This article will focus on the cause of gestational diabetes and a good diet to prevent it. The best gestational diabetes diet is one that focuses on eating less sugar, starches, and simple carbohydrates. It’s not about eating less, just substituting healthy complex carbohydrates for unhealthy, simple carbohydrates:
|Eat this carbohydrate source:||Instead of this:|
|Vegetables||White bread, dinner rolls or buns|
|Legumes (beans)||Sweets, cake, cookies, candy|
|Lentils||Crackers, chips, rice cakes|
|Sweet potatoes (preferable Japanese)||Corn or wheat (flour) based products|
|steel-cut oats||Breakfast cereal|
|Butter beans||Pasta, noodles|
|Whole milk or preferably kefir||Potatoes|
|Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries or blueberries||Syrup, ketchup|
|Ezekiel or sprouted bread||Granola|
|Sugar-free drinks||Soda-pop or juice|
|Unsweetened kefir or yogurt||Yogurt with added sugar|
Gestational Diabetes Information
- Any degree of glucose intolerance during pregnancy is considered gestational diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes occurs due to a combination of insulin resistance and impaired pancreatic function. However, the main reason for the diabetogenicity of pregnancy is insulin resistance.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy contribute to the impaired pancreatic function.
- Glucose tolerance deteriorates in normal human pregnancy, but 99% of all pregnant women retain normal glucose tolerance.
- The 1% that develop gestational diabetes have a limited insulin secretory capacity.
- Many previously had pre-diabetes or undiagnosed type 2 diabetes even before pregnancy.
- Those diagnosed with gestational diabetes carry a 60% higher lifetime risk of progression to type 2 diabetes.
Is the keto diet a good treatment for gestational diabetes?
This article explains the challenges of the keto diet during pregnancy. I recommend reading that article for a complete explanation. However, the short answer is no. I strict keto diet is not recommended during pregnancy because the developing baby needs enough glucose and insulin for proper development.
“Approximately 6% to 9% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Diabetes during pregnancy has increased in recent years.
Recent studies found that from 2000 to 2010, the percentage of pregnant women with gestational diabetes increased by 56%, and the percentage of women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes before pregnancy increased 37%.”Center for Disease Control and Prevention- Diabetes during pregnancy
Very similar to regular type 2 diabetes except the diagnosed individual is pregnant. The body’s cells don’t utilize sugar properly and blood sugar builds up to unhealthy levels.
It just means you already had diabetes before you became pregnant (pre-existing diabetes). Either type 1 or type 2 diabetes that is present before pregnancy is referred to as pregestational diabetes mellitus.
Similar to the symptoms of early type 2 diabetes, there usually aren’t any symptoms except excess thirst and weight gain. You might also feel like you have low blood sugar at times and even get “hangry” in-between meals.
A diet that lowers blood sugar but at the same time provides enough steady blood sugar for healthy fetus development. Choosing foods that are low on the glycemic index are the best gestational diabetes food choices.
What causes gestational diabetes?
- Insulin Resistance:
Continuous over-carbohydrate consumption over time creates a vicious cycle of hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance. This could eventually lead to pancreatic β-cell failure and even type 1 diabetes. The condition can progress as you get older.
A typical worst-case scenario is prediabetes in your 20s, gestational diabetes in your 30s, type 2 diabetes in your 40s and 50s, and pancreas failure resulting in type 1 diabetes in your 60s.
The pancreas has to work harder and harder to produce more and more insulin (insulin toxicity). All that insulin starts to become toxic to the cells (Insulin resistance) and the cells start rejecting it.
The body’s cells become resistant to the insulin and it doesn’t remove the sugar from the blood efficiently. Therefore, insulin toxicity is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes.
It has been well established that a low carbohydrate diet can reverse type 2 diabetes.
- Hormonal imbalance:
Insulin is a hormone and during pregnancy a woman’s hormones sometimes become irregular. The pancreas produces insulin to get rid of the excess blood sugar, but the signaling might be off or the insulin secretion might not be in sufficient quantity. This causes blood sugar to build up to dangerous levels in the blood.
Signaling is important. Your body’s organs have to talk to each other. The brain, stomach, and even the tongue senses blood glucose (sugar) and communicates with the pancreas and liver to produce insulin.
The gut-brain-liver axis plays a role gestational diabetes.
Studies suggest that the gut-brain-liver axis regulates hepatic glucose metabolism. This axis can become impaired during pregnancy. The best way to maintain this signaling axis is to consume fermented foods that include prebiotic fiber and probiotic bacteria.
You can have fruit on a gestational diabetes diet, but be sure and eat the skin and not just drink the (fruit) juice. Berries are your best low carb fruit choice.
One of the causes of gestational diabetes is drinking too much fruit juice and pop (soda). High fructose corn syrup and fruit juice should be avoided at all costs.
“Decreased maternal insulin sensitivity in women with gestational diabetes may increase nutrient availability to the fetus, possibly accounting for an increased risk of fetal overgrowth and adiposity.”Gestational diabetes and insulin resistance: National Library of Medicine
What are the dangers of gestational diabetes?
