Monday, February 3, 2020

My Battle with Gestational Diabetes Following a Plant Based Diet

Around 32 weeks pregnant I found out that I had gestational diabetes and I was devastated. I wasn't crazy overweight to begin with (like 5-10 pounds over what was considered a healthy weight for my height) and had only gained 15 pounds during my pregnancy at that point. Reading about it and what I had learned in the past from school, I only associated negatives with the condition and heard and saw horror stories of 12 pound babies (F.Y.I. Michael, my son, was only 6.4 pounds at birth). I knew I had to make some changes and take this diagnosis very seriously because it could affect the future health of my then unborn son, and even though I worked my ass off to keep my numbers in check it did effect him slightly (I'll talk about this later in the post).

As horrible as it sounds I felt ashamed for a while and really let it get to my head, but I couldn't wallow in it and had to make the necessary changes. Just a snap shot into where I was on the spectrum, all my diet numbers were normal, just my fasting numbers (morning numbers) were high by 5-10 points every morning. This still meant I had to track my numbers by taking my blood sugar in the morning after waking up and an hour after every meal. I would say I followed a pretty healthy diet in the past but being mostly plant based a good majority of my calories were coming from carbohydrates. I was being very diligent by decreasing the amount of carbohydrates I was eating and increasing the fat and protein I had at each meal. But still my fasting numbers would not budge after two weeks. I even went out in the dark and walked around the house and my backyard for a half hour after dinner at night because that was supposed to help fasting numbers.

It seemed like my fasting numbers were almost impossible to control, and it was an up hill battle. I also realized that when I took my blood sugar from my right hand the numbers were consistently 30 points higher than my left. I had experienced some pretty bad carpal tunnel on my right hand mid-pregnancy and had it reoccur every now and then so I know that the circulation in that hand is not as good as the left. I was eventually put on insulin at night, only 2 units but it was continuously increased all the way up to 18 units (which luckily still isn't a lot) because it would not effect my fasting numbers at all, until birth they were still a little high no matter the dose of insulin, the amount of exercise, and the dietary changes I made. I finally was able to get my fasting to 88-91 every morning which was still a little high according to my OB (but not crazy and was told I probably wouldn't see it effect my baby once he was born).

Having a Bachelors degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, I took my morning numbers as a failure and took it personally that I could not control it with all the means that people usually use. I felt so agitated and the making of all these nutrient dense high fat, high protein but low carb meals takes up time, and oh the dishes lets not even start. Avocado was my best friend... The green taste associated with mixed greens was always stuck in my mouth and I had a salad at least once day if not twice.  It is worth it to mention, I was able to control all my dietary numbers through out the day and on average keep them below 120 an hour after my meals (sometimes it was a couple points higher-like when I thought I could have 3 bites of mash potatoes..I guessed wrong). Breakfast was always super boring and consisted of either a vegan egg with avocado, vegan egg mixed with zucchini and avocado, or tofu with turmeric and spices with avocado...

After switching my diet, I lost 11 pounds in my 3rd trimester! This meant so far I have only gained 8 pounds at that point, and I was constantly thinking to myself "there can't be a 12 pound baby in there right?"  My job requires a decent amount of lifting/ carrying but not so much physical activity beyond that, so going to the gym or taking up more exercise was a must.  I found that when I had a cleaning day at home where I was focused on cleaning the entire house and going up and down the stairs frequently gave me pretty good numbers in the morning.

The ways I tried to reduce my fasting numbers include but aren't limited to (by no means will these effect you the same way they did me, always listen to your doctor):
-Exercise ( Obviously its important to stay consistent but the changes in my numbers the next day were not always consistent, it could be because the only real exercise I felt comfortable doing was walking on an incline on a treadmill. I tried a stationary bike...nope, I tried the elliptical...nope.)

-Timing of exercise (tried exercising or going for a walk after dinner-didn't change morning numbers)

-Being active most of day and not stopping to sit down like at all (from what I can tell it worked when I did this).

-Drinking in-ordinant amounts of water-Peeing 4 times a night (it seemed like when I didn't drink as much water at night my numbers were better in the morning?)

-Having a snack before bed (didn't find a real connection with this and my morning numbers unfortunately).

-Taking shots of apple cider vinegar before bed (helped, but wasn't consistent)

-Waking up at night to take my blood sugar and eat a snack (didn't help).

Finally, after giving birth the condition is gone and I no longer have to take my blood sugar 4 times a day, and don't have to worry so much about my carbohydrate intake. I now weigh 15 pounds less than I did when I got pregnant and it has to do with the changes I made for my health and the health of my baby in my third trimester. Michael was however born hypoglycemic, and his blood sugar was consistently a little low by like 5 points. We had to supplement with donor milk and glucose gel to get his numbers to normal and had to supplement at home with a bottle of more of my breast milk after feeding at home. Now he is exclusively breastfed but this was hard, I was also told to pump after each feeding (I will talk about my overproduction problem in another post). I hope this helps other mommas struggling with GD and if you have any questions please feel free to ask!


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