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Did you know it’s possible to manage diabetes in pregnancy using diet and lifestyle?

Ensuring a healthy pregnancy is a priority for every mum-to-be, but for those with diabetes and diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it can be more complex. The good news is with careful planning, your blood glucose levels can be managed through nutrition and lifestyle.

Gestational diabetes (GDM) and Type 1 Diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs in the second or third trimester as the body cannot produce enough of a hormone called insulin. GDM is common in women between 18-35 years old and tends to disappear after birth, however it may occur in the future as type 2 diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all. It is important to check glucose levels daily ensuring they are not too low or high. As a consequence, insulin must be injected into the body or by using an insulin pump. This occurs often in women if they have a high blood pressure before they get pregnant. There is a risk of having a large baby bigger than average for their gestational age, which can cause complications during labour, this condition is known as Macrosomia. High blood glucose levels during the first eight weeks of pregnancy can harm a baby and lead to this potential risk. 

Managing Diabetes using Diet and Lifestyle 

It is important to aim to eat regular meals three-times-a-day. Switch from sugary food to healthier alternatives such as fruit, nuts and seeds as snack alternatives. 

Foods with a low glycaemic index and those which release sugar slowly include:

  • whole-wheat pasta
  • brown rice
  • granary bread 
  • all-bran cereals 
  • pulses 
  • beans 
  • lentils 
  • muesli 
  • plain porridge

Beans, pulses and lentils are ideal as slow releasing sugar food alternatives.

Photo caption: Beans, pulses and lentils are ideal as slow releasing sugar food alternatives.

Certain fish and cheese are should be avoided during pregnancy. Watch out for smoothies and fruit juices which may be high in sugar including “no added sugar drinks” and be sure to check the ingredients.  

Regular exercise can help manage blood glucose levels by lowering levels through recommended exercise of two-and-a-half hours moderate activity-a-week including strength exercises on two or more days a week. 

Medication may be prescribed to manage blood sugar levels after 1-2 weeks of altering diet, these may include metformin or insulin injections. 

Supplementation 

Vitamin C is vital to maintain healthy immunity during pregnancy. Vitamin C is important in helping the body absorb iron and help lower blood sugar levels. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes and peppers. The recommended dose to help prevent the risk of gestational diabetes is 200mg per day of vitamin C supplementation. 

Higher doses of folic acid are required for those with diabetes and this should be discussed with your GP before consuming. Those who are trying to get pregnant until 12 weeks into pregnancy should aim for 5mg of folic acid every day. 

Chromium has been shown to reduce sugar cravings and play a role in influencing neurotransmitters involved in appetite and mood. Studies have shown cinnamon to improve blood glucose control. 

What should I look for in a supplement?

Always read the label to check the source of the ingredients.  Choose high quality supplements which contain 100% active ingredients – no binders or fillers and the required, therapeutic and safe level of all the essential nutrients during pregnancy. Visit your local health store for more details, help and support www.findahealthstore.com 

Conclusion:

Nutrition and lifestyle factors all contribute to a healthy pregnancy, therefore it is important to have regular check-ups with your healthcare professional and identify any possible deficiencies in your diet. Supplementation may be necessary if you are not gaining an adequate amount of nutrients from food. It is important to reduce the consumption of alcohol and smoking, eat regular healthy meals and be sure to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine.

Author: Rupinder Dhanjal is a Nutritional Advisor at ethical vitamin company Viridian Nutrition and has BSc in Nutrition and Health. She enjoys practicing meditation and spirituality, and is passionate about supporting people’s health and wellbeing. For more information visit www.viridian-nutrition.com

This article is for information purposes and does not refer to any individual products. The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.

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