I consider myself to be somewhat of a data nerd, so it’s no surprise that I recently decided to start wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). I find that it gives me a clear picture of what’s going on inside my body, according to what I’m eating, as well as what I can do to improve my health.
The device itself is fairly unobtrusive. It attaches to the back of my arm and continuously reads my blood sugar, or glucose, using an app on my phone.
For the most part, the CGM has reinforced what I already knew as far as how blood sugar and stress affect the thyroid. That’s the focus of this article, so I won’t go into all the details of this whole three-month process that I’m going through.
The reason I want to focus on blood sugar and stress specifically is that oftentimes, people don’t even realize they’re stressed.
They say everything’s fine with their marriage or their finances, but when you dig deeper, it’s clear they’re impacted by stress in other ways. For example, maybe they’re taking care of an elderly family member or a child with a disability. The day-to-day of handling other stressors has become so commonplace that they don’t even realize how much they’re impacted by stress.
My Encounter With Acute Stress
I saw this phenomenon in action recently. I had not been feeling well, and I didn’t connect the dots to identify stress as the root cause—because again, sometimes stressors creep in without us realizing it.
With the CGM, it has shown me how different stresses impact my body, even outside of what I’m eating. In my case, I was experiencing a situational stress related to my daughter’s upcoming travels, which would take her to Spain. Even though I was excited and happy for her (I love adventure, too!), I was also stressed about my daughter leaving for another country for four months.
And I know discussed before that when you have a thyroid condition, stress absolutely impacts the function of the thyroid. Symptoms I noticed included poor-quality sleep and cravings for sugary or carby foods. In addition, the CGM reflected how much my blood sugar was affected by stress.
To date, I had had a good blood-sugar response to whatever foods I was eating. A good response means that when you eat, your blood sugar goes up and then gradually goes back down as your body absorbs it into its cells. Well, that process had been a lot slower for me.
And then the anxious person in me started thinking, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to start to be pre-diabetic. And now I’m going to have to worry about that and deal with that on top of the thyroid issues.”
Meanwhile, my blood sugars were way higher the whole entire night when I should have been sleeping. That alone kept me a little more alert, preventing me from getting high-quality, restorative or muscle sleep.
I thought I was managing everything just fine, dealing with this anticipation of my child leaving the country for four months—but biochemically, the numbers told a different story.
Stress Management Is Key
This is why it is so important for everyone to have some kind of daily practice for managing stress. No, you don’t have to wear a glucose monitor if you don’t want to, but here’s what I do recommend:
- Eat whole foods.
- Eliminate processed foods as much as possible.
- Eat at regular times.
- Tune in to what’s going on in your life and how stress might be impacting your body.
- Develop a daily practice of mindfulness or calming activities, such as journaling, prayer, meditation, or even just five or 10 minutes of quiet with no phone or television.
- Incorporate a quick 10-minute walk after lunch or dinner to help stabilize your blood sugar.
I’ll admit it was a little hard at the airport, saying farewell to my daughter when she left for Spain. Although I realized that logically, she’d be back in four months, I also felt emotional in the moment.
Wearing the CGM has helped me be aware of these kinds of stressors, because ultimately, it can manifest as trauma living in the body. With or without a CGM, when you can begin to recognize triggers for your stress, you can develop a plan for mitigating the stress response—both in the moment and the next time a stressor rears its not-so-pretty head.
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