What is Continuous Glucose Monitoring and What You Can Learn From It

Over the Christmas holidays, I jumped on the “continuous glucose monitoring” (CGM) trend, as I wanted to try it on myself before I recommended it to my clients. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience that I want to share with you.

What is Continuous Glucose Monitoring?

First of all, what is continuous glucose monitoring? CGM is a way to track your glucose levels, continuously, throughout the day and night. The system takes glucose measurements at regular intervals and gives you insights into how meals, exercise and stress are impacting your glucose levels. 

You may actually know of this already as diabetics use glucose monitors. Am I diabetic? Nope! But more and more healthcare professionals, particularly in the functional medicine world, are using these to optimize health for things like energy, sleep, weight and brain health. 

The sensor stays attached to your arm, so you are not pricking your finger constantly. You might be turned off the idea of having a tiny needle in your arm constantly. I was too, but please know that it hardly hurts to put it in (and I am a wimp when it comes to pain), and after a few hours of what feels like a minor bruise, you don’t feel it at all! It hurts WAY less than getting blood taken.

I used the Freestyle Libre monitor and would recommend it. Each system lasts for two weeks and then needs to be replaced. This post is not affiliated or sponsored at all.

The whole thing with blood sugar is that you want to prevent the huge spikes and major dips above and below the normal range. When you get a huge spike, your body releases excess insulin, which then results in a major dip in blood sugar.
When your blood sugar goes too low, either you will crave something sweet to bring it back up, or your body will release a stress hormone called cortisol, which will also bring it back up into the normal range. With everything going on in the world, we hardly need more cortisol in our body, am I right?!

What Did I Learn With My Continuous Glucose Monitor?

I learned a lot!  Here’s the thing: I do not have diabetes and when I get regular bloodwork done, my Hemoglobin A1C (a marker of my average blood sugar over the last 3 months) is always in the normal range. And yet, I still had ways to optimize my blood sugar that made a real difference in how I felt, and I don’t eat a lot of “sugary” food at all. You can imagine then how many insights someone who isn’t already a nutritionist could glean from this experience. 

I have since been using this with my 1:1 clients and they are feeling the same. They can’t believe how much their blood sugar highs and lows impact how they feel, and they love getting the real-time data to be able to make meaningful changes to their energy, sleep, weight and mood.

Learning #1: My dinner and evening snacks had a huge impact on my nighttime blood sugar and sleep.

When I first started tracking, I noticed that I was getting really low blood sugar in the night. I am not a great sleeper to begin with and it’s not uncommon for me to wake up in the night. What I was noticing was that I was waking up around the exact time that my blood sugar was dipping too low. 

We eat dinner really early to eat with Sophie (5pm-ish) and so I often at something again around 7-7:30 because I’m hungry. I was in the habit of eating a Larabar before bed. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a Larabar, but for my body, it was giving me quite a spike (just from the dates) in blood sugar, which was resulting in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) at night. As soon as I switched that snack to just nut butter without the dates, my nighttime blood sugar stayed steady and I woke up a lot less.

Learning #2: Watch your fruit and protein quantities in your smoothies.

Smoothies can be incredibly blood sugar balancing, but because you can throw almost anything into a blender and call it a smoothie, I caution you to not go overboard on the fruit and make sure you add enough protein. When it comes to fruit, I found my blood sugar levels were best with about ½ cup fruit and berries provided a lesser spike than bananas, for me.

I also found that my blood sugar did better around 25-30g of protein (a combo of Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Proteins+ and their Collagen) than it did on 15-20g. 

Learning #3: Low nighttime blood sugar left me feeling lethargic in the morning.

Ever wake up feeling less than stellar? On the nights where my blood sugar had gone a bit too low, I did not have the same “get up and go” that I did on nights where it stayed in the normal range. 

Interestingly, a client of mine who was experiencing low nighttime blood sugar described herself as being hungover in the morning (from no alcohol) and in a fog she couldn’t get out of. She was waiting often 1-2 hours to eat breakfast as she was busy in the morning and didn’t really think anything of it. One simple tweak we made for her (in addition to improving her nighttime blood sugar) was making sure that if she did wake up feeling like that, she ate something immediately upon waking to get her blood sugar back up. This got her brain clearer and energy better in the morning.

Learning #4: Alcohol wreaked havoc on my blood sugar.

Don’t hate me for this one, but it was true. It was the Christmas holidays and I had a glass of wine or cocktail on some of the evenings. I am a happy hour kinda gal, in that I like to have my drink before dinner. Alas, I was getting a serious blood sugar spike from doing that because it was essentially on an empty stomach. Some blood sugar spikes are just worth having, right? ;)  Jokes aside, I do think it’s worth pointing out that this was one glass. Imagine what multiple drinks are doing to your blood sugar. 

I did notice that on evenings I had it with dinner, I didn’t get the same big spike. So, have some blood-sugar-balancing snacks or food with your alcohol.

Final Thoughts

Health is so individual, and that’s something we pride ourselves on here at HEAL. We listen to the individual client and no two protocols are the same. I am a huge advocate of the testing we offer (food sensitivity tests, gut testing, hormone testing) because it gives us real data to help a client feel better. CGM is an extension of this - it’s providing us with real-time data and information that allows us to make meaningful recommendations that impact energy, sleep, weight and mood! Please click here to book a complimentary 1:1 call to learn more about working with us.

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