Surprising New Uses for a Continuous Glucose Monitor—Whether You’re Diabetic or Not
You might have heard of continuous glucose monitors. As the name implies, they track blood sugar throughout the day and night. They’re more convenient than a finger-stick blood glucose test. You can find out your blood sugar 24 hours a day without thinking about it.
Conventional medicine mostly uses these types of monitors in people with type 1 diabetes, a disease affecting blood sugar because the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin properly. However, as a functional medicine practitioner, I have found continuous glucose monitors yield some really interesting and useful information about many areas of health for my patients. A blood glucose monitor can tell me about food sensitivities and food intolerances and the effects of exercise and stress on the body.
Continuous glucose monitors can even tell you whether intermittent fasting is a good choice for you.
In this article, I’ll explain why a continuous glucose monitor isn’t just for people with diabetes. This technology can tell you some really amazing things about your health.
What Is a Continuous Glucose Monitor?
A continuous blood glucose monitor device checks your blood sugar, otherwise known as blood glucose, all day and all night long. It provides information about blood sugar in real time. At just a glance, you’re able to see how different foods, activities, and stressful life situations impact your glucose concentrations.
Continuous Glucose Monitor: How Does It Work?
A continuous glucose monitor device works through a tiny sensor inserted under your skin on the belly or arm. It then checks for your interstitial blood sugar level; that is the glucose level found in the fluid between your cells. The device comes up with a reading every few minutes and then a transmitter sends the information to a monitor using a wireless signal.
The continuous glucose monitor we use sticks to the back of your arm. You barely feel the device and will forget it’s there after a couple of minutes.
Conventional doctors usually only prescribe a continuous glucose monitor device to type 1 diabetics, although scientists are starting to investigate its use in people with type 2 diabetes. And more and more people without diabetes are starting to use continuous glucose monitors.
Continuous Glucose Monitor for Non-Diabetics
Whether or not they have diabetes, a lot of people want answers about what foods they should eat or not eat. They want to know what type of exercise is ideal for them. Sometimes symptoms don’t give patients or doctors the full story. A person might not be in tune with their body. They might not recognize that they have symptoms of a blood glucose imbalance or they may ignore the symptoms because they seem normal to them.
Continuous glucose monitor technology provides objective data to see how the body is responding to foods, exercise, stress, and sleep. In the past we used a glucometer finger-pricking device to check blood sugar throughout the day. Now with the continuous glucose monitor, it takes away having to prick your finger and it gives you continuous data about how your body is responding to any number of stimuli in real time. By using the continuous glucose monitor app, you can see how you’re reacting to those things on a graph.
A New Type of Food Sensitivity Testing
A continuous glucose monitor can help detect reactions to foods and provide even more specific information than a food allergy test. If somebody is having an immune reaction to a type of food, it will drive up their blood sugar. You can see a big spike in blood sugar with a food sensitivity.
I just had that experience myself. I was wearing a continuous glucose monitor when I tried out a new type of coffee. Normally, coffee doesn’t cause any problems with my blood sugar. Then I drank a different type of coffee and my blood sugar shot up. The creamer was the same and the breakfast I ate with it was the same. My blood sugar spiked two days in a row until I realized it was the new type of coffee that was causing the problem. I switched back to my other coffee while eating the same breakfast and using the same creamer, and my blood sugar was back to normal. So it could only have been the coffee, as all the other variables were the same.
The reason we have a blood sugar spike after getting exposed to a food that isn’t good for us has to do with the stress hormone cortisol. A food sensitivity creates a stress in the body, and when you have a stress in the body you increase cortisol, which brings up blood sugar. The cortisol increase will cause that type of reaction even if it’s not a particularly sugary (or high glycemic impact) food. It’s a stress response.
Here is another story of how continuous glucose monitors can detect food sensitivities or intolerances. One of my patients used the monitor while eating bacon and eggs and noticed a spike in blood sugar up to 150—higher than when she ate ice cream! She tried replacing the bacon with sausage and her blood sugar remained stable. It was only when she added bacon back in that her blood sugar went up again, indicating that the problem was related to food sensitivities or intolerances to bacon.
