Balancing Blood Sugar
Balanced health is a lifestyle choice, and ideal blood sugar is central to that balance. So many choices that families make today include processed foods high in carbs and often low in protein (and nutrition) and lead to many of our common illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, adrenal and thyroid imbalances, gut dysbiosis, autoimmunity, hyperactivity (especially in children), mood disorders (especially in teens and adults), acid reflux, and just about any disease you can imagine. Making the choice to support your entire family’s (and community’s) balanced blood sugar can mean actually stopping the repeat of so called “genetic disorders,” including diabetes.
At conception, the bacterial balance (often related to blood sugar balance) prepares your baby’s immune system and their ability to balance their own blood sugar. Many women that go on to develop gestational diabetes actually come into pregnancy with imbalanced blood sugar. Prior to conception, or in the first trimester, we can do lab work to test HBA1C (which shows an average percentage of the amount of glucose in your blood for the previous three months) to detect pre-diabetes. (This test isn’t accurate after the first trimester).
Alternatively, we can use a finger-poke capillary blood sugar glucometer and quickly test morning fasting and 1 or 2-hour post-meal blood sugar before or during pregnancy. This gives us a quick look at how you respond to your food choices. Morning fasting blood sugar values above 90 are a good indicator that
someone is really struggling with blood sugar balance, though, sometimes, it just means you ate too many potatoes, corn, rice, ice cream, or other high-carb, imbalanced meal, or snack before you went to bed. Having this value regularly will eventually lead you down the road of not only gestational diabetes, but lifelong Type 2 Diabetes.
Ideally, our blood sugar not only comes down to a normal level 1-2 hours after the meal, but it should also not have large spikes. The spikes and dips are what really make us feel unwell and cause the most complications for our pregnancy and our baby. A baby that develops in an unstable blood sugar environment will be less able to balance their own blood sugar and much more likely to become jittery and severely hypoglycemic after birth, requiring immediate medical attention.
This concern is much greater than just the possibility of growing a “large baby.” It isn’t the weight or size that is concern, but the proportion of the baby’s shoulders compared to the size of their head and the tightness this body shape causes, making it more difficult to fit through the pelvis which may cause longer more difficult labors or shoulder dystocia. “Sugar babies” appear like any person may look like when their own blood sugar has been unbalanced for quite some time: fluidy and more barrel-chested. Additionally, the change of glucose for the baby right after birth can cause significant insulin imbalances which may cause severe hypoglycemia in the baby.
The most balanced blood sugar values not only remain below 120 mg/dl 2-hours after a meal, but also don’t spike more than 40 points from baseline and never reach higher than 140 mg/dl after eating. Additionally, they don’t drop below 60 mg/dl during fasting or after a meal. Using an at-home glucometer (available at most department or drug stores) can give you the opportunity to check your values regularly, if needed. Feeling mood swings between meals, headaches, elevated fluid, feeling sluggish or tired all the time, racing heart, high blood pressure, and change in vision can all be signs of glucose imbalance (as well as pre-eclampsia, which often coincides).
The prevention for this imbalance is simple, as with all potential complications in pregnancy: eat at a diet rich in dark leafy greens (at least three times a day), fibrous whole foods (like celery, broccoli, fresh fruits…etc.), 100 grams protein daily (fish, eggs, tofu, meat…etc.), healthy fats, adequate hydration, no added sugar, and only 90-150 grams carbohydrates daily. Minimize starchy, low-nutrient, foods like potatoes, corn, popcorn, white rice, and processed hard-to-digest foods like cereal, casseroles, flour gravies, and similar.
Walking 20 minutes after your meals at least three times a day helps your body to properly use glucose and will reduce the blood sugar spikes. Ask your spouse, a child, or a neighbor to walk with you and choose this healthy habit for balancing the health of the whole community.