counterparts they are now placing themselves at higher risk of suffering heart attacks, according to a new study.

The figures make for scary reading, stating that women with stressful roles are almost twice as likely to suffer a heart attack. Heart attacks are not the only risk though and those with high pressure careers are also likely to have strokes, high blood pressure or cardiac arrest.

The American researchers have discovered that women whose roles require them to work ‘very hard’ but have no opportunities to use their creative skills increase the risk of heart disease by around 40 per cent.

Those in jobs with strict deadlines and little time to relax are increasing the chance of a heart attack by a scary 88 per cent. It is well documented that men in those high flying positions are at risk of stress and related illnesses but the research carried out by the Harvard Medical School in Boston indicates that women are equally as vulnerable, perhaps even more so as they often have the added tribulations of raising a family.

The study was presented to the American Heart Association’s annual conference in Chicago.  Further information showed that high-flying women were 43 per cent more likely to have heart surgery; including a bypass operation (blood flow is diverted from a blocked artery by creating a new artery using veins from another part of the body).

Using data collected from than 17,400 women in their 50s and 60s the analysts were able to compile their research accurately. Their summaries concluded that highly stressful roles that left no room for creative outlets put the subjects at highest risk, while women who feared over job loss were likely to become overweight, have increased blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The lead researcher in the study, Dr Michelle Albert, said: ‘We’re never going to be able to get rid of stress – some stress is positive, actually. The negative aspects of stress we’re going to need to learn how to manage.’

Dr Albert also feels that doctors should put work pressures in the same category as smoking and raised blood pressure when it comes to heart disease risks.

‘We need to start taking that seriously,’ she added.

She recommends that anyone in high pressure careers take measures to reduce risks such as regular exercise, a healthy social or family network and leaving the job at work.

Dr Peter Kaufmann, a researcher at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Maryland, said, ‘This new data is among the most important to emerge in recent years concerning the relationship between job strain and cardiovascular health.’

Read our articles on coping with stress, stress related to heart risks, identifying stress in someone you know and how a good paternal relationship can help stress management.

images: www.sxc.hu, eap.com.au

When someone you know struggles with fear anxiety and stress

What do you do when someone you know has to deal with persistent fears, anxieties, or even depression? Well the first thing you need to do is to get the person to seek the services of a professional who can lead them in the right direction and give them the help they need. In addition, here are some other techniques you can use to help the person cope.

Learn as much as you can in managing anxiety and depression. There are many books and information that will educate you on how to deal with fear and anxiety. Share this information with the person who is struggling. Education is the key in finding the answers your looking for in managing your fears.

Be understanding and patient with the person struggling with their fears. Dealing with depression and anxiety can be difficult for the person so do not add more problems than what is already there.

In every anxiety-related situation you experience, begin to learn what works, what doesn’t work, and what you need to improve on in managing your fears and anxieties. For instance, you have a lot of anxiety and you decide to take a walk to help you feel better. The next time you feel anxious you can remind yourself that you got through it the last time by taking a walk. This will give you the confidence to manage your anxiety the next time around.

Challenge your negative thinking with positive statements and realistic thinking. When encountering thoughts that make you fearful or anxious, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself questions that will maintain objectivity and common sense. For example, you are afraid that if you do not get that job promotion then you will be stuck at your job forever. This depresses you, however your thinking in this situation is unrealistic. The fact of the matter is that there all are kinds of jobs available and just because you don’t get this job promotion doesn’t mean that you will never get one. In addition, people change jobs all the time, and you always have that option of going elsewhere if you are unhappy at your present location. Changing your thinking can help you manage your fears.

Another thing to remember is that things change and events do not stay the same. For instance, you may feel overwhelmed today with your anxiety and feel that this is how you will feel the rest of the week or month. This isn’t correct. No one can predict the future with one hundred percent accuracy. Even if the thing that you feared does happen there are circumstances and factors that you can’t predict which can be used to your advantage. You never know when the help and answers you are looking for will come to you.

When your fears and anxieties have the best of you, seek help from a professional. The key is to be patient, take it slow, and not to give up. In time, you will be able to find those resources that will help you with your problems.

Celebrities who have battled depression include Jim CarreyJ.K. Rowling, Kylie MinogueHugh Laurie and Owen Wilson.


Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods” – an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to www.managingfear.com.

Images: Images: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/3264  and http://www.sxc.hu/photo/520023

Playboy Playmate replaces Gail Porter on I’m a Celebrity 2010

Former model and TV presenter Gail Porter has pulled out of the reality show at the last minute and in her place will be Playboy bunny Kayla Collins.

Porter made headlines  in 2005 when her battles with stress, drugs and postpartum depression triggered alopecia, a condition which causes sufferers to lose their hair. A role model for many others who have also lost their hair, she is also the ambassador for the Little Princess Trust Fund, which helps children suffering from hair loss.

So what could Gail Porter and Playboy bunny Kayla Collins possibly share in common, one might wonder? Well, they have both graced many a glossy spread in the buff. Porter stripped down for a number of men’s magazines in the 1990s, and a lot of readers will remember her FHM shoot where she was pictured totally naked from behind. That image was projected onto the Houses of Parliament, with a message enouraging people to vote for her in the FHM Top Hundred Sexiest Women Poll.

Fast forward about two decades and Collins is also making a name for herself for going bare as Payboy Playmate of the month in August 2008. The model, who describes herself as “goofy and fun” will be showing off her body in the jungle in a number of skimpy bikinis to promote her swim wear range, reports Daily Mail, and when asked about how she will cope with the bug-related food challenges, the 23-year-old said: “If I have to eat anything I am more than likely to trow it up. I have a really weak stomach.”

“I know I am going to be starving in the jungle,“ the model said. “I love eating a lot. This is going to be hard for me and I don’t actually want to lose any weight.”

