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CGM: The Best Bio-hack Of All Time

Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is at the top of any biohacker’s agenda. A CGM can track your blood glucose (sugar) levels in real-time, which provides information to allow for individualised recommendations – say hello to data-driven nutrition insights!

CGM is performed using a tech-savvy device – about the size of a large coin – which is inserted at the back of your arm. The application process is painless and non-intrusive, and can be done at home. The device connects to your smartphone which allows for the collection and presentation of your blood glucose data on an app.

It has to be one the best ‘bots’ out there – it doesn’t disrupt your life in the slightest – allowing you to swim, exercise and sleep as per usual. The device ‘expires’ or stops taking readings after 2 weeks post-insertion, and can be removed with ease.

CGM testing is only as useful as the correlations that we can make upon analysis of the data. It is advised to keep a food and lifestyle diary throughout the 2-week ‘testing phase’ so that we can observe trends within the context of stress levels, sleep patterns, food intake and medication use – all of which influence your blood glucose readings! The app has a ‘comments feature’ so that all information can be collated on the app.

It all comes down to blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels.

Insulin is a hormone that is released in response to elevations in blood glucose (sugar) levels. Insulin’s primary job is to move glucose from the bloodstream into your cells. Insulin acts like the key that opens the door of a cell, thereby allowing blood glucose (sugar) to enter and be burned as energy.

Blood glucose (sugar) levels rise in response to foods rich in carbohydrates – think fruits, starchy vegetables, grains or legumes. But, your liver can make its own blood glucose (sugar) too: factors such as increased stress, poor sleep hygiene or certain medications can induce rises in blood glucose (sugar) even in the absence of food intake!

The higher the rise in blood glucose, the more insulin is released into the blood glucose  – makes sense, right? But, here’s the crux: the more insulin we have in our bloodstream, the more our cells may become ‘numb’ to its effects – otherwise known as insulin resistance. In other words, the key (insulin) does not fit into the lock of the cell, and blood glucose (sugar) cannot be used effectively as fuel by the body. In some individuals, this may lead to prediabetes or diabetes.

Insulin influences almost every organ in the body: think adipose (fat) tissue, your liver, muscles, the brain, your arteries and veins, as well as your kidney and bones. High insulin levels (for the science people: hyperinsulinemia) can contribute to a host of signs and symptoms.

Insulin resistance in the body may look like:

  1. In the skin: acne, skin tags, acanthosis nigricans, androgenetic alopecia (hair loss), hirsutism (excessive hair growth)
  2. In the liver: Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  3. In the ovaries: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  4. In the cardiovascular system: dyslipidemia, high triglycerides, hypertension (high blood pressure), atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  5. In the brain: memory decline, memory loss
  6. In adipose (fat) tissue: obesity, weight gain,  weight loss resistance, central adiposity

We need to achieve optimal blood glucose (sugar) – even in the absence of insulin resistance, prediabetes or diabetes! Here’s why:

  1. Repeated surges in insulin, in response to spikes in blood glucose (sugar), induces an inflammatory response in the body – say hello to chronic inflammation!
  2. Secondly, drastic rises in blood glucose (sugar) causes a large release of insulin. This results in ‘reactive hypoglycemia’: a state in which insulin causes the cell to ‘soak’ up far too much blood glucose (sugar), and leaves you with too low a level of blood glucose (sugar). This will make you feel flat, fatigued, ‘hangry’ or anxious.

A constant yo-yo in blood glucose (sugar) levels can be prevented with CGM data. CGM testing takes the guesswork out of it: personalised lifestyle variables and specific foods that act as culprits – those that induce extreme rises in blood sugar levels – can be easily identified with your integrative dietitian.

Your CGM data, in combination with your clinical picture, will inform us of:

  1. The optimal ‘fasting’ regime for you. Does your body thrive on ‘fat fast’ or a ‘pure fast’? Are you a better responder to the 16-8 or 14-6 fasting protocol?
  2. Your ideal ‘eating environment’. Some individuals have a suboptimal response to foods when eating in a ‘stressful environment’ – while on the road, at a laptop, or while eating in front of the television!
  3. Your prime meal frequency. Do you do well with five small meals over the day, or should you stick to consuming two? To snack or not to snack?
  4. Your tolerance of carb-rich foods. How well does your body respond to different types of carbs, and how much starch should you consume at each meal?
  5. Your most advantageous food pairing. Combining certain foods – such as, pairing nuts when eating an apple – may be a game-changer for your blood glucose (sugar) levels!
  6. Your prime dietary approach: should you be following a low carb diet, or can we go for a mediterranean approach? Combine this with genetic testing, and we’ll have the answer!
  7. And if that’s not enough: observe how your sleep patterns and exercise routines impact your CGM data!

How do I go about getting the most out of my CGM data?

  1. Keep an accurate food and lifestyle journal during the testing phase.
  2. Analyse your data with your dietitian.
  3. Implement your dietitian’s practical, actionable and evidence-based takeaways.

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