In the realm of health and wellness, new tech is always emerging to provide insight into our inner workings. One such innovation that has gained popularity, and some controversy, is the continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
CGMs measure glucose levels in the interstitial fluid, providing real-time data about blood sugar fluctuations. Designed for those with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels, CGMs are now being embraced, though not necessarily encouraged, by a broader audience.
Why? Wearing a continuous glucose monitor can offer valuable insights into our metabolic health, helping us make informed choices for overall well-being.
Insulin sensitivity refers to how well the body’s cells respond to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Higher insulin sensitivity is generally considered good because it means cells efficiently take in glucose, helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
I’m participating in a comprehensive, long-term health program at Optispan. The purpose of this new company is to embrace preventive health care and ultimately, to make it more available to the average person.
My doctor recommended I wear a CGM because I’m borderline pre-diabetic, based on A1C levels, which came as a huge shock to me because I consider myself very healthy. There are many reasons however, that you can have poor insulin sensitivity*, including a genetic pre-disposition, chronic stress, sleep patterns, and low muscle mass, to name a few.
In addition, some seemingly healthy foods may contain hidden sugars or carbohydrates that can affect blood sugar levels. Some low-fat or fat-free products replace the fat with sugar to enhance flavor. This can include certain yogurts, snacks, and desserts.
Many packaged snacks like energy bars, even those marketed as healthy, can contain hidden sugars and carbohydrates. Some “whole wheat” or “multigrain” products may still have a significant amount of refined carbohydrates. This is why checking the ingredient list for all your foods is so important.
On the other hand, low insulin sensitivity, known as insulin resistance, can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and an increased risk of conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Approximately 1/3 of U.S. citizens are diabetic or prediabetic, and so I know I’m not alone. My doctor asked me to wear the monitor for two weeks, to see if I learned anything. And I did; really quite a lot. I’m sharing it with you now, because it made such a huge impact on my daily habits.
Being sick and on antibiotics drastically changes your body’s glucose response. It’s always important to take care of yourself, right? But when you’re sick, your body needs it even more. Don’t power through unless you have no other choice. Eat, rest, repeat.
Moving, even a little, after meals is a good idea. Washing dishes, household chores or a brisk walk after meals helps regulate blood sugar levels more effectively than sedentary behavior.
This awareness has changed the order in which I do things during the day. Whereas before I would eat, get some computer work done, then get up and move, I’ve switched to eat, move, computer work.
Warming up before and cooling down after exercise significantly helps your body maintain better glucose levels. My glucose drops significantly when I work out, so transitioning into and out of it gradually gives my body the time to adjust without dramatic changes.
Even a salad and whole grain bread causes a spike in blood sugar for me, but not for my husband. It’s the bread, every single time. Everyone is different. His is pretzels.
Read the labels and avoid foods high in added sugar. We hear this so many times that we tend to stop listening. It matters. A lot. Even chewable vitamins can influence your body’s insulin response.
While traditional advice often emphasizes the importance of regular meal schedules, the reality is that optimal meal timing can vary among individuals. For instance, I found that I maintained more consistent blood sugar levels with many small, balanced meals throughout the day and my body’s response to glucose is better in the afternoon than it is in the morning. I knew this going in, just never thought much about it. The days I listen to my body are always better than the days I don’t.
Beyond diet, lifestyle factors play a significant role in blood sugar regulation. Exercise, stress, and sleep patterns all influence glucose levels, and wearing a continuous glucose monitor can unveil these connections.
Observing how your body responds to different stress levels or varying exercise routines can empower you to tailor your lifestyle to promote stable blood sugar. It certainly did for me.
Improving insulin sensitivity is important for nearly everyone’s overall health. Here are some more things you can do.
These are some of the key steps in our journey to health, ones that we often forget in our busy lives.
Recently, I underwent a Glucose Tolerance Test while wearing a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to gain a better understanding of my glucose metabolism. Surprisingly, the results revealed a fascinating discrepancy between my A1C levels (indicating borderline pre-diabetes) and the findings of the GTT, suggesting no significant glucose metabolism issues.
The GTT is a diagnostic test that involves fasting, followed by the consumption of a standard amount of glucose, with subsequent blood draws to measure how the body processes the sugar.
To my surprise, the GTT results indicated good glucose tolerance!
This contradicted the borderline pre-diabetes diagnosis suggested by the A1C levels, raising questions about the accuracy of either one as the sole diagnostic tool.
Good question and there are a few possible answers:
As mentioned previously, CGMs are primarily designed and marketed for individuals with diabetes to help them manage and monitor their blood glucose levels effectively. The controversy over where people without diabetes should use them is based on a few undeniable facts.
CGMs involve the insertion of a small sensor under the skin, which continuously measures glucose levels. This process can be perceived as invasive for individuals without diabetes.
The cost of CGM systems, including the sensors and the monitoring device, may be a deterrent for those who don’t have a medical necessity for continuous glucose monitoring.
The psychological impact of seeing fluctuating glucose levels, even within the normal range, could potentially lead to unwarranted concerns and behaviors.
Non-diabetic individuals may not have the necessary guidance to interpret and act on the CGM data appropriately.
Certain “influencers” and marketers promote questionable advice, like the belief that all glucose spikes are harmful or that individuals should strive for extremely low blood glucose levels.
However, glucose spikes are a natural response to various foods, and the advantages of maintaining very low average glucose levels over normal range levels remain unclear. Recent research indicates that insulin sensitivity is a more reliable predictor of overall metabolic health than average blood glucose or spike frequency.
If you are considering using a CGM as a non-diabetic, it’s crucial to consult with your healthcare provider to discuss potential benefits and risks in your specific case. They are only available by prescription in the U.S., so discussing this with your doctor is inevitable. And a good thing.
Have you ever noticed how certain foods impact your energy levels or mood? How do you currently structure your meals, and do you think it aligns with your body’s natural rhythms? Do you currently use any health monitoring tools or devices? Are you open to incorporating technology like continuous glucose monitors into your health routine? Why or why not?