While Kayla  and the rest of the celebrity team find themselves thrust into one squeamish situation after the next, 39-year-old Porter, who according to reports simply didn’t have enough time to appear on the show, will be watching the series from the comfort of her couch with her boyfriend and daughter.

The tenth series of the ITV show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here will start on Sunday night.

Other celebrties who have suffered postpartum depression include Angelina Jolie, Brooke Shields and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Images: Facebook and Wikimedia Commons

Managing your persistent fears, anxieties, and stresses

Everybody deals with anxiety and depression, however some people have a difficult time in managing it. As a result, here is a brief list of techniques that a person can use to help manage their most persistent fears and every day anxieties.

When facing a current or upcoming task that overwhelms you with a lot of anxiety, the first thing you can do is to divide the task into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.

Sometimes we get stressed out when everything happens all at once. When this happens, a person should take a deep breath and try to find something to do for a few minutes to get their mind off of the problem. A person could get some fresh air, listen to some music, or do an activity that will give them a fresh perspective on things.

A person should visualize a red stop sign in their mind when they encounter a fear provoking thought. When the negative thought comes, a person should think of a red stop sign that serves as a reminder to stop focusing on that thought and to think of something else. A person can then try to think of something positive to replace the negative thought.

Another technique that is very helpful is to have a small notebook of positive statements that makes you feel good. Whenever you come across an affirmation that makes you feel good, write it down in a small notebook that you can carry around with you in your pocket. Whenever you feel depressed or frustrated, open up your small notebook and read those statements. This will help to manage your negative thinking.

Learn to take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. You never know when the answers you are looking for will come to your doorstep. We may be ninety-nine percent correct in predicting the future, but all it takes is for that one percent to make a world of difference.

Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your depression and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional, a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Remember that it never hurts to ask for help.

Dealing with our persistent fears is not easy. Remember that all you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and take things in stride. Patience, persistence, education, and being committed in trying to solve your problem will go along way in fixing your problems.

Celebrities who have battled anxiety include Hugh Grant, Billy Bob Thornton and Heather Locklear

Images: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/3264  and http://www.sxc.hu/photo/520023


Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods” – an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: www.managingfear.com

Wyclef Jean hospitalized following weeks of stress

According to the www.huffingtonpost.com, Wyclef Jean has been hospitalized at an undisclosed location. The Grammy Award winner was suffering from stress and checked into a hospital last weekend. His representative released a statement saying that Wyclef is suffering from stress and fatigue as a result of the last eight weeks of his hectic schedule.

In August the hip hop singer placed a bid for Haiti’s presidency but it ended last week, says a report published in www.newsystocks.com. The reason is not yet known, although it is being presumed that he did not meet the constitutional requirements, one of which is living in Haiti. The 37-year-old was born on the outskirts of the capital of Haiti and is currently living in New Jersey, although he was brought up in New York

According to his representative, he will be released from the hospital this week. A new album by Wyclef Jean will soon be released.

Read our coverage of stress-related issues, from how the stress hormone cortisol may be responsible for increasing the risk of death from heart problems to the new molecule inhibitor which has been developed to treat stress.

Images:http://wyclefjean.wordpress.com/, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:WyclefJean.jpg

Stress and how to deal with it

Stress is something most people have to deal with regularly. A moderate amount can cause alertness, motivation and productivity, but in excess lead to anxiety, depression and even early death. It may come in the form of money worries, having to meet deadlines at work or school, bereavement or dealing with relationship problems.
According to Bupa, it is probably impossible to live without stress. The body’s autonomic nervous system triggers an instant response to feelings of worry or pressure relaid by the brain. This response leads to the release of adrenaline or sugars into the bloodstream and brings about a heightened state, putting the body and mind in best possible stead to perform well in the given challenge. This is not dissimilar to the ’fight or flight’ response, the health expert points out.

However, when stress occurs too frequently and begins to have an detrimental effect on wellbeing, it is time to get help.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of stress vary from person to person and some may find it harder to deal with stressful situations than others. Some common mental symptoms of those suffering from chronic stress include:

  • Under- or overeating
  • Anger and irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Crying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Turning to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes as a way of coping

Stress can also have physical effects on the body, such as:

  • Constant tiredness
  • Chest pain, cramps or muscle spasms
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Erectile dysfunction or missed periods
  • Breathlessness and sweating
  • Feeling sick and vomiting
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema

Those who experience these symptoms over a long period of time are also at risk of developing high blood pressure, which could lead to much more serious conditions such as heart attack or stroke, the NHS writes. Ongoing stress leaves the body exhausted and thus less efficient in fighting off infections. For this reason, sufferers are much more vulnerable to viruses such as influenza and other diseases. Missing too many periods can cause infertility in women.

How do I deal with it?

Firstly, it is important to identify the underlying cause of stress. Pin-pointing when symptoms are worst and what triggers them will enable the sufferer make positive lifestyle changes in order to tackle the problem.

Counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy, anger management and support groups can help bring key issues to the fore and teach the sufferer to deal with difficult feelings without becoming stressed. For those suffering from severe anxiety or depression, it may be necessary to take medication in order to alleviate symptoms.

Depending on the cause, it is also often possible to reduce stress by doing the following:

  • Exercising – doing exercise can help release tension. It also produces endorphins (commonly known as happy hormones)
  • Sharing worries with friends and family – talking about your problems can take off a lot of pressure. It also gives others a chance to help you deal with them.
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet – the right vitamins and minerals help the body perform its best and lead to a general sense of well-being
  • Stopping smoking, drinking in moderation and not taking drugs – tobacco, alcohol and drugs act as depressants and are best avoided

Images: stuartpilbrow and Lel4nd on Flikr