Benefits of Continuous Glucose Monitors and How to Get One–Qo

One of the biggest health crazes lately is to monitor blood glucose levels with a continuous glucose monitor– even when you don’t have insulin resistance. But with the statistics now standing that 1 in 3 adults has prediabetes, there’s definitely a need for more ways to understand our blood sugar levels in the battle to reverse insulin resistance.

These little devices are a vast advancement in awareness around and management of daily blood glucose. This is huge if you do have prediabetes, type 1 or 2 diabetes, PCOS, or other insulin resistance conditions.

continuous glucose monitors

So what is this little device, and how can it help? Well, in more ways than you’d think!

What is a continuous glucose monitor?

So first of all, a continuous glucose monitor is a little disc that attaches to your skin with super strong adhesive, and has a really strong filament that goes into your skin. It monitors your blood glucose levels, or blood sugar levels, and either has a device that connects wirelessly, or many can actually connect to an app on your phone.

a continuous glucose monitor on the back of an arm

Over the last few years a lot of advancement has been made in not just the capability of cgms, but also the ease of use.

So how does a continuous glucose monitor work?

Like I said, the continuous glucose monitor is a little disc with adhesive to hold it firm to your skin. It has a little filament in the center that will essentially puncture your skin so it can stay in the tissue the entire time you’re wearing the device. Some monitors will last a week, many last 2 weeks at a time.

I know it sounds like it would hurt or be uncomfortable, but I assure you, it doesn’t. It really doesn’t even hurt when you apply it.

installing a continuous glucose monitor on the arm

Manufacturers put them into an installation device and honestly, the only discomfort I’ve felt is if I didn’t let the alcohol dry completely it stung a little, but really the edges of the applicator pushing in around it was more uncomfortable than the filament puncture.

A continuous glucose monitor is different from manual blood sugar monitors in that they measure blood glucose levels from the interstitial fluid, while manual glucose monitors take an actual blood sample.

continuous glucose monitors side view of fillament

What this means is that manual glucose monitors can give you accurate on-the-spot readings, while continuous glucose monitors have a lag, usually about 10-15 minutes.

How to benefit from a continuous glucose monitor

How to use a continuous glucose monitor to your benefit lies in a few different factors. The first is if you have insulin resistance or hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar episodes where you need to monitor your blood sugar to ensure there’s no emergency situation with your health.

Those with type 1 diabetes almost always need this because their bodies don’t produce much, if any, insulin. They’re required to take insulin, but sometimes calculations aren’t 100% accurate, and there’s always the risk of going into severe hypoglycemia, which can cause coma and death.

Those with hypoglycemia episodes pose the same risk, so it’s really essential for them to always know what their blood glucose levels are.

Those with type 2 diabetes sometimes have hypoglycemic episodes as well, but it’s more common for them to have hyperglycemia, which is blood glucose levels that are too high.

manual blood glucose monitor and lancets

Those with other metabolic issues like prediabetes or PCOS can use continuous glucose monitors to get a handle on what foods affect their blood glucose in different ways to get their blood sugar levels under control in an effort to lower their A1C levels.

Many are also trying to reverse insulin resistance. Having a constant monitor on lets you know how things like food, sleep, stress, and exercise either help or hinder your blood glucose levels.

Then there is another subgroup of those that don’t have insulin resistance but are interested in how all these factors affect their glucose levels. This starts veering into what’s called biohacking. Many people are getting on board with research showing that lower continuous glucose levels are better for metabolic health as a whole.

What you need to consider when using a glucose monitor

There are few things to consider when using a glucose monitor.

Accuracy of continuous glucose monitors

The first is that sometimes it’s not always super accurate. The reason is that even though these units are calibrated by the company before they’re packaged, where you place it can have an affect.

For example, I’ve tried them on my right arm, and no matter where it gets applied, it’s not close to accurate. On my left arm, I only have one or two spots that show accurate results. Usually the more fatty areas are said to be more accurate than more muscular areas, and that’s held true for me.

Reporting time of continuous glucose monitors

The second thing is that there is a lag in reporting. That’s usually 10-15 minutes, so if you’re using one for hyper or hypoglycemia, you may need to act quickly and constantly monitor with a manual blood glucose monitor.

The good news is that you can usually set a threshold on the device or within the app so that if it does start heading too high or too low you’ll get an alarm so you can correct the situation.