Insulin is an anabolic growth hormone and to much insulin can make the fetus get too big, too fast.
The CDC says that approximately 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes! That number is pretty shocking to me.
However, more importantly, it puts the baby at risk. Having gestational diabetes can result in having a large for gestational age (LGA) baby. This is also called “fetal macrosomia” and is used to describe a newborn who weighs more than 9 pounds at birth.
Having a large for gestational age (LGA) baby carries the following possible complications:
- Harder to give birth.
- A higher risk of birth defects.
- Possibly needing a cesarean (C) section during birth.
- Having a premature birth.
- The baby has a higher chance of being an obese adolescent and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
“A child or teen whose mother had gestational diabetes was nearly twice as likely to develop diabetes before the age of 22 years.”Maternal gestational diabetes linked to diabetes in children
What is the treatment for gestational diabetes?
Not a low carbohydrate diet, but a lower carbohydrate diet is in order. Carbohydrates are converted into blood sugar in the body and excess carbohydrates lead to excess blood sugar.
But more importantly, it not just the amount of carbohydrates, but the type. Insulin regulates cellular glucose uptake.
Since your insulin is not working properly you have to compensate. Replacing simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates is the secret to a good gestational diabetes diet.
Don’t let cravings sidetrack your healthy gestational diabetes diet.
Approximately 48 percent of American moms gain too much weight during pregnancy. This is a sign of gestational diabetes. If you’re gaining weight too fast you probably have high levels of insulin and blood sugar. It’s well known that hormones are raging during pregnancy and craving increase.
Making better food choices is key. It’s ok to snack when you have gestational diabetes, but be sure and snack on the right foods. I’ve already explained that a strict keto diet is not recommended during pregnancy, however, making food choices that provide stable but not low blood sugar fits into the keto diet principals.
In other words, the best gestational diabetes diet is keto-approved foods. You will just eat more of them and eat them more often. Increasing your fat intake and protein intake and changing your carbohydrate intake from simple carbs to complex carbs should reverse your gestational diabetes.
What to eat on gestational diabetes?
Here is a link to two article that will provide you some excellent food choices:
Instead of eating a dinner roll, rice, noodles, or potatoes as a side dish, eat your meat with a large portion of broccoli florets.
All carbs are not created equal
It’s very important to understand the glycemic index if you want to understand gestational diabetes. The glycemic index (or GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 based on how fast they raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. Sugar is poisoning America and it should be avoided.
Carbohydrates, not fat and protein raise blood sugar.
Foods with a high glycemic index (GI) value are quickly digested, absorbed, and metabolized into sugar. Alternatively, foods with a low GI score are metabolized slowly over time and don’t spike blood sugar as much. Also, be advised that fiber tends to slow this process down.
One of the treatments for gestational diabetes is to add fiber to your diet. Mixing up some ground flax seed in macadamia nut milk is a great way to add fiber to your diet.
One of the causes of gestational diabetes is eating too much food that has a high glycemic index value. Here is a great resource that includes 60+ foods and their glycemic index values: Glycemic index for 60+ foods
I find it interesting that corn flakes are among the highest (worst) at 81, and soybeans the lowest (best) at 16. It looks like one of the absolute best treatments for gestational diabetes is to eat fermented soybeans (Natto).
Lower your carbohydrates intake and increase fat and protein for a good gestational diabetes diet. Free-range eggs are one of the best things you could eat as well as avocados. Eggs are high in protein and avocado contains healthy fats.
Avoid processed foods and unhealthy seed oils and vegetable oils.
Contrary to popular belief, butter is very healthy and using olive oil and apple cider vinegar mixed together as a dressing for your salad can prevent gestational diabetes by maintaining low but steady blood sugar levels.
Wondering what to eat on gestational diabetes?
Peanut butter and celery is a good low carb snack. Peanuts have a low glycemic index score of just 14. Just be sure to get the peanut butter that has, “no sugar added.”
One of the causes of gestational diabetes is not putting priorities in place.
Some expected mothers will prioritize all the wrong things at times. They will worry about what the baby will be named. They will debate for hours on what color to paint the baby’s room. Others will focus on baby clothes and car seats and on and on…
Many mothers don’t focus on what’s really important and that’s the health of the baby. Putting the diet at the top of the priority list and eating a proper diet is the best treatment for gestational diabetes. Better yet, being proactive so you never develop gestational diabetes in the first place is even better.
“Nuts are a great gestational diabetes snack. Here’s an article that explains the healthiest, low-carb nuts to eat.“Ketogenic Information
Don’t despair, just like type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes is completely treatable without drugs by following the proper diet. I know I previously did not recommend the keto diet as a treatment for gestational diabetes, however, most of the scientific principals that apply to keto also apply to those trying to treat gestational diabetes.
Ezekiel bread is a much better food choice than white bread when you’re on a gestational diabetes diet.
Here are a four related resources to help you understand the science on how diet lowers blood sugar and insulin.