Know your Gut Biome, with Blood Glucose Monitoring

woman holding a donut and a blood glucose meter

Blood Glucose Monitoring to Understand Your Gut Biome

We’re just now starting to dive into the gut biome and we’re realizing all kinds of wonderful things that our flora is doing for us. We’re also starting to realize how individualized our flora is. It may explain a phenomenon we all experience every day. Have you ever had a friend that could eat anything they want, and never gain a pound, whereas if you just smell a juicy piece of chicken, just the aromas can pack on the fat?

It seems unfair and we usually blame it on metabolism, but that may only be part of the picture. The bacteria in our bellies may have a large influence how much of a blood sugar spike various foods cause.
If we could somehow figure out which foods caused our system to go into crazy fat packing mode, we could have a much more targeted diet. We possibly wouldn’t have to give up so many of the things that we love, just a select few that we knew were our kryptonite.

Perhaps There is a Way

Turns out some researchers in Isreal wanted to know if there really was much a difference in the effects of various foods across a set of individuals? Because if there isn’t much of a difference then we would be advised to stick to the generic diet guidelines that we’ve been failing to adhere to for years.

So they continually monitored the blood glucose of 800 different people for a week and watched the reading for various foods. After they compiled the data, it turns out that in fact there was a dramatic difference in individuals reactions to various foods. Basically, what causes spikes in one individual doesn’t affect another much at all.

This is really good news, for those that have been struggling with their weight for years. Now we know that we can run some diagnostics on ourselves and get a very targeted blueprint for what foods we should stay away from and foods that we can enjoy (even in moderate excess).

How Do We Test on Our Own Biome?

Buy a Blood Glucose Monitor

Well first things first, you’ll need to get your hands on a blood glucose monitoring tool of some kind.
There are bunches of them at various online dealers and they’re definitely cheaper than a few weeks of weight watchers.

Keep a Food Log

While you’re waiting on that to arrive, you should start keeping a log of the food you eat over the next week. Try and make a list of all the unique items that you typically consume. This is a great thing to do for several reasons. It first helps you to create a list of foods you’ll want to test against your biome and it also helps you to be cognizant of the foods you eat. You really want to get a real world sample of what your diet is like so you’re more likely to test all the foods you typically consume.

Data Tracking Tools

Once you’ve got your food list and your blood glucose monitor handy.
There are a few strategies here and a multitude of testing you can do. Now that you’ve got the tools handy, it’s time to gather some information.

You’re going to need to find a medium for entering and storing your data. I think these days the easiest way to do it, is to get a good ‘blood glucose tracking’ app. There are dozens out there, ¬†one that fits the needs for this particular data set is ‘BG Monitor’. It’s got a dead simple interface and allows you to enter everything you need and gives you a visual graph of the data so you can see where you’ve got the largest spikes and can start to deduce which foods are causing the biggest issues for you.

Gather Data

Welcome to the world of being a diabetic, at least it’s only temporary for most of you.

There are a few approaches you can take to this… I think the least cumbersome is to simply take a picture of the food you’re about to consume. Then record your blood glucose before eating and between 1 and 2 hours after eating. This will give you the minimum data you need to start making some decisions.

The effort to gather this data is non-trivial and requires a bit of fortitude. Thusly, you should try and make the most of your efforts by taking good notes about other related factors as well. Here is a list of things to consider when you are in the data gathering at this stage.

Types of foods:
There are 3 components to foods, that everyone knows about:
  1. Carbohydrates
    Most BG monitors are only concerned about your carb levels, as those are known to have the most profound effect on your glucose levels. Carbs are probably the component of your diet you want to monitor the most closely. Remember, all carbs are not created equal. There are a variety of carbs: simple, complex starches and complex fibrous and all can affect your BG levels quite differently. In fact, this may be one of the biggest variations that you’ll see among individuals with varying gut biomes. How the flora in your system reacts to different kinds of carbs, could give you a lot of evidence as to which foods you react well with and which you should avoid.

    Many processed foods have hidden carbs as well, so be sure to check the packaging. I LOVE fried chicken and it would be highly ignorant to assume because it’s mostly meat that a number of carbs are negligible; those carbs matter.

    Typically carbs are the only thing that is tracked when monitoring blood glucose levels. However, for the purposes of gathering individualized data, it would be a big mistake to ignore other food components like Fats and Carbs.

