If your doctor has told you you have elevated blood sugar levels, you probably already know the potential risks. Uncontrolled blood sugar during pregnancy increases your risk of developing gestational diabetes, a potentially serious condition that can complicate delivery, according to the National Institutes of Health, and even increase your child's risk of developing type-2 diabetes later in life.
Fortunately, for most women, reducing blood sugar is as simple as changing your diet, according to Aviva Romm, a physician, midwife and author of "The Natural Pregnancy Book." It's not about deprivation or eating bland, tasteless foods. Instead, you can lower blood sugar levels while enjoying delicious, natural foods.
Low Glycemic Index Foods
Foods can be rated based on how quickly they are converted to glucose. Some foods, such as white bread, pasta, white rice, donuts and most processed foods, quickly become glucose and raise blood sugar, while causing inflammation. Whole, natural foods are usually "low-glycemic index" foods, meaning they reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar levels.
The key to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels during pregnancy, says Dr. Sean Daneshmand, M.D., a San Diego obstetrician and the founder of Miracle Babies, is "eating low glycemic index (GI) type foods as much as possible." He adds, "Low GI types of foods include beans; sunflower and pumpkin seeds; whole intact grains, including oats, wheat and barley; and most vegetables and fruits." He recommends avoiding high GI foods, such as white bread, white rice, most breakfast cereals and potatoes.
Los Angeles-based clinical nutritionist Stella Metsovas, B.S., CCN, says people tend to overlook the importance of digestion in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. She says, "Optimize your gut bacteria by taking in probiotic-rich foods and supplements. Beneficial microbes in the gut help regulate blood sugar by regulating carbohydrate metabolism. I recommend foods such as kimchee and kombucha, while taking in a multi-probiotic supplement."
Natural yogurt with active cultures or kefir also supply healthy bacteria, but avoid those laden with sugar or corn syrup, which cancel out any potential benefits.
Eat Healthy Fats
Fat tends to get a bad rap, but not all fats are created equal. While you certainly want to avoid inflammation-causing fats found in processed and fried foods, some fats are actually good for you. Metsovas says, "Consume healthy, clean-burning fats like coconut and olive oils, grass-fed butter [butter made from the milk or cream of grass-fed cows] and walnuts. Fatty acids keep you feeling full longer, helping to resist unhealthy binges."
The occasional glass of juice or bowl of ice cream won't ruin your health, but a steady diet of sugar is a sure way to raise blood sugar levels. Limit juice to 8 ounces per day and avoid soda, energy drinks and fruit punch. Be on the lookout for hidden sugar as well, says Washington, D.C.-area certified health coach Michelle Pfennighaus. "Make sure you aren't consuming sugar in your food by reading labels and looking for the many names sugar goes by, such as corn syrup or evaporated cane juice."
According to Romm, the humble nettle leaf has astringent properties that help improve kidney function, reduce fatigue and lower blood sugar levels. She suggests steeping a handful of nettle leaves in a quart of boiling water for 30 minutes. Flavor with stevia or a bit of apple juice and sip throughout the day.