Continuous Glucose Monitors for Women’s Health

Oct 18, 2022
Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) TārāMD
Today I’m going to talk to you about an incredible tool: the continuous glucose monitor. It can be used to learn more about your metabolic health, catch blood sugar issues early, and optimize your health.

There’s no doubt that blood sugar levels impact women’s health and hormones. Since all body systems are connected, balancing blood sugar is foundational for balanced hormones.

Today I’m going to talk to you about an incredible tool: the continuous glucose monitor. It can be used to learn more about your metabolic health, catch blood sugar issues early, and optimize your health.

Have you heard of continuous glucose monitors and are curious about using one? Keep reading to discover:

  • What is a continuous glucose monitor?
  • Why use a continuous glucose monitor?
  • Who would benefit?
  • Plus, tips for getting started.


Let’s dive in!

What is a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)? 

A continuous glucose monitor, CGM for short, is a biosensor that tracks your blood sugar in real-time. The sensor is worn on the back of the upper arm or stomach and sends glucose data to an app. Each sensor lasts one or two weeks and then needs to be replaced.

Use the provided applicator to easily apply the sensor to your arm. The sensor contains a needle, and although it looks scary, there is virtually no pain with proper insertion. The needle allows a small filament to enter the interstitial fluid below the skin, where it measures glucose to estimate blood levels.

Why Use a CGM?

The health risks of unbalanced blood sugar are undeniable. When we experience blood sugar spikes and dips, called high glycemic variability, which is linked to an increased risk for metabolic disease.

Instead, we want low glycemic variability throughout the day to promote optimal health. We want our blood sugar to look like gently rolling hills instead of mountainous peaks and valleys.

Suppose you are just having your fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1C checked annually. In that case, it’s possible to be experiencing higher glycemic variability that is missed by these screening tools.

Blood sugar primarily responds to carbohydrate foods, especially processed options made from sugar or flour. Since each of us responds differently to the food we eat, using a CGM helps you personalize your diet. Some of us may tolerate white rice or sweet potatoes just fine, while others may need to reduce the serving size, pair these foods with more fat and protein, or choose other options.

In addition, a CGM can help you correlate symptoms you may be experiencing to what your blood sugar is doing.

Short-term symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Brain fog
  • Irritability
  • Cravings
  • Increased belly fat
  • Feeling “hangry” (hungry + angry)

When dysregulation or high blood sugar persists over time, it leads to metabolic changes that pave the way for:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer

In addition, blood sugar and sex hormones affect each other. Estrogen promotes insulin sensitivity (i.e., insulin does a better job of shuttling sugar from the blood into cells). Whereas progesterone may increase insulin resistance (i.e., the cells don’t hear insulin’s signal, and it’s harder to lower blood sugar after meals).

So, if you are a cycling woman, you may notice you tolerate carbohydrates better during the first half of your cycle than the second half.

Blood sugar will also affect how you experience perimenopause. We naturally become more insulin resistant as our body calibrates to hormonal changes during this life phase. If you work to stabilize blood sugar during perimenopause, your hormones will feel more stable, and you’ll likely experience fewer symptoms.

Who Benefits from Using a CGM?

CGMs are frequently used by people with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) where highs and lows are very dangerous and potentially deadly.

However, CGMs are increasingly used by people without diabetes to increase their understanding of their bodies, personalize dietary approaches, and optimize health. It’s possible to catch patterns or imbalances before they become a chronic problem.

You may benefit from using a CGM for a month or two if you have the following:

  • Changes in metabolism or weight gain
  • Rapidly aging skin
  • PCOS – polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Infertility
  • Significant perimenopause symptoms
  • PMS – premenstrual syndrome
  • Changes in memory and cognitive function

I also want to talk about who CGMs may not be for. Skip the CGM if you:

  • Have an eating disorder or a history of one
  • Are easily obsessed with numbers (calories, weight) and perfection around food
  • Feel stressed out by tracking food, steps, or other health data

In these cases, consider focusing on intuitive eating and learning to trust your body. Work with your integrative practitioner for personalized care.

Getting Started with CGMs

You may be wondering where you even get a CGM. First, ask your provider for a prescription. CGMs are increasingly available to people without diabetes, and they may even be covered by your insurance. You can also directly purchase CGM sensors without a prescription from companies like Levels.

Once you have your sensors, here are some tips:

  • Track your blood glucose for an entire menstrual cycle or 4 weeks (you may need 2-4 sensors to do this)
  • Eat regularly and note blood sugar patterns
  • Test specific carbohydrate foods that you are curious about
  • Notice how a particular food affects you when eaten alone vs. as part of a meal
  • Note your stress, sleep, and exercise. All affect blood sugar too
  • Discuss your results with your provider or nutritionist

You can use a CGM continuously if it helps you dial in your habits and reach your goals. Otherwise, consider using it for a month each year as a blood sugar check-in.

Here at TārāMD, we believe in elevating your healthcare. A CGM is one tool that provides useful and actionable data to you prevent disease and feel your best.