Prevent & Treat Gestational Diabetes With Food & Supplements

Pregnant women in the U.S. are at an extremely high risk of developing gestational diabetes, a form of insulin resistance that affects up to 10% of pregnant women.

Gestational diabetes is a condition brought about by high blood glucose levels that remain high during pregnancy. The health of the mother as well as the development of the fetus can be adversely affected by this form of diabetes. Although it seems as if the pregnancy causes the diabetic response in some women, there have been studies done which show some may have been predisposed to diabetes as they develop type 2 diabetes later on in life. 

Some of the Symptoms:

Increased thirst
Increased urination
Weight loss in spite of weight gain
Nausea and vomit
Frequent infection including those of bladder, vaginal or skin.
Blurred vision

How does having gestational diabetes affect my pregnancy & my newborn?

These days, most women who develop diabetes during pregnancy go on to have healthy babies. Your practitioner will monitor you closely and you'll most likely be able to keep your blood sugar levels under control with strict diet and exercise. But poorly controlled diabetes can have serious consequences for you and your baby.

For most women with gestational diabetes, the main worry is that too much glucose will end up in the baby's blood. When that happens, your baby's pancreas needs to produce more insulin to process the extra glucose. All this excess blood sugar and insulin can cause your baby to make more fat and put on extra weight, particularly in the upper body.

This can lead to what's called macrosomia. A macrosomic baby may be too large to enter the birth canal. Or the baby's head may enter the canal but then the shoulders get stuck. In this situation, called shoulder dystocia, your practitioner and his or her assistants will have to use special maneuvers to deliver your baby. Delivery can sometimes result in a fractured bone or nerve damage, both of which heal without permanent problems in nearly 99 percent of babies. (In very rare cases, the baby may suffer brain damage from lack of oxygen during this process.) What's more, the maneuvers needed to deliver a broad-shouldered baby can lead to injuries to the vaginal area or require a large episiotomy for you.

Because of these risks, if your practitioner suspects that your baby may be overly large, he or she may recommend delivering by cesarean section. Fortunately, only a minority of women with well-controlled gestational diabetes end up with overly large babies.

Shortly after delivery, your baby may also have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) because the baby's body will still be producing extra insulin in response to receiving extra glucose from you. Your delivery team will test your baby's blood sugar at birth by taking a drop of blood from the heel. If it's low, you'll want to feed the baby as soon as possible.

Your baby may also be at somewhat higher risk for jaundice, polycythemia (an increase in the number of red cells in the blood), diabetes, and hypocalcemia (low calcium in the blood). If your blood sugar control is especially poor, your baby's heart function could be affected. Some studies have found a link between severe gestational diabetes and an increased risk for stillbirth in the last two months of pregnancy. And finally, having gestational diabetes makes you about twice as likely to develop preeclampsia as other pregnant women.

Will I continue to have diabetes after my baby is born?

Probably not. Only a small percentage of women with gestational diabetes remain diabetic after delivery, and experts suspect that most of these women actually had undiagnosed diabetes before they got pregnant. To be sure, you'll need to have a glucose test about six to 12 weeks after delivery. This test requires an overnight fast and can be done at your six-week postpartum visit.

Does having gestational diabetes put me at higher risk for diabetes in the future?

Yes. About two-thirds of women who have the condition will go on to have it in future pregnancies. And a few studies have found that about 50 percent of women who get gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within the first five years after delivery. Your risk is highest if any of the following apply to you:

-You're obese.
-You had very high blood sugar levels during pregnancy (especially if you needed insulin).
-Your diabetes was diagnosed early in your pregnancy.
-The results of your postpartum glucose test were borderline (that is, they were relatively high, but not high enough to classify you as a diabetic).

Your practitioner will let you know how often you'll need your blood sugar tested, usually every one to three years if the results of your postpartum test are normal. Keeping your weight down, making healthy food choices, and exercising regularly can help you ward off the disease. You may also want to avoid using the progestin-only Pill for contraception after you have your baby. In women with recent gestational diabetes, it has been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Your child will also have a higher likelihood of childhood and adult obesity, and of developing diabetes. It's important to help your child eat a good diet, maintain a normal weight, and stay physically active. Be sure your child's healthcare practitioner knows that you had diabetes during pregnancy.

