What insights can non-diabetics gain from monitoring blood glucose?
In our last post, we focused on providing our community with help on getting started measuring blood glucose. This time, we felt like diving a bit deeper. In this post we open up potential insights that you could gain from measuring your blood glucose. These insights are partly derived from the latest scientific research which has focused on the relationship between nutrition and blood sugar, and partly derived from running trials on ourselves and our early clients.
Blood glucose and its relationship with nutrition, sleep, and performance are becoming popular topics in the realm of health-related studies. And for good reason. According to Bansal, 2015 blood glucose levels are rapidly increasing in the populations. In the U.S. alone, it's indicated that 37% of the adult population is experiencing elevated glucose levels which might have a direct or indirect effect in some health complications related to the above-mentioned aspects of our lives.
Understanding your blood glucose might shed light on multiple factors of your health and help answer some of the following questions:
If you've struggled with any of these, keep reading. This post might explain why.
Understand your metabolic profile and what works for you. One-size-fits-all is dead.
Currently, we're advised to eat according to a certain plan. A one-size-fits-all model.
It doesn't seem to be working - an increasing amount of the population is overweight (almost 40% of the U.S. population) and multiple studies indicates that this is a modern problem.
According to Zeevi et al., 2015 elevated PPGR (postprandial glucose response) constitutes a major global health epidemic and is causing pre-diabetes and obesity. In their study they were able to find out that we all hold a very different kind of glycemic response for different macronutrients, which has an effect on our long term health and especially on weight gain. In the study conducted with over 800 people they were able to discover high interpersonal variability in blood glucose responses to identical foods in the cohort (see figure 1), which might explain why the one-size fits all model is failing us. According to another significant study conducted by Spectator et al., 2019, this interpersonal PPGR variability applies even in identical twins with the same kind of genetic makeup (see figure 2). These studies support the fact that unique, personalized nutrition plans could be formed from understanding one's blood sugar response and microbial makeup.
Everything starts with nutrition. We all are unique and different, and we need to embrace explanatory metrics that are unique to us such as our blood glucose and microbiome - it's time to bury homogenous advice. In terms of nutrition one-size-fits-all is dead.
Understanding how our blood glucose is being affected by different nutrients, we might be able to, in the future, draw conclusions of what is actually an ideal diet for each of us.
Prevent and counteract unnecessary lows that cause sleepless nights.
Sleep plays a huge role in multiple aspects of our health. Sleep has been shown to reduce stress, lower inflammation, and improve memory, in addition to countless other health benefits. Still, more than 75% of Americans between ages 20 and 59 report having sleeping difficulties fairly regularly.
Sleeping disorders may have a connection with over night blood glucose variability, especially for people suffering from (pre-)diabetes. It's been relatively well studied, especially in the diabetic community, that the rapid changes in blood sugar has an affect on sleep - but there is a reason to believe that this claim applies to the majority of people today. Blood sugar level changes over night (lows or highs) may affect the stages of your sleep or even wake you up during the night.
When your blood sugar is high, your kidneys will try to get rid of it by removing it from the body via urination. This most likely causes you to get out of bed and go to the bathroom during the night, resulting in inconsistent sleep patterns. It can also wake you up with feelings of thirstiness. Every cell in your body needs sugar to work properly - it’s your body’s main source of energy. When your sugar levels fall too low it can cause a variety of problems within your central nervous system which can include: headaches, nightmares, restlessness, weakness, sweating and a host of other complications. As a result this would alter your sleep stages or even wake you up entirely, leading to inconsistent sleeping patterns.
Measuring the development of your blood glucose before and after going to sleep and even during the night can help you understand what is causing you to have troubles in getting sleep or experiencing sleepiness during the day. By understanding your blood glucose, you can take action to correct your meal timing, and the content of your meals during the late night hours. This way you can ensure better blood glucose control during the entire night.
Fuel with the right nutrition at the right time to maximize performance. Enhance the recovery process from your workouts.
Blood glucose levels and physical performance have a very direct relationship, where both affect each other at the same time. Blood sugar usually fluctuates depending on the exercise intensiveness. Aerobic activities have been shown to lower your blood sugar during the time of the event and keep them low for even 4-8 hours afterwards. This is caused by the sudden need of additional energy resulting from rapid muscle movements during exercises. During anaerobic activities it is not unusual to experience a blood sugar rise at the onset of high-intensity exercise. This is caused by a surge of stress hormones that oppose insulin’s action and cause the liver to dump extra sugar into the bloodstream.
Feeding your body the right kind of nutrition at the right time will ensure it performs at the demanded level. Research conducted by Thomas et al., 2015 stated that "continuous monitoring of an athlete's BG has the potential to increase race performance, speed recovery, and aid training, as BG can reflect metabolic and inflammatory conditions".
Control the lack of focus, anticipate stress, and prevent anxiety and depression with the correct measures.
Cognitive performance, concentration, stress and anxiety may have an indirect connection with blood sugar levels. These factors have a controlling effect on your blood glucose at certain points of time. For example, stress blocks your body from releasing insulin, and that lets glucose pile up in your blood, causing you to experience hyperglycemia, which has been shown to further lead to stress. If you're chronically stressed over long periods of time, your blood sugar levels will keep building and this will create a chronic condition feeding itself for you to become even more stressful and anxious over time.
On the other hand blood sugar may also have an affect on our ability to perform at our highest mental state and level. According to Mezuk et al., 2008 long term hyperglycemia as seen in people with diabetes appears to result in significant changes in their mood and cognitive state. Your cognitive performance is also indirectly highly related with the glycemic response to different types of nutrition. Usually foods that create the most significant variability in glucose levels in a short period of time lead to occasional mood swings and in some cases brain fog, where one experiences the lack of mental clarity and memory problems.
Finding out the detailed information of your blood glucose could help you explain what is happening in your body, even from the mental point of view. For example, you might find why you feel anxious or down at certain points of time during the day, or why you've had low energy or even felt burned out or for a while.
Let's face it. There are a lot of companies and devices in the space of health technology focusing on nutrition, sleep, physical and/or cognitive performance. These companies and devices look to answer questions such as: how many calories did you have for dinner, how long and at what speed was your last run, how was your sleep last night or, how productive were you at work today. This is great news! We are striving to be healthier and more productive, we are trying to optimize the way we live in order to be better versions of ourselves.
But we believe that answering the above mentioned questions is not enough. We can do so much better. Instead of answering what, we should be answering why. By matching these external metrics with something internal and very unique to all of us, our blood sugar response, we can begin to understand why we're experiencing, instead of how we're experiencing.
This way we can understand ourselves as a whole, and gain entirely new kinds of insights related to our health, and instead answer questions like; why am I gaining weight even though I'm eating the recommended amount of calories, why was my workout lethargic, why did I sleep so poorly, and why am I suffering from mood swings during the day.