Continuous Glucose Monitoring: Not Just For Diabetics!
Wohoo, I'm so excited about today's topic. We're talking about an amazingly powerful tool that the majority of Americans could be benefiting from and yet it's currently severely underutilized: continuous glucose monitoring (CGM)!
Right now continuous glucose monitoring is mainly used for diabetics, and that's a mistake. Waiting until you're a diabetic to use a CGM is like waiting until your house is on fire and then going out to buy a smoke detector and extinguisher. I'm going to cover everything you need to know about continuous glucose monitoring, so you can determine if it's something that's right for you or a loved one to finally get the results you want. (For the video version, scroll to the end of this post!)
What is continuous glucose monitoring (CGM)?
Continuous glucose monitoring is a way for you to be measuring your blood sugar constantly without having to prick your finger. No blood involved! This means you're able to see all of the highs and lows throughout the day - even while you're sleeping.
The Freestyle Libre is one of the main CGMs. The sensor is a small round disc that sticks to your arm for 10-14 days. The Libre comes with an applicator that makes it quick and easy to apply. When applied, a small filament is inserted under your skin to measure your blood glucose. Don't worry - it's simple and not painful. Once applied, the sensor monitors your blood sugar continuously over a 2 week period.
The Freestyle Libre 14 Day System is compatible with an app that can be downloaded on your phone. Any time you want to check your blood sugar, you simply hold your phone up to the sensor. As long as you scan the sensor at least every 8 hours, it continues to collect data and uploads it to your phone.
Why should I care what my blood sugar is doing?
Glucose is the primary source of energy for your body. The ability to maintain healthy and stable blood sugar levels is critical for maintaining a healthy weight, stable energy levels, and preventing serious diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
If you are experiencing low energy levels, difficulty focusing, uncontrollable hunger and cravings, or weight gain this is the time to be proactive! If your blood sugar is going on an epic roller coaster ride all day, you're going to start feeling like you just got off the tilt-a-whirl. It's important to be aware of this, because it's something you can fix!
Of course, first things first. When was the last time you visited with your doctor? If you haven't checked in with your doctor recently, that should be your first stop! That's an important step in ruling out obvious contributing factors that may be playing a role (including prediabetes).
Who can benefit from continuous glucose monitoring?
The majority of Americans! According to the CDC, 6 in 10 adults are living with at least one chronic disease. Four in 10 adults are living with two or more chronic diseases! It doesn't have to be this way.
The key lifestyle factors contributing to those chronic diseases are:
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of physical activity
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Those are all things you have the power to change! Another really important factor to think about: stress is likely a huge underlying contributing factor to all of those.
Within chronic diseases, 1 in 3 adults is prediabetic! This is something we need to be proactive about. Continuous glucose monitoring is the best tool we have to do this.
If you have been told that you are prediabetic, then chances are your doctor told you to "eat healthier" or "lose weight". They may have suggested Intermittent Fasting, because that's a simple thing they can suggest to you on the fly (note: it's probably not the best option). What I WISH would start to happen is any time someone is diagnosed with prediabetes, they receive a continuous glucose monitor.
Why is a CGM such a valuable tool?
Continuous glucose monitors are a way that you can start to understand your body. Ultimately, that's how to start getting you the results you want!
1. It takes the guesswork out of which foods work best for you.
Right now there are guides that give you an idea of which foods may be spiking your blood sugar. The glycemic index assigns a number to different carbohydrates to rank them in order of which foods are (theoretically) most and least likely to cause a spike in your blood sugar. The thing is, all of our bodies are different!
While sweet potatoes may cause a huge blood sugar spike for me, it may not have much of an impact on yours. But maybe potatoes do! Instead of having to be careful with all carbohydrates, wouldn't it be helpful to know which ones are causing the biggest fluctuations in your body?
In general, simple carbohydrates like sugar, pasta, baked goods, cereal, etc. are going to cause the fastest spike in your blood sugar. However, you may be consuming "healthy" carbohydrates that are causing a similar effect. For example, you may be thinking that your gluten-free cassava chips are a really great swap. But that "healthy" option may make your blood sugar spike even more than a typical tortilla chip! This is really valuable information.
2. It provides instant feedback on how your decisions and activity impact your blood sugar.
Physical activity, even as simple as going for a walk, is a great way to lower blood sugar. With a CGM, you're able to see in real time how much lower your blood sugar is after a carb-heavy meal if you go for a short walk instead of staying sedentary. That can provide a lot of motivation to keep up a habit like an evening stroll after dinner!
The food you eat WITH carbs and even the order in which you consume them can have a dramatic impact on your blood sugar levels. A CGM allows you to see this in real time.
For example, just eating cassava chips on their own may cause a big spike in your blood sugar. But if you combine those chips with a healthy fat like avocado or guacamole it may not cause as much of a spike! Protein, healthy fats, and fiber all help to create more stable blood sugar levels. When you're able to actually see the influence a more balanced meal or snack is having on your blood sugar, you may be more motivated to keep it up.
The order in which you consume carbs at a meal may influence your blood sugar, too. For example, one study found much lower blood sugar levels when protein, vegetables, and fat were consumed BEFORE the carbs in a meal compared to when the carbs were consumed first. Wouldn't it be helpful to know if having eggs before your toast meant a lower blood sugar spike than if you had the toast first?
A CGM is a tool for you to see what's going on in your body so you can make little changes that will have a dramatic impact on your health.
How do I get a continuous glucose monitor?
You need a prescription from your doctor. As I mentioned, right now CGMs are designed for diabetics. I was able to get my prescription by telling my doctor that I wanted to be able to experiment with it personally as an educational tool for my clients. If you've been told that you're prediabetic or if you've recently met with your doctor for low energy or weight gain and your blood work came back normal, they will likely be willing to write a prescription. If you're working with a health coach familiar with CGMs, they can write a letter to your doctor explaining how you'll be using the tool together to help influence your food and lifestyle choices.
Is a continuous glucose monitor expensive?
Right now, if you're not a diabetic, your insurance is not going to cover it. I use the Freestyle Libre 14 which lasts for up to 14 days. Out of pocket, it costs about $55-60 per sensor. Not a bad deal for the amount of information you can gain during that amount of time! The Dexcom G6 is another CGM, but it is significantly more expensive.
I have my continuous glucose monitor, now what?
A continuous glucose monitor is a powerful tool, but you have to know how to interpret the data! Understanding why your blood sugar is behaving in certain ways and what to do about it can be complicated. I recommend working with a health coach or health care professional who's comfortable with continuous glucose monitoring to make the most out of the information you get unless you have a solid understanding of blood sugar, insulin, and the food and activities that influence it.
If you are feeling frustrated, don't give up!
- Have you been struggling with weight gain?
- Are you suffering from low energy levels?
- Were you recently shocked to hear that you're prediabetic?
Don't be discouraged. This is an amazing opportunity to discover a whole new world of delicious food and activities that you love. It's time to learn about your body and to listen to what it needs! You're going to be amazed at how much better you feel when you start to implement these changes.
Doctors play an important role in diagnosing, however they don't have the time to dive into the details behind your nutrition, lifestyle factors, and stress that have led you to this point. Working with a health coach is an amazing way to move away from feeling frustrated and stuck to feeling motivated, energized, and empowered. It's a way to get to the root causes contributing to your low energy, weight gain, or chronic diseases so that you can get the results you want in an enjoyable way! You don't have to do this alone, and you can start today with my free 7 day "Life Boost Weight Buster" guide to see which of my 3B's are getting in the way of maintaining a healthy weight.
If you have questions about continuous glucose monitoring, don't hesitate to reach out! You can leave a comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).