Gestational Diabetes Eating Plan

The good news is that gestational diabetes is relatively easy to eliminate.
Along with changes in eating and becoming more active, certain supplements can help to control the blood sugar fluctuations of people with gestational diabetes.
  • Focus on nutritional value. Eliminate foods that do not offer the vitamins and minerals necessary for making a healthy baby.
  • Eliminate simple sugars and simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates and sugar are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to rise very quickly, and placing a burden on the pancreas. It is better to eat complex carbohydrates (which have fiber) that are absorbed more slowly.
  • Incorporate food variety. Make sure to eat a variety of foods throughout the day. Get some protein at every meal and balance it with a wide variety of colorful vegetables and small amounts of complex carbohydrates. Eat fruit in small amounts. Fruit juice contains concentrated sugar and is best avoided.
  • Eat high fiber foods. These include vegetables, beans, whole grains, and some fruit. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
  • Eliminate sweets. Sweets cause rapid increases in blood sugar levels. Avoid artificial sweeteners, which have an unknown effect on the brains of developing babies. After 4 to 7 days of not eating sugar, cravings for sweets usually diminish.
  • Get into an exercise routine. During pregnancy, it is important to obtain permission from a doctor before exercising. Gentle to moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day decreases blood sugar levels and is tolerated well by most women.
  • Eat high protein for breakfast. Be sure to especially have a low sugar/glycemic and high protein breakfast. 
POOR FOOD CHOICES (high sugar/carb content, high glycemic-index choices):
white flour (bread, crackers)
white pasta/rice
potatoes and corn
cow’s milk
fried foods
refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils
citrus fruits, figs/dates, raisins, mangoes (any high-glycemic fruit)
refined sugar, sweets of any kind
dried fruit
honey, jams, jellies

Lemons, Garlic, Broccoli, Oatmeal, Protein foods, Flaxseeds, Green beans, Brussel sprouts, coconut oil, and Lentils. Eat whole, organic and unprocessed foods.

Heal Gestational Diabetes

Most women with gestational diabetes, just like those without diabetes, have a desire for something sweet in their diet. In pregnant women, sugar is rapidly absorbed into the blood and requires a larger release of insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Without the larger release of insulin, blood sugar levels will increase excessively when you eat sugar-containing foods. There are many forms of sugar such as table sugar, honey, brown sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, turbinado sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and molasses. Generally, food that ends in "-ose" is a sugar (e.g., sucrose, dextrose, and glucose).

Foods that usually contain high amounts of sugar include pies, cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy, soft drinks, fruit drinks, fruit packed in syrup, commercially fruited yogurt, jams, jelly, doughnuts, and sweet rolls. Many of these foods are high in fat as well. Be sure to check the list of ingredients on food products. If some type of sugar is listed first, second, or third on the list of ingredients, the product should be avoided. If sugar is further down, fourth, fifth, or sixth, it probably will not cause your blood sugar levels to go up excessively. Fruit juices should be eliminated. Use only whole fruit for snacks.

A study by the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, a department of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, determined that cinnamon bark is a highly effective treatment for insulin resistance, capable of maintaining a healthy balance of blood sugar. One carefully controlled study even determined that insulin production increases sevenfold when people with diabetes are given cinnamon. It also helps to balance cholesterol and fatty acid absorption, which are critically important for pregnant women to manage.

There are no known negative effects of taking cinnamon at any stage in life, although a few obstetricians believe that in very large doses, it might contribute to preterm labor. When consumed in food or within supplement guidelines, it is not known to cause any problems for pregnant women or fetuses.

