When I was in college my dad was diagnosed with diabetes. This led to me taking a deep dive into better understanding blood sugar. There are a multitude of ways blood sugar impacts your health, even without a diagnosis of diabetes. This includes hormone fluctuations including thyroid dysfunction (which I have), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), perimenopause (also me) and menopause, also metabolic syndrome, heart disease, inflammatory diseases, even your energy levels throughout the day.
Until recently the only way for most to monitor glucose was to use a glucose meter and stick your finger every time you wanted to test. This way works, but there are a few flaws. First, it gives only a snapshot at any given time of what your blood sugar is at that time. Secondly, it’s a little production to always have the meter with you and to actually do the test. Third, it’s a finger stick that requires blood, so there’s that.
Continuous glucose monitors vs glucose testing
Enter the world of continuous glucose monitors. Now there is a way to attach a small device to the back of your arm that will monitor glucose every 5 minutes. This gives you the full screen movie of what is happening with blood sugar versus the snapshot you get with conventional glucose finger sticks. Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) help you understand what is happening in real time. This allows you to see how that soda, the long walk you took, or your stressful meeting all impacted your blood sugar. Knowledge is power so the more you know the easier it is to change behavior.
Continuous glucose monitors used to be reserved for people with prescriptions from their doctor. And scripts were only written for people who had type 1 diabetes. Since we know that blood sugar fluctuations contribute to inflammation and so many other disease processes, CGMs are now available to the public for anyone to use without a prescription.
I just finished with mine and the information was enlightening.
Here are 5 things I learned from wearing a continuous glucose monitor:
- Blood sugar fluctuations are like the stock market, constantly moving up and down depending on many things. I knew this, but it was so interesting to see in real time how everything affected my blood sugar – a night or two of poor quality sleep, eating a bag of chips (for experimental purposes), adding bananas to my smoothie, weight training exercise vs running, my menstrual cycle, really everything made an impact.
- Carbs are not the enemy, but quality and quantity of carbs make a big difference. I was interested to see how rice had a much bigger impact on my blood sugar than potatoes did. Also, plantain chips caused a much bigger increase in blood sugar than Doritos.
- I get low blood regularly and I do not feel it. You may have heard of low blood sugar being called hypoglycemia. Usually the symptoms of low blood sugar are fatigue (similar to the afternoon slumps), sweatiness, hunger even after having just eaten, blurred vision, and dizziness. The general threshold for low blood sugar is less than 70mg/dl. Wearing my CGM I noticed that my blood sugar got <70 almost daily. Sometimes it was after exercising but more frequently after eating dinner. I didn’t feel it. Ever.
- Alcohol caused my blood sugar to get wacky. One night I had date night with my husband and had 2 adult beverages. They were not made with high sugar mixers but caused a roller coaster effect. First a little high, then low, then much higher while I was sleeping. This is what caused the highest blood sugar response for me, higher than the 140mg/dL target I was aiming for.
- Accountability drives behavior. Having the ability to see what was contributing to blood sugar fluctuations made me think twice about that extra bite of my son’s plate. It made me really think about how hungry I was before grabbing a snack that might seemingly be habit.
Getting your CGM
Since these are available to everyone now you have the power to determine how your blood sugar is impacted by your day-to-day activities. The people that would benefit the most are people with:
- metabolic syndrome
- hypoglycemia or reactive hypoglycemia
- insulin resistance
- polycystic ovarian syndrome
- thyroid dysfunction
- other hormone disorders
You can order yours today through Nutrisense. Remember these stay on for 14 days at a time, and the longer you wear it the more information you receive. Choose to monitor for 30 days or more and get $25 off of your first month with code UNCONVENTIONALDIETITIAN. When ordering through Nutrisense you get a dietitian assigned to you to help you decipher the information, but I’m also available for you if needed.