Knowing when to test your glycemia isn’t a straightforward question. And you’ll see lots of different answers. Sometimes it feels like everybody does it differently and none of it makes sense.
The first thing to know is that your glycemia test gives you an idea of what your body is doing at a point in time. It doesn’t give you any idea about what it did before or after, and it certainly doesn’t give you an idea of what happens in the day. When my grandfather had diabetes in his old age (in his 90s), he was tested once a day in the morning by a nurse. That never made any sense to me. Depending on when you test, you’ll get wildly varying results. That’s because “when” is the wrong question. The right question is: “why”. “When” is a consequence of “why”.
The reason why you want to test your glycemia is to know where your body is at: is it processing glucose? Is it fasting? Are you hyper or hypo? Why are you hungry? Why are you feeling dizzy? Did you do enough exercise? Your glycemia might be the answer to all these questions.
From the start of my journey, I dismissed testing once a day as some people are told to do. Once a day wouldn’t tell me anything. From experience with my cat, I knew that my glycemia would vary along the day based on what I’d been doing. So I decided to test a lot. I was testing my cat 10-12 times a day, there was no reason why I wouldn’t do it to myself.
Then I wondered what I wanted to see through the test. I decided on the following:
- My fasting level. As diabetes is often defined as a range of glycemia for normals, I wanted to know where I was compared to it.
- I wanted to see the effect of my food intake. So I decided to test at least 1 hour and 2 hours after each meal.
- But I knew that I wouldn’t always start in the same state before meals. So I decided to test once before each meal as well to have a baseline.
- I also wanted to see the effect of exercise, so I decided to test before and after at least once.
- At the start I was also testing bedtime levels to see what was what before I slept. I stopped doing that one, it didn’t seem to tell me much.
So in the end, I test 12-13 times on a typical a day. I’m sure some people would find it crazy and unnecessary. But how else will you know that your lunch contained too much starch? Or how much exercise is enough to absorb the excess glucose?
Every day, I end up with a curve like below:
With time, as I started to know how my body reacted to various things, I started experimenting and tested even more on certain days. For example, on the day below I experimented with my wife’s diabetic-friendly lemon cake, cheesy cubes, and nuts to see what their effect would be if taken on their own (not as part of a meal). That told me what could be a reasonable snack (it turns out all of them).
To me you can’t test too often. The more you test, the more you’ll know and the more you’ll be able to make the right decisions.