Other reasons a continuous glucose monitor may not be accurate

The third thing to know is there are a few other situations which would render  a continuous glucose monitor as inaccurate. One is taking high doses of vitamin C, which the package contains a warning about.

continuous glucose monitors screenshot

The other is that sometimes – seemingly for no reason- you could get super low or high random readings. This has only happened to me during the night, and I’ve read on a few forums from others that it can happen if you put heavy pressure on the sensor, like if you roll over and have that arm under you while you are sleeping.

The 4th thing is that it can take a day, sometimes 2, to get really accurate on readings. It’s important to still check with a manual blood glucose monitor in those times to ensure you’re getting accurate readings and can make sure they coincide.

Why I am wearing a continuous glucose monitor ; why I decided to try out a continuous glucose monitor

I’m wearing a continuous glucose monitor for a few reasons.

The first is that I’ve been diagnosed as prediabetic. This alone does not warrant my insurance company paying for a continuous glucose monitor. But I’ve opted to initially pay out of pocket because I’m in the age bracket where my hormones are going wacky and I was waking up in sweats every night.

This can be from hormones, or it could be due to the dawn phenomenon. This is when your blood sugar drops very low in the middle of the night, then your body kicks in glucagon to bring it back up, and many times this can create more body heat and sweating. Many people have strange or even bad dreams when this happens, but it usually results in waking up frequently.

research snippet for the dawn phenomenon for diabetics

Once I wore my sensor for 2 weeks and saw that trend, my doctor advised that it proved that my situation was genetic. I wanted to know that for sure because I maintain an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, and very rarely eat sugar or bread, and have eaten low-carb for years.

He confirmed to me that if you have the genetics for it, it can be really hard to still keep your A1C under control, but that if I *hadn’t* been eating healthy and low carb as I had, I probably would’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes years ago.

Now I’m using it to see how different foods affect my blood glucose levels, but also different things like:

  • What order of macros do to my blood sugar levels– if I eat protein first, then carbs, what happens, or if I eat fat with carbs, or reverse the order.
  • I also want to know the effect of exercise, sleep, and stress. For example, I had a really stressful day and night of New Year’s Eve because we had company the entire week before, then had a lot of people over that night, then stayed up late for the ball to drop. My blood glucose levels were much higher than normal all day long, then the next day stayed elevated as well.
continuous glucose monitors results of exercise

Wearing this sensor has been extremely eye-opening for me, and I’ll continue to use them until I feel comfortable with how I’m managing my blood sugar with lifestyle and dietary changes.

How to get a continuous glucose monitor

So for some this can be tricky—here’s why.

If you’ve been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, your health insurance should pay for these, absolutely. If you’re diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, hypoglycemia, PCOS or other insulin resistance conditions, they *may* pay for them.

If you’re diagnosed as prediabetic, they probably won’t. And if you don’t have any of these conditions they won’t.

However—what I’ve learned is that even though my insurance company won’t pay for it, there are still 2 ways you can get them:

1: Ask your doctor

The first is simply to ask your doctor if he or she will write a prescription for one. Tell them you’re really interested in your metabolic health and would like to trial a sensor for a month or so. Many doctors have no problem doing this.

woman doctor

Just know that you’ll have to pay for it out of pocket. My out-of-pocket runs around $78 a month, and that includes 2 sensors that each last 2 weeks. I am currently wearing the Freestyle Libre 3. I have another post that compares the Freestyle Libre 2 and Libre 3 and the features of the 3 if you’re interested.

2: Private continuous glucose monitor companies

There are companies that offer sensors and a membership that will help you interpret the data and have coaches on staff as well. Although these can get pricey, they do give a ton of information as well as support if you’re really into your metabolic health and haven’t been diagnosed with a condition that warrants a prescription.

I hope this gave you enough information to make a better decision about using a continuous glucose monitor, and let me know if you have any more questions in the comments!

👉 SUGGEST NEXT: The Freestyle Libre 3 vs Libre 2 Review (Continuous Glucose Monitor)

continuous glucose monitors
Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Author: Laura Brigance, MS, CHC

Laura is a Nutrition Specialist and Certified Health Coach with a Master of Science in Nutrition. Her goal is to help women reduce inflammation, balance blood sugar, and regain natural energy with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet + Lifestyle.

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