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Yes, I was able to avoid insulin when I had gestational diabetes because I didn’t follow the conventional advice. Instead I went rogue and took the low-carb route. Here is my story.
Today, I want to share with you my experience with gestational diabetes (GD). My story actually begins before my GD diagnosis. I studied this prenatal condition fairly closely when I worked in women’s health research and actually wrote my Master paper (for my MPH in Nutrition) on GD. And yet, it never occurred to me that I would ever be diagnosed with it. After all, I had a healthy weight, exercised, and ate healthy food (according to the USDA and ADA recommendations).
However, I believe that even before my diagnosis, my metabolic health probably wasn’t what it should have been. I would often feel tired and suffer from regular migraines. Nonetheless, I was shocked when during the second trimester of my second pregnancy, I was diagnosed with GD. Shocked and worried.
Will GD ruin my natural birth?
Worried because I knew that GD can increase the risk of other complications and diseases, such as future type 2 diabetes in the mother or fetal macrosomia (very large baby). You see, I like to go the natural route. Whenever I can, I avoid medicine or interventions. I had my first baby at home, and believe that a good cup of chamomile tea with honey can cure anything from a cold to stomachache (and heartache!).
Nightmares started to plague my already restless pregnancy dreams. Will I need insulin? Will I need interventions during birth? Non-stress test? Induction? Episiotomy? The horror!
Nutritional advice spiked my blood sugar!
Next, I was sent to talk to the hospital’s nutritionist. She was very friendly and gave me the advice that I expected: Don’t worry. Eat healthy foods, such as oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread, and avoid orange juice. ( Side note: If you have ever talked to a nutritionist, have you noticed that they always point out orange juice, like it’s the culprit of obesity/diabetes/you-name-it??)
All of this lined up with everything I have read before, like on the ADA website. And still, it didn’t sit right with me. “But won’t the carbs exacerbate my high blood levels, even if they come from whole grains?” I asked. “No, no, no. Your baby needs carbohydrates! A low-carb diet during pregnancy is very dangerous and could lead to ketoacidosis! Make sure to eat at least 175 grams of carbohydrates every day.”
Wow, 175 grams? That seemed high for someone like me who doesn’t metabolize sugar normally. The anthropologist in me thought: how did ancient women ever bear healthy children in a time without bread and pasta?
Well, I gave it a shot, anyways. And that shot lasted exactly one day! I got my glucose monitor from the pharmacy, ate a piece of whole grain bread, and (SURPRISE!) my blood glucose spiked up. I knew then, if I continued to follow the standard advice, I would end up having to take insulin. And I knew then that there must be a better way!
Though at this point, I already knew that a high-carb diet (aka standard American diet), can make us sick, I didn’t eat low-carb myself (except from my occasional paleo attempts). But this time, it wasn’t just my health that mattered (though that should have been enough), it wasn’t also the health of my unborn child that was at stake.
So, I read, read, and read some more. I read about Dr. Louis Jovanovic’s research, who was a leading expert in pregnancy and diabetes, and recommended a low-carb diet for pregnant women. I followed Dr. William Davis’ advice and cut out all grains from my diet.
Most importantly, I learned about the scarcity of information and books about nutrition and gestational diabetes. The vast majority of nutritional advice was the same old: carbs are good, even when you have high blood sugar. (I guess that’s what happens when you can only become a licensed nutritionist through the American Diabetes Association.) A refreshing exception was the book “Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.” A book written by Lily Nichols, a registered dietitian who wasn’t afraid to go against the grain (literally).
The nutrition that healed my GD!
A couple of weeks after eating that whole wheat slice of bread, my kitchen looked very different. Bread – gone! Pasta – gone! My cabinets looked a little empty. No more flour. No more sugar. Bye-bye “healthy” whole wheat cereals, and see ya later “heart-healthy” oatmeal.
Instead, I now focused on eating foods that provided healthy fats for me and my growing baby. I started my day with keto pancakes. I snacked on boiled eggs and avocados. I ate pork rinds for the first time and served our dinner without a side of rice or potatoes, and for dessert we had keto chocolate chip cookies! It was actually easier than I thought it would be. Thanks to some great keto blogs, like AllDayIDreamAboutFood, MariaMindBodyHealth, and PeaceLoveandLowCarb, I learned to my amazement that you can make delicious desserts and treats without the use of flour and wheat!
I monitored my blood glucose levels throughout my pregnancy. My fasting levels stayed below 90 mg/dl, my 1-hour post-meal levels were below 120 mg/dl. I didn’t have to take insulin. Not only that, but my prenatal heartburn stopped bothering me, too! I didn’t require any interventions during labor and birth. My baby was born healthy and beautiful.
Questioning the nutritionist’s advice was the best thing I could do.