Some natural remedies may help protect against gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that starts or is first diagnosed during pregnancy. Occurring in three to eight out of every 100 pregnant women in the United States, gestational diabetes can increase your risk of having a large baby and needing a cesarean section at delivery (as well as raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life). In addition to receiving regular prenatal care, you may be able to boost your defense against gestational diabetes by using certain natural remedies.
Natural Remedies and Gestational Diabetes
Because gestational diabetes may cause a number of serious complications (such as increased risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy and low blood sugar or illness in the newborn), it's important to work closely with your doctor in managing this condition. Your treatment program will focus on keeping your blood sugar in check during pregnancy and ensuring that the fetus is healthy, which will most likely include making changes to your diet, exercising regularly, and—in some cases—using prescribed diabetes medicine or insulin therapy.
While no type of natural remedy has been proven effective against gestational diabetes, there's some evidence that the following treatments may offer some protection against the condition. Make sure to talk to your doctor before you begin using any type of alternative medicine during pregnancy.
1) Vitamin D
Running low on vitamin D may raise your risk of gestational diabetes, according to a 2008 study of 171 pregnant women (including 57 with gestational diabetes). Among those who developed gestational diabetes, vitamin D levels were significantly lower (compared to study members who were free of gestational diabetes). However, the use of vitamin D supplementation as a means of reducing gestational diabetes risk has yet to be proven effective.
2) Vitamin C
In a 2004 study of 67 women with gestational diabetes and 260 without a gestational diabetes diagnosis, researchers found that low vitamin C levels were linked to an increased risk of the disease. It is not known whether supplementing with vitamin C may help lower gestational diabetes risk.
Preliminary research suggests that the herb astragalus may hold promise in the treatment of gestational diabetes. In a 2009 study of 84 pregnant women with gestational diabetes, those who received treatment with both insulin and astragalus showed greater improvements in blood sugar control and levels of blood fats (compared to those who only received insulin). However, since the use of herbs may lead to adverse effects during pregnancy, it's crucial to consult your physician before using any type of herbal supplement in treatment or prevention of gestational diabetes.
Should You Use Natural Remedies for Gestational Diabetes?
The most important step in fighting gestational diabetes is beginning your prenatal care early and seeing your doctor for regular prenatal visits. You should also be aware of risk factors for gestational diabetes (including African or Hispanic ancestry, family history of diabetes, obesity, and being older than 25 when pregnant), and watch out for gestational diabetes symptoms (including fatigue, blurred visions, frequent infections, and increased thirst). If you're considering the use of any type of natural remedy or alternative therapy to manage or prevent gestational diabetes, talk to your doctor about choosing a treatment that suits your health needs.
Liang HY, Hou F, Ding YL, Zhang WN, Huang XH, Zhang BY, Liu Y. "Clinical evaluation of the antioxidant activity of astragalus in women with gestational diabetes." Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 29(7):1402-4.
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. "Gestational Diabetes". NIH Publication No. 06–5129. April 2006.
Zhang C, Qiu C, Hu FB, David RM, van Dam RM, Bralley A, Williams MA. "Maternal plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations and the risk for gestational diabetes mellitus." PLoS One. 2008;3(11):e3753.
Zhang C, Williams MA, Frederick IO, King IB, Sorensen TK, Kestin MM, Dashow EE, Luthy DA. "Vitamin C and the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus: a case-control study." J Reprod Med. 2004 49(4):257-66.