Insulin resistance is when your body doesn’t respond well to insulin, limiting the use of your blood glucose as a form of energy. This includes your muscles, fat, and organs. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas and helps your body use glucose for energy or store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keep your blood sugar level. It’s hard to measure insulin at home. You can do so by doing blood tests from labs but this doesn’t really tell how your insulin levels react to certain activities and foods you eat on a regular basis.
For diabetics, it’s easy to see why measuring blood glucose is essential. It can keep them from reaching levels of dangerously low or high blood sugar levels and let them know when they should administer insulin. For non-diabetics, it’s useful to know what spikes your blood sugar unusually high. It’s also useful to know how long it takes for insulin to get your blood sugar levels back within a healthy range.
Measuring blood glucose can provide you with more information and let you know if you are exhibiting symptoms of insulin resistance or not. When your blood sugar spikes after you eat a meal, your body produces insulin to control your blood sugar. By measuring your blood sugar, you can get an idea of how your body responds to insulin. One way to do this is to use a continuous glucose monitor.
Using a Continuous Glucose Monitor
While it’s great to prick your finger at certain times of the day to see how your blood sugar responds to your diet and lifestyle, sometimes you’re missing critical information. If you test your blood glucose with the normal blood sugar test kits (which I do), you may not realize how fast your blood sugar might spike after a meal and how long it takes to subside back to normal levels. It’s also hard to see how your blood sugar reacts when you sleep since you won’t be testing yourself during that period.
By using a continuous glucose monitor, you can get more data and make dietary and lifestyle changes accordingly. It’s also nice not to have to draw blood from yourself multiple times a day.
Differences In Blood Glucose Monitoring and Sensor Glucose Monitoring
The sensor glucose rarely matches the blood glucose. This is said to be because of the timing the blood glucose travels within your body. Blood glucose is taken directly from your blood while sensor glucose is taken from interstitial fluids.
My personal experience is that my CGM measures levels around 15-20 mg/dL higher than pricking my finger, consistently. This doesn’t seem to correlate to timing differences of blood glucose traveling within my system. For example, I can take pinpricks while working all day, fasted, and the blood glucose measurement would be around 85-95 mg/dL. At the same time, my CGM will read 110-115 mg/dL. This could be in the course of 2-3 hours, without varying levels of activity or diet considerations. I haven’t been able to find a good reason for this discrepancy. If anybody knows, please let me know.
The Dangers of High Blood Sugar and Insulin Resistance
Consistent high blood sugar typically means your body is insulin resistant. Being insulin resistant puts you at higher risk for many diseases. This includes various cancers, Alzheimer’s Disease, and general complications from diabetes. While genetics play a role in how your body processes insulin, lifestyle factors are also a major force in improving insulin sensitivity. This is a good thing because it is a force you have control over.
Family Genetics Is Why I Measure My Blood Glucose
Even in my 20’s, my fasting blood glucose seemed to be on the higher side of over 100. While this isn’t dangerous levels, it’s not optimal and it could mean I was on a path to pre-diabetes or worse. Knowing that my father has diabetes and 3 of my uncles as well as family on my mother’s side has higher than optimal fasting blood glucose levels, I changed my diet. Changing my diet has resulted in levels of fasting blood glucose that I would be comfortable with.
I attribute my low carb, non-processed foods diet as a contributor to me generally feeling and performing well and recovering relatively quickly from a lifestyle of consistent physical training. But even though some foods are deemed high glycemic and some are not, I still didn’t know what triggers a glucose spike that isn’t ideal. Some people may be able to tolerate bananas and rice well while others aren’t. To make sure, I started measuring my blood glucose using traditional blood glucose monitoring systems. This gave me an idea of how certain activities and foods trigger’s my body’s insulin response. I only recently started monitoring my blood glucose using a continuous glucose monitor.
Why You Should Use a Continuous Glucose Monitor
Even if you use a traditional blood glucose monitoring system, it may be hard to determine how your body reacts to certain foods and meals. Timing when you test your blood is difficult because spikes may occur during times you aren’t testing. The only way to see your true peaks and valleys of your blood glucose is by continuously monitoring this. The device I use is the FreeStyle Libre. The device captures the glucose concentration in the interstitial fluid every minute, records the glucose concentration every 15 minutes, and stores that data in a rolling 8-hour log.
Before using a CGM, I would prick my finger an hour or 2 after a meal and think that my meal didn’t cause any spike. In reality, it spiked up normally and went back down quickly. I would miss the reading using traditional pin pricking methods.
Anger At Non Diabetics Using CGMs
There was an article mentioning how diabetics were angry at those without diabetes using CGMs. In a world where the trend is growing for formerly healthy individuals becoming pre-diabetic or diabetic, I see no issue with people wanting to have a better understanding of their body and how blood sugar relates to their health. If we have the technology to take a deeper dive into our own physiology, I don’t see why this would be considered anything but a positive. If everybody took the time to consider their own preventative health care and how diet, exercise, and lifestyle impact key health markers, maybe our “sick care” system would improve and the evergrowing health care costs would flatten.
So What Can You Do With Your Blood Sugar Information?
You may be wondering what you can do with knowing when your blood sugar spikes or drops. For my own curiosity, I like knowing how my body reacts to certain foods+activies and how the levels of blood sugar may impact how I feel. You will also find out what foods raise your blood sugar consistently and what you can do about it. For example, eating blueberries or peanut butter spikes my blood sugar. But eating these foods with a protein shake surprisingly did not. By knowing information like this you can adjust when and how you consume certain foods.
In my next post, I will discuss how and when I use glucose monitoring tools and personal reading trends I’ve noticed when monitoring my blood glucose after using the CGM for 14 days.