The Continuous Glucose Monitor Helps with Medical Detective Work
This information is hugely valuable to me as a functional medicine practitioner, especially when it comes to getting at the root cause of the root cause of the problem. It allows me to see certain patterns. For example, if a person is reacting to a lot of meats, it may mean they have a hard time digesting protein and may have low stomach acid, or they’re not making enough digestive enzymes. When a person cannot fully break down meat proteins, it increases the risk of having an immune response to that type of food.
If somebody is reacting to a lot of animal proteins, that makes me suspicious they probably don’t have enough stomach acid, which is probably the reason behind the food sensitivities.
On the other hand, if the continuous glucose monitor shows you’re reacting to foods like
raw fruits and vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and high-FODMAP foods, there may be a gut microbiome cause of your high blood sugar. FODMAPs are certain types of carbohydrates, including starches, sugars, and fibers found in foods. This allows us to fix the problem instead of just having you avoid the food. The continuous glucose monitor helps us spot trends that allow us to reverse engineer the problem.
Continuous Glucose Monitors and Fasting
A continuous glucose monitor can show you how well your body responds to fasting. We used to have people check their blood sugar with the finger-prick test just before they went to bed and then check it first thing when they woke up in the morning after they’ve been fasting overnight. Sometimes a patient would go to bed with a blood sugar of 100 and they’d wake up with it at 120.
So why would their blood sugar be higher in the morning when they were fasting overnight and hadn’t been eating? The reason why is the stress response. Their body was making more cortisol, which in turn raised blood sugar. That means they probably couldn’t keep their blood sugar stable. They had what’s called reactive hypoglycemia, where their blood sugar drops and their body quickly tries to “fix” the problem by subsequently raising the blood sugar in a fasting state.
By having this type of information, we can figure out whether somebody can do intermittent fasting or whether they can do any type of fasting at all. This information is much easier to obtain with a continuous glucose monitor than it is with a finger-prick test.
Continuous Glucose Monitor for Fitness and Exercise
With a continuous glucose monitor, you can also see how the body is responding to activity and exercise. It’s much easier than with the finger-prick test. When we were using glucometers (finger-prick tests), we had people check their blood sugar right before exercise and check it right after exercise. Ideally, if you do just the right amount of exercise and your body is able to handle it, your blood sugar goes down. But many people were overdoing the exercise. If they stressed out their body with too much exercise, their blood sugar would go up afterwards. This is not a normal response; it’s a stress response. With the continuous glucose monitor, we could prescribe just the right amount of exercise for each person’s needs.
A Good Indication of How Your Body Handles Stress
The continuous glucose monitor can easily tell us in real time how the body is reacting to different types of stressors, whether it’s food, exercise, lack of sleep, or stress of any kind. Type 2 diabetics know very well that when they are stressed, their blood sugar is hard to balance. We’re just starting to offer the continuous glucose monitor now, so some of my patients that could benefit from it aren’t using it yet. One of my patients realized that every time she got off the phone with her mom, she would feel panic and anxiety and become stressed out. I’m sure if she had a continuous glucose monitor, we would see her blood sugar spike after those phone calls!
How to Get a Continuous Glucose Monitor
We have a platform to get people prescriptions for this type of monitor. It has a continuous glucose monitor app where you can take pictures of food and record your activities and exercise, and it will help you see how your body is responding to those specific things. You’ll get a score so that you can make adjustments to what you’re doing and in real time see a difference in how your body responds.
For years now, we’ve been using glucometers to check blood sugar, but the continuous glucose monitor is a much more accessible tool for people, since you don’t have to prick your finger to draw blood multiple times a day. Previously, this type of device was hard to get, you had to have a prescription, you had to be diabetic, and doctors weren’t just readily prescribing them. Plus, they were expensive. Now they’re more affordable and accessible.
We’ll Show You How to Interpret Your Results
While it’s easy to use a continuous glucose monitor, interpreting the results so you know how to use them is best done by a functional medicine provider. Sign up for a free 15-minute discovery consultation, and we’ll talk about your personal health challenges and how you can benefit from using a continuous glucose monitor device.
If you come on board as a patient, I’ll interpret your glucose monitor results to get at the root cause of your health concerns. We can work on eliminating your food sensitivities, pinpoint the best exercise plan, and implement lifestyle changes for healthy blood sugar balance. The continuous glucose monitor results will drive a personalized treatment plan that will help you lose weight, turn off inflammation, and help you think more clearly.
Board Certified in Integrative Medicine
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner