Thursday, June 2, 2011

10 Tips to Control Gestational Diabetes without Medication

Update: When I wrote this post, I was thinking that I was going to be put on insulin. However, by the grace and goodness of God, I ended up making it full term without insulin and had a beautiful waterbirth!


I've been debating whether to write this post or not.

The status of my Gestational Diabetes has changed. The last 3 weeks, I've been unable to manage it on my own with diet & exercise. The first week, I had 5 high readings. The 2nd week, another 5 high readings. This past week, I had 6 high readings. It's not because I've changed anything I've done. It's because your hormones in pregnancy change, throwing everything off, including your Gestational Diabetes numbers sometimes. 

Due to the recent 3 weeks numbers, my Endocrinologist will be putting me on either medication or insulin. This means I need to find an OBGYN & possibly switch hospitals. It also means my plans for a waterbirth are out. While I'm disappointed, I know there was nothing more I could've done. And as the Diabetes Educator said, "You are doing more than most people. In fact, you could probably write a book about the subject." 

So, that leads me here. Writing this post, in hopes of inspiring others to at least TRY to beat their Gestational Diabetes without medication. I managed mine with these tips for 33 weeks and no medication!

Before we begin, I must write a disclaimer: I am not a professional. I have no health degree and am not a dietician. These are simply things that I researched and tried on my own and had some success with. Always speak with your Endocrinologist or Diabetes Educators before beginning or changing what you're doing.

Tip #1: Don't be so hard on yourself.
I'm starting with this tip, because it's the one I've had the hardest time with. I kept thinking that my Gestational Diabetes was due to something I was or wasn't doing. That is simply untrue. As you'll see in my further tips, I literally did everything I could and I still ended up with it and still will end up on medication/insulin. Sometimes our bodies just have a mind of their own. The constant change of hormones can mess with your body big time!

Also, a lot of what I'm sharing with you, I've done slowly over the past 8 months. I didn't just change everything at once. So, give yourself some grace.

Tip #2: Keep breakfast simple.
I eat the same thing for breakfast every single day with a few variations here and there. The only carb that I consume is in my whey protein and a glass of organic whole milk. 

Here's my recipe:

Breakfast Protein Shake
1 cup organic whole Milk
1 T Nut Butter of choice (avoid one's w/added sugars)
1 tsp Coconut Oil

Sometimes I'll vary it up and instead of having a nut butter in my shake, I'll eat a scrambled or hard-boiled egg. But, I usually stick to this pretty tightly.

AVOID: fruit & high glycemic vegetables. The blood sugar naturally rises in the morning, so fruit & high glycemic vegetables tend to put your blood sugar numbers above where you want them.

Tip #3: Eat every TWO hours.
Originally, my Diabetes Educators told me to eat every 2-3 hours, but I was finding that the further into the pregnancy I got, the more high readings I'd have if I waited every 3 hours. But every TWO hours, and my numbers would be fine. I know it can be a pain and yes, you do feel like a stuffed pig, but I literally set the timer on my phone for every 2 hours. I always have little snacks in my purse that I can eat, so if we are on the go, I have no excuse.

Here are my typical eating times:
Breakfast - 8:30 a.m.
Snack - 10:30 a.m.
Lunch - between 12:30 p.m. & 1:00 p.m.
Snack - 3:00 p.m.
Dinner - between 5:30 p.m. & 6:00 p.m.
Snack - between 8:00 p.m. & 8:30 p.m.  
Snack - between 10:30 p.m. & 6:30 a.m.

Tip #4: Protein is your friend.
If you're eating every 2 hours, you're consuming quite a few snacks throughout the day. Your snack should always be made up of a carb serving or two (15-30 grams) paired with a protein. Protein helps you break down the carbs easier. I found that having 2 carb servings was too many for me, so pairing a carb with a protein still gives me the calories, without the extra carbs.

1 small apple + 1 T peanut butter
1/2 c grapes + 1 string cheese stick
2 T raisins + 1/4 c nuts
1/2 banana + 1 T almond butter

My middle of the night snack, I either eat right before I go to bed (if I'm going to bed around 10:30 p.m. or later) or I eat it at one of the times that I get up in the night to use the bathroom (usually only if I'm going to bed later than 10:30 p.m.). This snack is always the same & looks vaguely familiar to breakfast!

1 cup organic whole Milk

For some reason, having a glass of milk before bed helps keep you from forming ketones during the night. However, I've heard that people then tend to have a higher fasting blood sugar reading. So, I add the protein to add calories to my diet and to help break that milk down a little easier throughout the night. It seems to help! My ketones have been great and my morning blood sugars are usually well under what they should be.

Tip #5: Only eat whole food carbs.
I don't eat hardly any packaged foods, processed foods or restaurant foods. Most of those foods are hard to control your blood sugar with, because there's so many additives and things that you can't possibly know how it will effect your blood sugar until it's too late. 

When you know that you'll be out of town or in the car all day, pack all your food for the day in a cooler & bring it with you. No excuses!

