Who: Susan Bray, 56
Where: Trabuco Canyon, CA
Time with Levels: 1.5 years
Most Useful Takeaway: Despite knowing that starchy carbohydrates spiked her blood sugar, Susan was surprised to find that resistant starches did, too.
1. What was your health like before using Levels?
From the standpoint of Western medicine, I’m perfectly healthy. But in my assessment, there were many things I wanted to work on to improve my health. I’ve been health conscious my entire life, but I’ve gotten deeply into biohacking and functional medicine in the last three to five years. As a physical therapist, I run my own integrated wellness practice, Performance Enhancement, Inc.
What centered me was my father dying of Alzheimer’s disease. I decided that was not going to be my fate. So I did genetic testing, which confirmed my suspicions that I had genes making me more at risk for the disease. The more I looked into my health, the more I realized I also had to focus on my cardiovascular health; I have genetic high cholesterol. Though my homocysteine, inflammatory markers, triglycerides, and HDL are all in range, my LDL and Lp(a) cholesterol are not, and both can contribute to plaque buildup inside my arteries.
In the course of biohacking, I started doing Bulletproof coffee and intermittent fasting. I had my cholesterol retested after a year, and it was shocking that it went up 40 points after making that dietary change. That number was moving in the wrong direction. I realized I do not process saturated fat well, so I removed the saturated fat from my coffee and my diet in general, and I focused on sources of unsaturated fat, such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados.
2. What made you want to put a CGM on your arm?
My fasting glucose and A1c scores were higher than I wanted, and approaching prediabetes. I’ve also been trying to lose my pregnancy weight since I had my son 21 years ago. That made me think part of my weight loss struggles were due to possible insulin resistance. I do extensive testing on myself regularly to see what’s happening inside my body, including tests to rule out any serious issues. I was surprised to learn that I also had liver changes that were not optimal. At that point, I decided I had to get serious about managing my blood sugar.
3. What were some surprising learnings you discovered in how your body responds to food?
I came into Levels knowing that my body is highly sensitive to sugar. Starchy carbs and processed foods have never worked for me. But after using the Levels CGM, I learned that resistant starches also weren’t great for my blood sugar regulation. These are foods that I tell my patients about all the time—taking a potato or rice, cooking it, and reheating it can lead to a lower blood sugar response. Not for me. I still get a 70-point spike. It was good to discover that strategy is not something I can use.
I also found that I can affect my sugar response by hacking the order in which I eat my food. A local fish restaurant serves delicious freshly baked hot sourdough bread with butter. One evening, I started my meal with warm bread and butter, followed by my main course of fish and two sides of green vegetables. That caused a 70-point spike. The next time I went, I ordered the same thing. But I ate my vegetables first, followed by the fish, then bread and butter. The blood sugar spike was 10–15 points.
I pay attention to what my blood sugar increase looks like two or three hours after I eat. Sometimes, looking an hour after eating shows you’re doing okay, but then you see the spike two or three hours later. Everyone is different, so that’s the beauty of seeing your individual responses to food using a CGM. I use it to ensure I do not falsely believe I’m doing better than I really am.
4. Are there non-food factors that you notice impact your blood sugar?
Certain things impact my blood sugar because they change my eating behaviors during the day. For example, the other day, I didn’t eat as well because I was super tired. I didn’t feel like doing what I was supposed to do. So, I ate asparagus ravioli.
I also like to sit in the infrared sauna, which spikes my blood sugar. The other day, my blood sugar was 138 mg/dL after the sweat. That’s okay with me. The sauna is a hormetic stress, which is a good thing. I also do cold therapy, another “good” type of stress. I don’t freak out about my blood sugar response to any of that since I’m using these short bursts of stressors to create healing.
5. What are your health goals for the future? How does the CGM fit into that?
I’m trying to find the ideal eating plan for me. What does intermittent fasting versus three meals/day look like for me? What specific types of food or food combinations work the best for me? I’m currently eating a combination of Paleo-Keto-Mediterranean diets and watching and feeling how my body responds to these foods.
I’m also encouraging my patients to use a CGM, so I can help them individualize their diet. It can take me about 10 times telling someone before they order it. But this is a brilliant technology that can help people change their habits. Since 88% of Americans are metabolically unhealthy, there’s probably not a person alive who won’t benefit from wearing it and learning about how their food and diet affect their health and wellness.