In the realm of healthcare, technology continues to advance at an astounding pace. One groundbreaking innovation that I am really excited about is the continuous glucose monitor (CGM), traditionally used to help individuals with diabetes manage their blood glucose levels. However, the benefits of wearing a CGM extend far beyond patients managing diabetes. People without a diabetes diagnosis can also reap numerous advantages by incorporating this remarkable device into their lives.
As nurses and nurse practitioners, we can use CGMs as a powerful tool in our practice. Here are six ways a CGM can support our own health and so many of our clients on their health journeys:
Enhanced Awareness of Blood Sugar Levels
You would likely be shocked how much fluctuation can occur in our blood glucose levels through the day.....and while we're sleeping! Blood glucose fluctuations can impact overall health and well-being, even in individuals without diabetes. By wearing a CGM, you gain real-time insights into your body's glucose patterns, allowing you to identify and address any abnormal trends promptly. This heightened awareness enables you to make more informed decisions about diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications- optimizing your overall health. One often overlooked benefit to CGMs is insights into how our body responds to exercise.
The first time I wore a CGM, I remember going outside to stack some firewood before eating in the morning, and my phone started alerting me of a low blood glucose level. That very next morning, I reviewed my patterns overnight, and I was able to identify low blood glucose levels that occur while I was sleeping. No wonder my body naturally had woken me up around that time! And I hear that same thing from many of my clients! Using this information, I was able to modify my macronutrient intake and stabilize my blood glucose levels throughout the day, and my clients have benefited from similar awareness.
Early Detection of Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, is a rampant health concern that often goes undetected until more significant health issues arise. CGMs provide a valuable tool for identifying early signs of insulin resistance, allowing individuals without a diabetes diagnosis to take proactive steps towards prevention. By monitoring your glucose levels over time, you can recognize any gradual changes.
Personalized Nutritional Insights
How our body responds to what we eat is unbelievably personal- no two bodies respond the same! Many people struggle with weight management, energy levels, and dietary concerns. Wearing a CGM offers personalized nutritional insights by shedding light on how different foods affect your blood glucose levels. By analyzing the data collected, you can identify which foods cause spikes or crashes in glucose, enabling you to make more informed choices to optimize your nutrition and energy throughout the day. As an nurse, you can partner with your clients in reviewing their data, and help them identify personalized changes they can make in their eating patterns that can have a surprisingly large impact on their health.
I personally have "experimented on myself" while wearing a CGM, and was able to identify shockingly different responses to different types (and qualities) of foods while wearing the CGM. It really reinforced my healthy eating habits!
Stress and Sleep Management
Chronic stress and poor sleep patterns can significantly impact blood glucose regulation. CGMs help establish a direct correlation between stress, sleep, and glucose levels, empowering people to take charge of these vital aspects of health. By identifying patterns and triggers, people can proactively manage stress and improve sleep quality, ultimately promoting better overall glucose control.
Empowerment and Motivation
For many of my clients, seeing is believing! Wearing a CGM provides them with a tangible and dynamic way to engage with their health. The real-time data, trends, and patterns displayed on the device can serve as a constant reminder of our commitment to wellness. This empowering tool fosters motivation to make positive lifestyle changes, such as adopting healthier eating habits, staying active, and maintaining optimal glucose levels. I find for many of my clients that the accountability of wearing a CGM and discussing the results with a trusted healthcare practitioner is enough to keep them motivated while establishing new health habits.
Insight into the Impact of Medications and Supplements
Certain medications and supplements can affect blood glucose levels. Wearing a CGM allows us to monitor the effects of these interventions on our glucose control. With this information, people can work with their prescribing provider to adjust dosages or explore alternative options as they continue to opportunities to optimize their overall health and well-being.
Give it a try!
I always encourage my functional medicine RN and NP students to try things out before recommending it for their clients. It helps us to speak from a place of experience, and we are then able to offer real-life guidance. Plus, many of my students have gained personal insights and improved health benefits from wearing a CGM. So, give it a try!
CGM devices can be cost prohibitive, so here are my tips for using them affordably. Insurance typically will not cover a CGM for a patient without a diagnosis of diabetes. That doesn't mean they can't get one. Freestyle Libre has an offer on their website for a free 14 day trial of their devices. People can print the form, get a prescription written by their prescribing provider (yes, it does require a prescription), and take the completed form to their local pharmacy to receive a completely free CGM for 14 days. After the 14 day trial, I have clients use goodrx.com to find the most affordable option for additional cartridges.
Freestyle Libre can be a cost effective option with the downside that it does not record and send continuous data. The phone must be held to the sensor briefly to transmit a reading. Alternatively, Dexcom 7 is capable of transmitting data continuously, and I plan on trying this device next!
Another question you might get: does it hurt?! Speaking from experience, it was incredibly easy to apply, and I really barely notice it when applying the CGM. It is much less painful than even a vaccine. And- while wearing it- its barely noticeable AND you can shower and swim with it on. I haven't had one come loose early, but it was surprisingly easy and painless to remove when the 14 days were up.
One last thing- this particular brand pairs with an app on your smartphone, so you are able to check your current levels, adjust alarm settings, and monitor trends over time without the cost of another device!
From enhanced awareness of blood sugar levels to early detection of insulin resistance, personalized nutritional insights, stress management, and empowerment, the CGM offers a wealth of advantages. By embracing this innovative technology, you can take an active role in your own health and use this as a tool to empower and inform your patients!
To learn more about how to address the underlying mechanisms at play in metabolic dysregulation such as insulin resistance and diabetes, consider joining the hundreds of other RNs and NPs that I have taught in the Functional Medicine for Nurses course offered through the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy in partnership with the Institute for Functional Medicine.