Preventing and Healing Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes affects approximately 3-5% of pregnant women. It is an extreme form of poor blood sugar control that usually occurs in the second half of pregnancy and disappears after birth. To understand gestational diabetes, it is important to understand the underlying mechanisms of the more typical forms of diabetes:
Diabetes is a disease in which the body either does not produce insulin or cannot properly use it. Insulin is responsible for controlling the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood as well as the rate that glucose is absorbed into cells to be used to make energy. Normally, when you consume any form of sugar (processed/packaged foods, baked goods, breads, sweets, even fruit), your pancreas releases insulin, which then then tells your cells to allow the sugar in to make energy. As sugar enters the cells, blood glucose levels return to normal and the release of insulin tapers off.
With gestational diabetes, you may experience one of the following:
Your body produces too much insulin – in which case blood sugar levels drop – causing irritability, fatigue and stimulant cravings (usually for sugary foods); or,
Your cells are resistant to the message from insulin – so glucose builds up in the blood instead of being taken into and used by the cells, and gets repackaged by the liver to be stored as fat.
In either case, your body is unable to maintain a constant energy level. Other symptoms include fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, nervousness, depression, excessive thirst, sweating, headaches, and digestive problems.
The risks of gestational diabetes extend to both mother and baby. The baby may grow to be bigger than normal, increasing the chances for a c-section delivery. The baby is also at greater risk of developing diabetes. Gestational diabetes can also be an early warning sign of mom developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The risks of diabetes include heart disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, and chronic infections.
Luckily, it is not difficult to naturally prevent gestational diabetes – or heal from it if you’ve already been diagnosed. Prevention is as simple as following the nutritional recommendations below. If you’ve already been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you can also refer to the supplement and herbal recommendations listed – all of which are safe to take during pregnancy.
Balancing blood sugar is first and foremost in both the prevention and healing of gestational diabetes. Protein and fats are your best friends here. In fact, every meal and snack should be accompanied by a protein and fat to slow the entry of glucose into your cells.
Healthy protein sources include organic/grass-fed meats, poultry, and eggs, nuts and seeds, as well as nut and seed butters.
Healthy fats include avocado, extra virgin organic olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, almond oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, nuts, seeds and their oils such as flax oil and hemp oil. Be sure to avoid harmful or damaged fats such as vegetable oils, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and trans-fats.
Avoid refined carbs (white and processed flours, baked goods, sweets) and refined or added sugars (packaged or processed goods); choose whole grains instead, such as brown rice, quinoa, or buckwheat.
Eat lots of fiber to slow the release of glucose into the blood. Great sources of fiber include vegetables, nuts and seeds, flax seeds and chia seeds, whole grains, and some fruits.
Foods that help stabilize blood sugar levels include spirulina, brewers yeast, berries, egg yolks, fish, garlic, kelp, sauerkraut, and veggies.
If you have already been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, please be sure to follow the nutritional recommendations above. Include one or two of the supplements listed below or see if you’re prenatal contains high enough amounts of the following, which can help to improve your condition:
Chromium – improves insulin efficiency, which lowers blood sugar levels. Try 400-600mcg/day.
Vitamin B complex – improves metabolism of glucose. Try 2-3 capsules of a good B complex daily.
Zinc – deficiency is associated with diabetes. Try 50-80mg/day.
CoQ10 – improves circulation and stabilizes blood sugar. Try 80mg/day.
Magnesium – increases energy levels, is involved in glucose metabolism, improves insulin response and action as well as glucose tolerance. Deficiency is also associated with diabetes. Try 400-500mg/day.
Fenugreek seeds – lower blood sugar levels. Try a fenugreek seed tea by bringing 1 tsp of seeds and 1 cup of water to a boil, then allow to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Enjoy up to 3 times daily.
Holy basil – normalizes blood sugar. Try holy basil tea by infusion up to three times per day.
Cinnamon – regulates blood sugar as well as cholesterol in diabetes. Try 1-2 tsp/day in capsule form.
While gestational diabetes can be a troublesome condition, it is easily preventable with proper nutrition. Adding supplementation and herbal remedies can provide natural healing remedies if you’ve already been diagnosed.