Once you have learned that you have gestational diabetes, it is up to you to handle your blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association states that there is no known cure for gestational diabetes, but that treating the condition is done in two ways: Diet and Exercise.
Even if you are required to monitor your glucose levels daily and administer insulin shots, you will still be asked to change your diet and increase your exercise level. (Always ask to alter your lifestyle and retest before accepting insulin shots.)
As a chiropractor, I have had the opportunity to discuss this topic in length with many clients. I’m going to break down my gestational diabetes diet and exercise recommendations into easy to manage ideas that you can incorporate into your daily life without feeling deprived, and at the same time lower your chances of having a c-section. Remember to consult your midwife or doctor before altering your lifestyle drastically.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) does not meet our nutritional needs. 6-11 servings of breads and grains per day? Are you kidding? That’s a diabetic’s nightmare. It’s easy to see just why so many people are experiencing conditions such as gestational diabetes. We are addicted to sugar and other foods that break down into sugar. We cannot let go of dairy or pesticide-sprayed gluten and wheat. We can’t put down the GMO-filled, processed products. But we are suffering. Not only are we suffering, but our children are too – even in utero.
You do not have to wait until the diagnosis has been handed to you before you change your diet. Ideally, you should alter and follow a healthier diet and lifestyle before you are pregnant, or at least once pregnancy is confirmed. But, if you are now wondering how to help manage your condition, then it is definitely time to reevaluate your diet:
DROP ALL PROCESSED FOODS. If it comes in a box or bag, drop it.
Stay away from sugar.
Eat every 2-3 hours – including a midnight snack. It is recommended to eat small meals every 2-3 hours so your body becomes used to regularly processing and absorbing nutrients, which helps to prevent the highs and lows of blood sugar levels that characterize diabetes.
Keep carbohydrates to a minimum and eat them in the middle of the day. Complex carbohydrates break down to more valuable forms of sugar that are harder to digest and have less of an impact on the insulin fluctuations in your body. Eliminating simple carbohydrates could help prevent or treat gestational diabetes.
Increase your protein. One of the important functions of protein is to help break down carbohydrates. Eating at least 85-120g of protein a day is essential for optimal pregnancy health and fetal development. If you are eating whole-food carbohydrate, pair it with protein. This will ease the digestive process and regulate your metabolism to only release or utilize the necessary amounts of insulin.
Follow the Brewer’s Pregnancy Diet or other high protein, low carbohydrate/sugar diet. This will give you a great way to track your food and influence your decisions.
Increase your fiber. Fiber can stimulate the activity of insulin receptors and can also inhibit the release of excess insulin into the bloodstream, helping to balance the levels of insulin and prevent the onset of diabetes.
Foods to include:
- Flaxseed (fiber)
- Brewer’s Yeast (natural chromium)
- Eggs (Free range, organic if possible – 1-2 each day): Eggs are high in choline, which helps promote baby’s growth and brain development.
- Whole Fat Yogurt (or greek yogurt): avoid added fruits and sugars
- Grass Fed Meat (local or organic if possible)
- Grass Fed Butter
- Wild Caught Fish (salmon especially): high in omega-3’s
- Tomatoes: The main antioxidant in tomatoes is Lycopene, which has been linked to the reduction of preeclampsia.
- Sweet Potatoes: Full of antioxidants, vitamins A, C and B6, folate and fiber
- Dark, Leafy Greens: Full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Spinach is also a great source of non-dairy calcium and fiber.
- Beans: Full of fiber, protein, folate, iron, calcium and zinc.
- Apples (Pair with a protein like peanut butter)
- Citrus Fruits
- Green Beans
- Chia Seeds
- Fats/Oils: animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, olives, avocados, fish oils, etc. should be high quality.
Note that some fruit and vegetables effect blood sugar levels more than others. For example, the following should be eaten with protein:
- Ripe Bananas
Foods to Avoid:
- White Foods – White potatoes, white rice, white bread, white pasta.
- Candy, Cookies, Cakes – Sweets in general.
- Processed Products: Processed, packaged, and most restaurant food quality is impossible to predict.
Supplements to Consider: (Again, talk to your doctor before adding or altering your diet or supplements.)
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Chromium – it is used up whenever sugar or flour is digested. It naturally runs low in the third trimester, but an unhealthy diet completely depletes it. (Some people have seen drastic results in their glucose numbers with two weeks of supplementing with chromium.)
- Inositol- studies show improved insulin sensitivity and decreased glucose levels with the use of inositol while pregnant.
- Dandelion Herb
- Astragalus – Research shows that astragalus (along with traditional treatments for gestational diabetes) is linked to significantly better blood sugar control and milder symptoms of gestational diabetes.
One hour of exercise each day, even broken into two 30 minute sessions is enough to help raise the heartrate for the body to manage weight gain, prevent or manage gestational diabetes, and help maintain a healthy pregnancy overall. While walking technically is exercise, you need to make sure that it is more than a leisurely stroll. The body doesn’t truly recognize your normal walking pace as needing an increased heartrate.
Great ways to exercise while pregnant:
- Continue your normal exercise routine, if you have been active.
- Enroll in prenatal classes, such as bootcamps, yoga, aerobics, or basic prenatal fitness.
- Walk farther and quicker than your leisurely pace, trying to break a small sweat.
- Elliptical or other stationary equipment
- Strength Training with or without weights
It is also worth northing that Berberine has been shown to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism in vitro.