Should I Track my Blood Sugar?
Tracking blood sugar with a glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitor is an excellent way to gain control over your health. Originally developed for diabetics, glucose tracking is an excellent way for any health conscious person to become empowered and learn more about their metabolic state. When you monitor your blood sugar, you can see how sleep, food, stress and other factors impact blood sugar levels and how efficiently your body handles that sugar. The less efficient your body is at handling glucose, the more glucose ups and downs you may have. Erratic fluctuations are an indication of the beginning or worsening of metabolic function. This has impacts on inflammation, hormones and increases cardiovascular disease risk.
The best way to track blood glucose levels is by using a continuous glucose monitor or a standard glucose meter (the kind you get at CVS or Walgreens). Standard glucose meters are very affordable but the downside is they are more work because they require you to prick your finger multiple times a day and you must time your finger pricks with meals. You can get a standard glucose meter at any local drugstore or online.
Continuous Glucose Monitor aka “CGM.” A CGM uses a small sensor to track blood glucose that is placed on your upper arm. You place a patch over a tiny microfilament that penetrates the skin. Most people report painless or a near painless experience when putting on their CGM. After you have the sensor in place, it lasts for 14 days. Since it is waterproof you can shower, exercise or swim with the sensor in place. Your glucose is tracked by downloading an app to your phone where your readings will transmit to the app. It is easy to use and you don’t have to prick your finger all the time.
I recommend a CGM over a standard glucose meter. One of my favorite companies where you can get a CGM is AgelessRx. They have a health monitoring page where you can order your CGM along with excellent customer service. I have no affiliation with AgelessRx, I’m just a fan.
The caveat with a CGM (or standard meter) is that you need to track the things that affect blood sugar levels while you are on it so that you can learn what activities or foods are having the most impact. By tracking, you will learn how your body responds to specific foods, stress, exercise or other inputs. I also advise that you find a health provider who can help you interpret your results. This is something we do in my office.
Where to start in terms of what and how to track. After you have your CGM in place, you want to start paying attention to the foods you eat and your daily activities. What does breakfast do to your blood sugar? What did you eat? Do you notice a difference between oatmeal and banana vs bacon and eggs?
Hint: you will.
Start by tracking your morning glucose every day. This is your first reading of the day. A normal morning fasting glucose should be 100 or below. Get your reading first thing upon waking, water only. No coffee or caffeine or any sort. You will notice that blood sugar often goes up with your morning caffeine. Even if you drink it without cream or sugar. Why? Your body responds to caffeine by producing adrenaline, which signals the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream. You may notice this as you wear your CGM. The point is, take your morning fasted glucose before doing anything else. Write it down or log it!
You can take the number from your CGM and record it into a food tracking app like Cronometer or anywhere else that is convenient for you. The CGM will give you all the readings, but here is the catch– again, it is up to you to record what you did during those readings so you know what foods and behaviors affected your sugar.
If you notice a day that your blood sugar is lower or higher or less stable, remember to consider your sleep, your menstrual cycle/hormones (if a cycling woman), your stress levels, etc… These could be affecting your blood sugar levels, which in turn can affect mood and appetite. Stress affects glucose by making it more unstable. Stress aso produces adrenaline, which releases sugar into your bloodstream. It’s like your body is providing you with a small meal or shot of energy so you can fight or flee from the stressor. So, you may notice blood sugar highs and lows on stressful days, which can contribute to stress-eating. It’s not just the mental stress that gets you reaching for the bag of cookies or chocolate, it’s also the physical impact of that stress and its hormones on your body!
You may also notice blood sugar go up during exercise, especially if you are doing intense exercise. Conversely, you may notice blood sugar come down more quickly if you walk after a meal as your muscles work and act as a “sink” for glucose.
These are just a few of the insights that a CGM can provide. The beauty of it is you will see these insights as they relate to your body, your system, your lifestyle. It is one of the most empowering, yet simple tools one can use in this day and age to understand their own health.
To understand more about how to use a CGM and how to interpret your results, please contact the office by scheduling your first appointment!