For carb choices, stick with the following options.
  • Kefier, organic
  • Milk, organic
  • Yogurt, organic
  • Artichokes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Jicama
  • Kohlrabi
  • Okra
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin
  • Rutabega
  • Squash, all types
  • Turnip
  • Zucchini
  • Parsnip*
  • Potatoes, organic*
  • Sweet Potatoes*
  • Yam*
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Whole Fruit
  • Rice (Brown, Wild)
  • Buckwheat*
  • Millet*
  • Oats*
  • Quinoa*
  • Spelt*
  • Sprouted Wheat*
*I've had some trouble, at times, with regulating my blood sugar eating these items. Every body is different and reacts differently to different foods, so try them out and see how your body reacts. 

Tip #6: Fashion your lunch & dinners with a variety of carb choices.
If I try to eat 2 servings of ANY carb at lunch or dinner, my blood sugar is done for. So, I started using the following formula when creating my dinner & lunches.

1 CARB (15 grams) from the list in Tip #5
1 FRUIT (amount varies by fruit choice)
1 c organic Whole Milk
1-2 servings low-glycemic vegetables (those not listed in Tip #5)
2-3 oz meat or protein substitute
0-1 FAT choices

I also start by eating this list backwards, meaning, I eat my protein first, vegetables second, and carbs last (with the exception of milk, which I drink throughout the meal). Eating the protein and vegetables first helps your body break down the carb choices at a slower rate. It also fills you up fast, so if don't have room to finish all your food, it's the carbs that won't get eaten, instead of the good protein and veggies that you need to process the carbs properly.

I also usually save my fruit for last. When you're Gestational Diabetic, you don't get to have the luxury of desserts. So, I've learned to enjoy my fruit as my dessert! And sometimes I get creative, like my Berries 'n Cream recipe.

An important note: You'll notice that I only eat 3 carb choices at my main meals. This is because my body can't handle the recommended 4 carbs in one sitting. This, of course, depletes calories that are needed in the diet. So, to make up for it, I add in a 2nd bedtime snack. (See Tip #3)

Tip #7: Meat is your friend.
I've been a vegetarian for the last almost year, so when my Kinesiologist recommended that I add in meat to help with my blood sugars, I was VERY resistant. Now we eat meat quite a few times a week, but we only consume grass-fed, hormone-free meats. I'm still not the biggest fan, but I have noticed that when I primarily eat vegetarian, I tend to have more high readings

Tip #8: Go for a walk.
If you aren't already (which you probably are) make sure you are writing down what time you eat, what you eat, how much you are eating & when/how long you're exercising along with the type of exercise. And never skip taking a blood sugar reading. This little log is your saving grace. 

You will be able to look back and notice patterns. For instance, I was having a lot of high readings and when I went back through to look and see if there was anything that I could contribute it to, I discovered that there was! I was eating potatoes at those meals. So, this taught me that I needed to cut out potatoes. Or eat less of them. Or don't eat them at that meal time.

Another pattern you can start looking for is if your high's are at any given meal time. For instance, a lot of my high's are after eating dinner. Now knowing this, I add in a 5-20 minutes walk after my dinner meal. It works like clockwork! And yes, even a 5-minute walk can make a big difference in your blood sugar.

Tip #9: Avoid ALL forms of sugar.
I know you don't want to hear this one. I know I didn't want to hear this one. I was a "natural sugar" addict! It was okay that I was consuming sugar at almost every snack/meal because it was "natural"; you know, things like honey, sucanat, pure maple syrup, etc. I was in complete denial that sugar and diabetes were at all related. 

Finally, I decided it was time to listen to everyone and give it up already. I gave up ALL sugars, cold turkey! My body didn't respond well - I got headaches and had some trouble with just overall adjustment. BUT...there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It's true what they say, the sugar cravings disappear! And it gets easier and easier to say "no" to sugar each time you do it.

If you are Gestational Diabetic, your body does NOT know what to do with sugar. It's a foreign substance. You simply can not eat the stuff, unless you want to be very sick and you want your baby's body to be very sick, too. Every time you see a high reading, your pancreas goes into overdrive, trying to make enough insulin. Guess what it's doing to your baby's pancreas? Same thing. This information is not given to make you feel guilty, but to let you know the cold hard facts. It is SO important for you to get control of your Gestational Diabetes if for no other reason.

Don't worry, there are acceptable substitutes for diabetics. The ONLY sugar substitutes that I consume are stevia, agave nectar and whole fruit (no fruit juice or fruit concentrate). Stevia comes in a powder form and a liquid form. And agave nectar comes in liquid form. Both of these can be successfully substituted into almost any recipe.

Be careful with the agave nectar, because 1 T = 1 serving of carbs. Stevia has 0 carbs.

Tip #10: Don't quit.
Don't work so hard while you're pregnant, only to go back to your old ways once you have the baby. 

Does this mean I'll never eat another donut? Of course not. But, it will be VERY few & far between and I'll probably eat 1/2 the donut, instead of the whole donut (or a couple donuts). And I won't be consuming sugar by the truckload anymore. I'll only eat sugar or carbs on things I really want and only in small portions. 

Remember that if you have Gestational Diabetes, your chances of developing Type II diabetes is greater. It's better to make a life change and prevent the disease altogether.