A month after downing a sugary cocktail at the Dr’s office – I got the call that I failed my gestational diabetes screening test. It’s not the first time I failed this test, I failed it my last pregnancy too, but for some reason the news hit me differently this time.
This pregnancy hasn’t been as smooth as the last one, and I haven’t been taking as good care of myself (hey, it happens). But what this news really brought up was the nagging suspicion (that I had for years, and was even told to me by a past trainer) that I may be insulin resistant. I ignored it for many years, thinking that with all my knowledge in nutrition that I would do the things I needed to do to heal it (but I never actually took any action).
The phone call of the failed test was the last straw. I finally needed to look at my blood sugars for real, and try to really understand what is happening in my body.
Working with my doctor – I explained that I wanted to understand how sugars and carbs were affecting my body so I can take this knowledge with me postpartum and beyond. I told him “shouldn’t everyone know how food affects their body?” “Yes” he said. But it was the first time he had a patient who wanted to dig in and understand what foods, and what combinations of foods, caused blood sugars to spike.
We decided that instead of doing the three-hour gestational diabetes test, that I would monitor blood sugars myself, and provide the doctor with the report at my next appointment.
So off to Shopper’s Drug Mart I went – and after a chat with the pharmacist I bought myself a blood glucose monitor.
My testing schedule
Without changing my diet, I tested my blood sugar 4 times a day. This was:
- First thing in the morning before I ate or drank anything
- One-hour after each meal
The testing device I chose
The glucose monitor I have is the Contour Next blood glucose monitor. It’s super easy to use, and syncs up to an app on your phone that keeps all the data for you. Using this was drastically easier than I thought it would be.
Interest from family and friends
I was surprised to see that some family members and friends were interested in what I am doing. I got excited to report on a few new discoveries I had food-wise and it had my spirits up. I even had a few people say “I should really test myself to see what’s going on” – to which I say “do it!” There is nothing like getting personalized data on how food affects you – as you work to create the diet that works best for you. What works for someone else might not work for you – which is why tools like this exist!
What I learned in the first two weeks of testing
Well I didn’t really “learn” anything new, but rather some old knowledge was made real. White bread is in fact a terrible thing to eat blood sugar wise. Little changes like adding cinnamon and apple cider vinegar to meals actually works. It reinforced many books I have read over the years, and that taking action is the hardest but most beneficial part of studying nutrition as a whole.
Key foods and supplements that help with blood sugar
I will further blog about these foods individually, but here are some foods that I will be forever keeping in my diet to help balance out my blood sugars:
- Apple cider vinegar (taking a bit in water before a meal decreased readings by 20 to 30 %)
- Rolled oats
- Chia seeds
Foods I was surprised by
I played around with foods that advertise themselves as being health foods, but they are somewhat processed. The first food I was surprised by was using a caulipower crust to make homemade pizza. The first time I had it – it spiked my blood sugar just as bad as a burger and fries. I was shocked!!!! But since it made a whole pizza and I didn’t want to waste it, I combined it a few days later with having some apple cider vinegar before eating it – which reduced the blood sugar impact by a few points.
I was pleasantly surprised by Kodiak pancake mix! Paired with blueberries and peanut butter in the mornings, this did not spike my blood sugar, so it is here to stay!
At my doctor’s appointment, I showed him my few weeks of data. He wrote them down on my chart, looked up and said “I’m so proud of you”. I was beaming about how much I learned – and he said to keep up what I’m doing. At this rate, I am proud to say that I was able to control my blood sugar imbalance (with borderline gestational diabetes) with diet. I’m proud of myself for taking my health into my own hands (working with my doctor of course) and getting knowledge that will most likely impact the way I eat for the rest of my life.
Blood sugar target ranges for gestational diabetes differ by province here in Canada. And by practitioner. And Google is frankly the worst place on earth for anyone trying to get accurate data here. In a nutshell – blood sugar testing and ranges are messed up. I guess it’s because everyone is tested differently.
My doctor didn’t give me a range to hit in the first few weeks, as we just wanted to monitor based off my current diet. I learned after my result appointment that his target goal for me was to have a fasting blood sugar of 5.3 mmol/l or less, and a 1 hour post meal of under 7.8 mmol/l.
My worst reading was a burger and fries (9.0 mmol/l) but for the most part I was hovering around 6 mmol/l for most of my post meal readings. My fasting range was always 5.3 mmol/l or less.
Here are some resources that helped me through this process:
- Real Food for Gestational Diabetes by Lily Nichols (Note I didn’t follow her diet or ranges, but I did adopt a few things to create a method of eating that I could sustain over a very long period of time)
- My doctor! Really a person to talk to is the best thing to have in situations like this. The internet is the worst.