  2. Fats
    Often ignored by blood glucose monitoring tools, because of their perceived unimportance in relation to blood glucose monitoring. However, there are a lot of complex reactions in the gut biome, and disregarding fats can be a big mistake. High-fat meals may cause a slow and steady increase in blood glucose over a period of few hours.
  3. Proteins
    Also typically ignored by blood glucose monitoring advocates, because they typically don’t produce spikes in BG levels. Proteins, however, like fats, need to be considered as they take the digestive system considerably longer to break down and can cause a gradual increase in BG levels over a period of time.

 

Variations in Blood Glucose Levels
  • Sleep
    Even moderate sleep deprivation can have a significant effect on BG levels.
  • Exercise
    Keep track of duration and intensity (different intensities can elicit different responses)
  • Stress
    Stress can cause an adrenal response which produces higher glucose
  • Medications
    Three things to pay attention to here (Dose, Timing and Interactions)
  • Dawn Phenomenon
    With a lot of individuals their glucose levels are higher in the morning, due to hormonal production changes.
  • Altitude
    This may affect your numbers, if you’re changing altitudes, keep this in mind.
  • Smoking
    Smoking can affect your insulin levels, which in turn affects your BG numbers.
  • Alcohol
    alcohol typically decreases BG levels because the liver is working to break it down, however, depending on what if it’s mixed with sugary mixers (Coke, Orange Juice) then that can actually cause a rise in blood glucose levels. Beers/Wines versus harder liquors is another thing you may want to examine as well. Especially if you’re a frequent drinker.
  • Caffeine
    typically caffeine seems to increase blood glucose levels for most people.
  • Periods (Menstruation)
    Seems to be a lojjt of anecdotal evidence, but nothing conclusive. However, the general consensus is that blood sugar is higher leading up to menstruation and then rapidly declines after.
  • Time of Day
    studies are showing that gut biomes have their own biological clocks and they react differently to meals at various times throughout the day. You may find larger than expected variations of similar meals at different times.

 

Evaluating Your Results

After you’ve been at this for a few days or a week you can begin to review the graphs and look for trends. Then based on the trends, you can do more isolated testing. Here are some questions you should examine when evaluating your data.

  • Which foods caused the biggest spikes?
  • What (time of the day/days of the week) are you seeing larger variations?
  • What impact does exercise have?
  • How much of an impact do alcohol and tobacco have?
  • Do my meds affect my levels?
  • What role does stress play?
  • Does sleep deprivation have any affect?
  • Were there any noticeable variations based on my medications?

 

Further Testing

Depending on how deep you want to take this, you can start to identify some of the above items and then you can do some more detailed testing.

  • Isolate specific foods
    Try eating the same meals at different times, exercise at different times of the day at various intensity levels.
    If you are noticing certain meals that have the same foods that are causing dramatic spikes in your blood pressure. Simply have a meal of only that food, and see if you can reproduce the effect. A combination of foods may cause spikes as well, so you made to isolate one or a combination of a couple offending foods.
  • Isolate times of the day
    Try eating the same meal at different times in the day to see how your body reacts. This could give you a better idea of what foods you should be consuming for your regular meals. Also, looking at data for different days of the week may give you some information as well. For example if you have a M-F job, your stress level on weekends may be considerably lower on Saturday and Sundays. Also, generally people get more sleep on weekends as well. There is some definitely some interesting data points to consider when comparing days of the week.
  • Isolating the effects of exercise
    Try measuring your levels before and after exercise.
    For more accurate assessments, take measurements based on different kinds of exercise. A good data point would be to take measurements after aerobic exercise (jogging/swimming/hiking) versus anaerobic exercise (weight lifting/HIIT/sprinting).
    You may be surprised to see how your body reacts. Also, another interesting data point would be seeing your BG levels when eating meals before and after exercise as well.
  • Isolating your vices
    If you partake in any substance with much regularity, (Alcohol, Coffee/Tea, Tobacco, Marijuana) then you should see what affects that has on your levels.

Further Thoughts

Another data point to consider, while you’re taking your blood glucose measurements is to periodically check your blood pressure. Blood pressure only takes a few minutes to measure and since you’re already taking copious notes, it would be useful in understanding the effects of various environmental forces on your blood pressure readings. Knowing your blood pressure is hugely important in understanding your overall health and is highly recommended.

If you’re looking to make some lifestyle changes, one of the more simple changes that can give you a lot of benefits for minimal effort, is to adopt a Ketogenic diet.

 

What’s are some foods that suprised you that spiked your blood glucose levels?

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