Gestational Diabetes, Part II – Jessica Zadeh, MS, CHC, HNC
Walking is shown to significantly reduce stress and blood pressure as well as low impact, muscle building activities like Yoga and Pilates, Barre workouts, swimming and hiking. Workouts that increase muscle mass and bone density help to stabilize blood sugar, cause insulin levels to drop and help the body to store less fat."
Previously we covered the current statistics around Gestational Diabetes (GD,) why it occurs and who specifically is at risk, now let’s discuss what to do about it!
Testing for Gestational Diabetes
It’s typical to wait until your 24th-28th week of pregnancy for the common “Glucose Challenge Test,” however, you can test your insulin levels earlier on in your pregnancy or even prior to conception as well!
The standard “Glucose Challenge Test,” the bright orange drink following a blood draw to gauge the body’s reaction to the sugar surge using a blood serum test, determining whether or not you meet the criteria for GD is what many are familiar with. What many don’t know is what exactly is in this drink! Glucola brand for instance, contains the following; Dextrose (from GMO corn), Sodium Benzoate, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Red #40, FD & C Yellow #6 artificial coloring, ‘Natural’ Flavors, Modified Food Starch, Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Brominated Soybean Oil. Research also found that most important is the introduction of 50 grams of sugar into the bloodstream, not necessarily the delivery route.
While it’s always best to refer back to your OB or Midwife, these are alternatives that deliver a similar amount of sugar into your bloodstream allowing the performance of the blood serum glucose test:
- 6 oz OJ and 1 Banana
- 16 oz OJ
- 12-15 dried Apricots or Dates
- 3 Tbsp Raw Honey
If you’d rather not consume this amount of sugar though, there are alternate modalities of testing like; continuous Blood Sugar Monitoring and Hemoglobin A1C testing which you may want to discuss with your provider.
What to Do if You Test Positive for Gestational Diabetes
If you’ve already been screened and diagnosed by your provider there are many ways in which you can improve your blood sugar levels. Here are my top tips for managing and even eliminating GD:
1. Test your Vitamin D levels!
Your body uses Vitamin D during pregnancy for the growth of baby’s skeleton. Evidence shows optimizing D levels can make an immense difference in blood sugar regulation. There are now studies finding that low D levels during pregnancy were associated with a higher risk for developing GD. Those with the lowest risk had blood serum levels between 40-90 ng/mL. Supplementing D has also proven the control of blood sugar, reduced serum insulin levels, improvement of blood lipids, reduction in LDL and improved HDL cholesterol and reduced triglycerides. Vitamin D improves these outcomes because it works directly on the pancreas to stimulate insulin production, making it more available to aid in transport of glucose in the bloodstream. Vitamin D can be tested via blood serum before and during pregnancy, even if not deficient, you may not be within the optimal range. Most prenatal supplements do contain Vitamin D, however, the American Pregnancy Society does recommend supplementing in addition as well. Ask your practitioner what your optimal levels are and what they recommend as far as supplementing.
2. Optimize your Diet!
We know that carbohydrates raise blood sugar levels, this doesn’t mean that you should restrict carbs or cut them out all together though. I do recommend is being “smart” with your carbs, meaning, always pair them with Protein and Fat. Proteins and Fats slow our digestion, when we pair carbs, protein and fats (as well as fiber,) it forces our body to take time digesting and not pump out as much insulin as quickly. Choose minimally processed and whole foods, aiming for the following portions; 1/2 your plate full of Proteins and healthy Fats, 1/4 plate full of healthful, complex carbs (including fruit) and the remaining 1/4 plate full of veggies. The following is a list of the top studied pregnancy “superfoods,” try and make sure these are a regular part of your daily diet while pregnant:
- Wild Caught Seafood
- Raw Nuts
- Greek Yogurt
- Flax Seeds
- Olive Oil
3. Exercise & Reduce Stress!
There’s a strong correlation between stress and blood sugar levels because stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, AKA, the “Fight or Flight” response. Once activated, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released causing your heart to race and blood sugar to increase in an effort to fuel muscles. This becomes an issue though when there is no fight, then we’re stuck with increased blood sugar and inflammation. Walking is shown to significantly reduce stress and blood pressure as well as low impact, muscle building activities like Yoga and Pilates, Barre workouts, swimming and hiking. Workouts that increase muscle mass and bone density help to stabilize blood sugar, cause insulin levels to drop and help the body to store less fat. Adding in daily Meditation has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, stress and aid in positive mood as well.
Sleep deprivation actually causes a decrease in the hormone leptin, AKA, the appetite controlling hormone. This can result in overeating which increases the risk for developing Gestational Diabetes.
Gestational Diabetes is most definitely something that we should work to prevent as well as continue to monitor in all prenatal patients and treat accordingly. By working together with your health care provider(s) as well as qualified nutritional professionals to create a plan specifically for you, you’ll find the right way to monitor and ensure that both your and your baby’s health is optimal and thriving throughout your whole pregnancy.
Jessica Zadeh is a Certified Nutritionist specializing in Prenatal and Women’s Nutrition working in private practice. Jessica works with prenatal clients throughout the US providing guidance and support to promote healthy weight gain in the expectant mother as well as adequate growth of the fetus, tailoring dietary advice and meal plans to help mothers to be deal with common symptoms of pregnancy like constipation, nausea, reflux, and nutrient deficiencies in a holistic and healthful way.
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