We want to remove the notion of guilt right off the bat - gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) can happen to any pregnant person. Due to complex pathophysiological systems at play in pregnancy, that can cause insulin resistance among other things, sometimes gestational diabetes cannot be avoided. But today’s podcast, featuring Noelle Martin, RD, maternal dietician and co-founder of Nourished Beginnings, will provide you with a bunch of tips & tricks for managing your blood sugar levels confidently!
Gestational diabetes occurs due to something called insulin resistance. It means that your body is still making insulin, but your cells can’t use it. The body undergoes a lot of hormonal shifts during pregnancy, due to the presence of the placenta among other things, that cause it to handle carbohydrates differently, especially in the second trimester. Stress can also spike blood sugar levels. If you’ve tested positive for gestational diabetes, health practitioners will often first try to address dietary and lifestyle changes, but some people do end up needing insulin as well.
From a dietary perspective, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your body requires a good balance of carbohydrates throughout the day. Carbohydrates themselves are not off limits (in fact, you and baby need them)!
There are different types of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are more quick acting, and the body takes less time to break-down them down, like taking apart two simple lego pieces. Complex carbohydrates are longer-acting, taking more time to be broken down, like taking apart a multiple piece lego set!
Throughout the day, we want a nice combination of longer and shorter acting carbohydrates so the body doesn't feel overwhelmed at any time with too much. Much like it is easier to climb several smaller hills than one extremely large mountain, your body does a better job managing your blood sugar levels when they are released in a more balanced way throughout the day.
As human beings, we are most insulin resistant in the morning. That is why starting the day with a good long-acting carbohydrate is essential.
A whole grain (gluten-free or gluten containing) balanced with a protein.
Mid-Morning / Mid-Afternoon Snack
Lunch / Dinner
For lunch and dinner, an easy guide is the visual of a plate. Aim for your plate to be half covered in brightly colored vegetables. One quarter of the plate should contain a whole grain (gluten-free or not), and the remaining quarter, a protein.
Going for a little walk after meals balances your blood sugars and allows for your body to use up any sugars that you’ve taken in almost immediately. If possible, a few shorter walks throughout the day, instead of one long one, is recommended. It's also really important to note here that with any diabetes, low blood sugars can happen and with gestational diabetes, that poses a risk to both mom and baby. We recommend taking your blood sugar reading before you head out for activity to make sure that it is on the relatively higher side before you start being active.
If your doctor recommends taking insulin, the most important thing is to continue to eat the same balanced diet described above of carbohydrates and leafy vegetables proteins. You do not have to learn a whole other way to nourish yourself, or start restricting food - eat a normal, balanced diet and you can adjust your insulin based on what you intake.
Keep in mind that gestational diabetes is usually diagnosed at around 26-28 weeks, and once the baby and placenta are delivered, your blood sugar levels will return to normal. This is a temporary condition only lasting about 10-14 weeks!
For more great resources around managing gestational diabetes, check-out these specialized dieticians, as well as Noelle’s e-book and course!
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