Diabetes is not an easy-breezy subject. Many of us know someone who lives with the condition and about 10% of expectant mothers may be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It means you have abnormally high levels of sugar in your blood, which can be potentially dangerous to you and your baby. The placenta supports the baby as it grows. Hormones from the placenta help the baby develop. But these hormones also block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body. This often results in insulin resistance. Insulin resistance makes it hard for the mother’s body to use insulin.
When you eat, your digestive system breaks down most of your food into glucose. The glucose enters your bloodstream and then, with the help of insulin, is absorbed as fuel by your cells. If, however, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin—or your cells have a problem responding to it—that glucose remains in your blood instead of being converted to energy by your cells. The result is unusual fatigue (because the cells are being starved of energy), increased or rapid weight gain, and increased blood pressure, related to high levels of insulin in the bloodstream.
When you’re pregnant, hormonal changes can make your cells less responsive to insulin—meaning they need more of it. For most moms-to-be, this isn’t a problem: when the body needs additional insulin, the pancreas dutifully secretes it. But if your pancreas can’t keep up with the increased insulin demand, your blood glucose levels rise too high. The result is gestational diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone which is excreted by the pancreas and allows glucose to pass into cells to be utilized as fuel. Simple sugars are rapidly absorbed by the small intestine, and once they’re flowing into the bloodstream, the brain signals the pancreas to secrete insulin. Elevated insulin causes the body to burn sugar and store fat. Any fat contained in the meal as well as fat in the tissues is being stored when you eat a meal including processed foods and simple sugars. Insulin acts as the cell’s gatekeeper for blood sugar. Regular exercise burns blood sugar and fat, keeps the insulin levels low, and empties the muscles of stored glucose.
When you have a cookie, for instance, your blood is flooded with simple sugars. The pancreas reacts by secreting lots of insulin. You now have high insulin and high blood sugar, which your body perceives as “code red” and a potential threat to your health. Your body wants to dump the sugar ASAP, so it burns sugar, but not fat. Fat then gets stored. This is how mamas with gestational diabetes gain weight; and their little ones are often bigger in size as well. If you are managing gestational diabetes you should be working closely with a nutritionist, preferably a holistic-oriented one, who will address the underlying causes concerning diet and lifestyle. If you are diagnosed- do your best not to freak out, it isn’t the end of the world. It simply means that you have the opportunity to make profound lifestyle changes!
Blood Sugar- Balancing Glow Foods: Green leafy veggies, Quinoa, Beans, Legumes
The good news is you have some control over this condition. Our client Sarah was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during her fifth month of pregnancy. She was shocked, because she is such a healthy eater. Sarah kicked into high gear, reorienting her diet toward low-glycemic foods. She cut out rice and other starches, as well as fruit and dairy. When she returned to her doctor a few weeks later, she had completely reversed the condition.
3 Tips for managing gestational diabetes:
- Don’t skip meals. Be consistent about when you eat meals and the amount of food you eat at each one. Your blood sugar will remain more stable if your food is distributed evenly throughout the day— and consistently from day to day.
- Eat a good breakfast. Your blood glucose levels are the most erratic in the morning. To keep your levels in a healthy range, you must limit carbohydrates (breads, cereals, and fruits) and boost your protein (almond butter, Brazil nuts, and walnuts). Avoid fruit, dried fruit, and fruit juice altogether.
Boost your fiber. Include high-fiber foods in your diet throughout the day, including leafy green veggies, whole grains, hot cereals, and dried peas, beans, and legumes. These foods are broken down and absorbed more slowly than simple carbohydrates, which help keep your blood sugar levels in check after meals.