By Ellie Kempton, Simply Nourished Nutrition
When it comes to metabolic health, all the self quantification tools abound making it hard to know which metrics to track. The unsung hero? Blood sugar. While it is not necessarily sufficient for tracking metabolic wellness in isolation, without it you are missing invaluable data that is hard to feel.
Historically, blood glucose monitoring has played an integral role in managing diabetes but the use of this metric preventatively, will play an invaluable role in future health care as continuous glucose monitoring [CGM] is becoming more accessible to those without any diagnosed metabolic impairment.
But you don’t have to even go straight to a CGM for invaluable data. Simply testing fasted blood sugar upon waking and / or 20 min after meals with a simple $20 glucometer will tell you so much about your metabolic wellness, your state of inflammation and your glucose sensitivity.
Here’s why this matters to you: blood glucose variability is often hard to feel [unless you are experiencing a very dramatic oscillation] but has a very substantial impact energy, cognition, mood and inflammation.
When you wake up and your fasting blood sugar is above 85, you can be certain that your metabolic health is compromised from food choices, poor sleep, high stress or longer term glucose / insulin insensitivity. Similarly, if your blood glucose spikes above 120 after a meal and stays there for more than 20 min, you know your metabolic wellness is being compromised from the foods consumed.
Knowledge is power!
Take a peek at these top 10 triggers for blood sugar variability [that often - again- go undetected]:
1. sunburn - the pain causes stress increasing blood sugar levels while the body undergoes healing
2. artificial sweeteners - more research needs to be done but more and more studies conclude they
do indeed raise blood sugar
3. coffee - increases cortisol subsequently increasing blood sugar
4. poor sleep - just one night of too little sleep negatively impacts the body’s capacity to use insulin
[decreasing glucose sensitivity]
5. erratic meal schedule - stretching meals too far apart and / or snacking throughout the day
creates blood sugar variability
6. cortisol dysregulation - if cortisol is heightened due to a bout of intensified stress [even via exercise]
you will see a blood sugar spike
7. dehydration - less water in the body means a higher blood sugar concentration
8. dawn phenomenon - there is a [natural] surge in hormones early in the morning increasing blood
sugar to create a wakening response [this makes testing blood sugar at least 30 min after waking
important so as not to see an inflated blood sugar reading]
9. intestinal permeability - when the lining of your gastrointestinal tract is compromised many foods
[not necessarily true allergies] will create a immune response reflected in blood sugar levels
10. lack of fiber - when a carbohydrate-rich food is missing the blood sugar anchoring component:
fiber, you will see the manifestation of this in a post-prandial blood sugar spike [even if the more refined carbohydrate was consumed in smaller quantities]
This invaluable data is begging you to put it to work. Consider first, purchasing a simple glucometer at your nearest pharmacy. Put it to work by testing fasting blood sugar 30 min after waking 2-3 x per week. Keep a journal of trends.
Then, as you are curious, consider testing your blood sugar 20-30 min after meals and notice which meals [high fiber vs low fiber] have the biggest impact on your blood sugar.
Optimal glucose ranges for metabolic wellness:
- morning fasted blood sugar is 72-85 mg/dL
- pre-meal [baseline] 72-90 mg/dL
- post meal glucose peak < 110
When you’re ready to really take the plunge into leveraging glucose variability for metabolic wellness, consider utilizing a CGM. There are more and more companies making this accessible, one of which is incredibly impressive: Levels. Their app interface coaches you daily helping you understand which foods, activities, and habits have the most positive impact on your global wellness.
And just like that, you’ll be utilizing the worlds simplest at home lab to make hugely impactful targeted changes that have the capacity to transform how you feel.