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Should I Get a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)?

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
January 26, 2023
February 3, 2023

If you’re trying to control either your blood sugars OR your weight, it is helpful to know which foods derail your progress. But how can you tell? Should you check body fat? Weight? No! Check your glucose!

I know what you’re thinking-- If you don’t have diabetes, why check blood sugars? Well, here’s the biology: your body turns most food into glucose to use as energy. Certain foods, or just too much food, can cause your glucose to spike. Excess glucose is stored as fat. So to prevent weight gain, and to control blood sugars, the best way is to know what foods spike sugars, and reduce them!

Not to mention, knowing and changing how your body responds to food can help reduce risk for all kinds of diseases, and improve your metabolic health! Most generally healthy people have likely never thought twice about their metabolic health, but it might surprise you that only 12 percent of Americans are actually metabolically healthy. That’s right—only 1 in 8 American adults currently has optimal levels of things like HDL cholesterol, body fat, blood glucose, and blood pressure. 

Uncontrolled glucose levels and insulin resistance are a precursor to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. At the same time, controlled glucose levels can help reduce overstimulation of the pancreas and reduce chronic inflammation

So, glucose monitoring is key to optimizing your health and preventing various chronic health conditions.

How to Check Home Glucose

The old-fashioned way is to either go to the lab every 3 to 6 months and get your average glucose, or A1C tested. But this is just a 3 month average, and doesn’t give you day-to-day feedback on how your lifestyle is affecting your glucose or weight.

Another way, home-glucose testing using a glucometer, has been around for about 40 years, and is available at any drugstore. While its good, it is painful and time consuming.

But there’s new technology in the last 15 years, the continuous glucose monitor, or CGM. The CGM allows you to wear a patch on your arm with a cannula that sticks in your skin. This patch can communicate with a receiver, or app in your phone, to scan your glucose as many times as you need to to better understand your readings.

How CGMs Benefit Everyone

For people both with and without Diabetes, CGMs are a relatively new biohacking tool. Healthy individuals can benefit from glucose monitoring by understanding how the pancreas and insulin work to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. 

For example, if you’re planning on engaging in a strenuous exercise regime and your CGM detects your baseline glucose level as borderline low, you’d want to eat beforehand. Same goes for people with Diabetes. In fact, many ultra-marathoners and super-athletes also use CGMs to improve their performance.

Arguments for and Against CGMs

There are 5 great reasons to use a CGM. You can:

  • See how the body responds to food
  • Learn what spikes glucose.- because everyone is unique!
  • Make sustainable, micro changes to avoid spikes
  • keep it in the arm and avoid the pain of traditional finger pricks (great for people with neuropathy)
  • gain tighter control and better understanding of the body (great for type 1 Diabetics and people on insulin)

CGMs are just one tool that can give you more insight into metabolic health, especially when it comes to monitoring your blood sugar levels. Understanding preprandial (pre-meal) and postprandial (post-meal) glucose levels can help patients learn what they can eat. It can also help them understand portions related to glucose elevation and use this information to maintain stable glucose levels. 

The main drawback of CGMs is that they are EXPENSIVE.

  • Only a few insurances cover it fully, and usually only for people with Diabetes.
  • If you don’t have Diabetes, it can be quite expensive.
  • Not all healthcare professionals know how to read the data, and not all healthcare professionals have enough experience to give you trustworthy and safe recommendations.

If you want to get a CGM, talk to your doctor. See if they can get you a prescription. Also make sure that your doctor, Registered Dietitian, or Certified Diabetes Educator can appropriately read the data and give you safe, and clinically sound recommendations. At any time while measuring glucose at home, if you see a high glucose, do not try to self-treat without first consulting a professional.