If there’s one hot topic on the internet right now, it’s blood glucose (otherwise known as blood sugar). What is blood glucose, how does it affect our bodies and how do I know what my blood glucose levels are?
While we’ve talked in the past about sugar and its impact on our hormones, we’ve yet to dive in how to track your blood sugar. Not only that, but how do we interpret the data and use it in a meaningful way?
Enter, continuous glucose monitors, or also commonly referred to as a CGM. CGMs are some of the most up and coming wearable technology in the health and wellness space. They allow you to track fluctuations in your blood glucose levels through insertion of a small sensor under your skin, which measures your interstitial (fluid between your cells) glucose levels. The sensor then transmits that data to either a CGM reader or an app on your phone!
What is a Continuous Glucose Monitor?
If you’ve already heard of CGMs, you’ve likely heard of the Freestyle Libre. The Freestyle Libre is one of the only wearable devices on the market for tracking blood glucose levels. Traditionally, the Freestyle Libre connects to a separate reading device that shows your current blood glucose level. The company that manufactures the Freestyle Libre also has an app, with the downside being that their graph points only show the average glucose level over 15-minute periods. There is currently limited historical data and other data points available on the Freestyle Libre app!
What has really boomed in the last few years are the number of apps that use the Freestyle Libre sensors, but collect and store the data in a unique way. Now, thanks to Nutrisense, Levels, Signos, and other brands you can get real time updates on your blood glucose levels plus long-term data on your fasting glucose, average glucose and more.
How can a CGM be helpful?
Blood glucose levels can affect just about every system in your body: sleep, energy, weight among others. What many people don’t realize is how their everyday lifestyle habits can affect blood glucose levels and may even be working against them.
We’re all unique individuals and no two people have the same health picture. This principal applies to blood glucose as well. Some people may find that certain foods cause more extreme fluctuations their blood sugar than another person eating the same exact food. This is where CGMs become really helpful.
For example, if person A’s goal is to lose weight they need to keep their blood glucose stable to optimize metabolism. If eating sweet potatoes causes this person’s blood glucose to spike above their optimal range and they don’t realize it, they’re inhibiting their body’s ability to maintain metabolism. They might feel hungry soon after eating and feel less full than they would had their blood sugar stayed within range. However, person B might be able to eat sweet potatoes without any major fluctuations in their blood glucose levels. This doesn’t make sweet potatoes a “good” or “bad” food, it just highlights how foods effect every person differently!
Another great way to utilize CGMs is to experiment with not only types of foods, but the order in which you consume them. Research shows that blood glucose levels fluctuate less when you eat your vegetables first, then protein and finally carbs.
My personal experience using a CGM for 8 weeks
I used Nutrisense for my continuous glucose monitor experiment. What drew me to Nutrisense was the wealth of resources they provide to consumers. They have TONS of free, educational content on their blog and podcast. If you are totally new to the world of blood glucose, I would recommend you start there to learn the basics!
Nutrisense also offers one free month of 1:1 support with a registered dietician. I found that especially helpful in the beginning when I was trying to wrap my head around all the different values and sets of data on the app.
Like other companies, your Nutrisense subscription allows you access to the Nutrisense app. The app is your home base to pair and scan your sensor, check your blood glucose and see historic data. Nutrisense also stores a ton of their educational content right on the app so you can continue to learn more while wearing your CGM!
Each month, Nutrisense will ship you two continuous glucose sensors. Sensors are worn for 14 days, and they recommend that you alternate which arm you wear it on. As someone who is needle-prick averse, I can attest that inserting the sensor is not at all painful. It becomes easier and less uncomfortable the more you do it and after the first few times, I hardly felt the prick when putting on a new sensor!
It takes a couple of hours for your sensor to fully calibrate, but after that it was off to the races. The first few days were a big learning curve for me! I spent most of my time in the app exploring and clicking on different sections. That, and scanning my monitor every 15 minutes to see if anything had changed (LOL).
However, as the days went on, I began to see my blood glucose curve ebb and flow after meals, exercise and alcohol. I quickly learned that I’m a person who doesn’t tolerate sweet potatoes, or any kind of potatoes for that matter, very well. I also learned first-hand that alcohol (even a glass of wine or two!) will crash my blood glucose and might be the culprit behind waking up starving at 4 a.m. in the morning.
Another takeaway is the positive effect that exercise has on keeping my blood glucose levels steady. I noticed such a difference in my blood glucose curve after taking even a 10-15 minute walk after eating, especially if I consumed more carbs than usual in that meal.
More than anything, I learned so much about blood glucose. The 1:1 support with the Nutrisense dietician helped me understand my ideal fasting glucose levels, median glucose levels and the range in which my blood glucose should stay.
I can’t promise I won’t ever eat French fries again, but I can say that I have the knowledge to mitigate the blood glucose fluctuations after eating the French fries!
Are CGMs worth the investment?
At the end of the day, I know that continuous glucose monitors provide a lot of individualized insight on how your lifestyle habits are affecting your blood sugar.
If you have zero understanding of blood glucose and the role it plays, I think there are some amazing, free resources at your fingertips to utilize before making the commitment to a wearable device.
If you already have a foundational understanding of blood glucose and its effect on your body and you’re not quite meeting your goals (sleep, energy, weight or otherwise) it’s worth the investment to get even a month or two of personalized data!
Katie is our champion of member experience. You’ll meet her at our admin desk, or chat with her over the phone answering all your questions and making sure your patient care with us is seamless. When she isn’t running our office, she’s buried in a good book, shopping local vintage stores & baking delicious treats!