Even clinics and physicians who do not ordinarily support complementary alternative therapies are turning to Alpha-Lipoic Acid (often abbreviated to ALA) for relief of many symptoms associated with all forms of diabetes. While its use had been previously backed by many studies, it was definitively determined to be safe and effective by an advanced, placebo-controlled study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in 2003. It has been found to be very useful at relieving the feelings of numbness and tingling known as diabetic neuropathy, and is capable of lowering blood-glucose levels after meals.

Alpha lipoic acid, which is one of the world's most powerful antioxidants, has never been shown to cause complications of any kind. There are no reports of it harming a pregnant woman or her fetus, but it is believed to control many of the harmful symptoms of gestational diabetes.

Chromium is an important trace mineral involved in the transportation of insulin to all tissues in the body, including the brain and the uterus. Accumulated evidence suggests that a glucose intolerance or insulin resistant state can develop with chromium deficiency. A number of studies have found a deficiency in hair chromium in pregnant women compared to nonpregnant women. The authors randomized 24 women with gestational diabetes to receive either chromium picolinate (4 mcg/kg) or placebo for eight weeks. The women receiving the chromium had significantly lower fasting glucose and insulin levels and significantly lower peak glucose and insulin in response to a 100 g oral glucose load compared to the placebo group.

A 2001 article published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research concluded, based on a series of double-blind studies, that chromium supplementation is very effective at enabling the body to transport insulin and control blood-glucose levels, and many previous studies have drawn similar conclusions.

A 1997 study involving 180 type II diabetes patients in China, is a classic: it documented “spectacular” results in diabetes patients who took 500 mcg chromium picolinate twice daily. After four months, nearly all of the diabetes patients no longer had traditional signs of diabetes. Their blood sugar and insulin levels dropped to near normal—something that medications could not achieve. Even more importantly, the “gold standard” diagnostic measure of diabetes—blood levels of hemoglobin A1c (sugar-damaged proteins that age cells)—also dropped to normal.

Chromium is not believed to be toxic at any level in humans, including pregnant humans, and there have been no adverse effects of a mother or fetus reported. One study even found that most pregnant women have depleted levels of chromium in their blood streams, which may be a contributing cause of gestational diabetes.

Running low on vitamin D may raise your risk of gestational diabetes, according to a 2008 study of 171 pregnant women (including 57 with gestational diabetes). Among those who developed gestational diabetes, vitamin D levels were significantly lower (compared to study members who were free of gestational diabetes). Wikipedia states,

"The cause [of gestational diabetes] is believed to be due to deficiency in Vitamin D." Link

Read this Clinical Trial which basically states that certain prenatal vitamins may raise blood sugar levels in women with gestational diabetes. A prenatal vitamin is recommended but choose one that won't raise your blood sugar. A few quality ones are: Garden of Life Raw Prenatal, New Chapter Perfect Prenantal and Megafoods Baby & Me. All of these are whole food multivitamins.

Studies have found that vitamin B6 supplementation can improve glucose tolerance in women with gestational diabetes. It is important not to supplement vitamin B6 until the second trimester, a time when prolactin has reached a sufficient blood level so that supplemental vitamin B6 will not severely suppress prolactin secretion.
Foods Rich in B6: Banana, Avocado, Bell peppers, Garlic, Spinach, Celery, Cabbage, Crimini mushrooms, Asparagus, Broccoli, Kale, Brussel sprouts, Turnip greens and Cauliflower.

Garlic is another natural way to fight gestational diabetes. It can help regulate glucose levels in the body while also improving blood circulation. Fresh garlic cloves can be added to your normal cooking. You can reap the same benefits by taking a garlic capsule. Garlic capsules are available in most health food stores.

A study, done by researchers at UCSF (University of California - San Francisco), found that a chemical called serotonin influences the onset of gestational diabetes in an expectant mother. Since serotonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan which is found abundantly in high-protein foods, eating foods rich in protein, especially during early pregnancy, may prevent gestational diabetes in pregnant women.

The research indicates that anything that affects the production of serotonin, such as drugs, diet or genetic inheritance may affect the risk of developing gestational diabetes and possibly the long-term risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Other supplements to consider: vitamin B12, Magnesium and Potassium

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