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6 Strategies To Regulate Blood Sugar When Trying to Conceive

Unlocking improved fertility: the crucial connection between blood sugar and getting pregnant.

Understanding the relationship between diet, blood sugar regulation, and hormonal balance is crucial for setting yourself up for success while trying to conceive.

Why? Frequent spikes in blood sugar levels can trigger a cascade of hormonal challenges, significantly affecting your chances of conception. In fact, studies indicate that even those with slightly elevated blood sugar within the "normal" range may experience decreased fertility, linking high blood sugar to insulin resistance and disruptions in reproductive hormones.

So how do you keep your blood sugar at bay when TTC? We'll break down how blood sugar is connected to your fertility hormones, and give you 6 easy tips to start regulating your blood sugar today.

The Forgotten Fertility Hormone: Insulin

At Doveras, we think about insulin as the forgotten fertility hormone. Why? Because when trying to conceive (TTC), you're probably thinking about the hormones you track that are related to your menstrual cycle and ovulation.

When you eat, the body initiates the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose. Though it sometimes gets a bad wrap, glucose isn't fundamentally bad. In fact, it's a fundamental energy source! The issue comes when we eat foods that change the levels of glucose in our blood sugar too quickly. Why? This sudden spike cause the pancreas to flood the body with a hormone called insulin. Insulin's job is to facilitate the uptake of glucose into cells for energy production. But when there is too much insulin, triggered by spikes in blood sugar, the cells start to resist it.

You could probably guess what foods spike this blood sugar and therefore insulin response: ultraprocessed foods are high in refined sugars and simple carbohydrates like white pastas and breads are big culprits to look out for. Of course, enjoying these foods every once in a while is not a big deal — we all have our comfort foods like Oreos or big bowl of pasta. But the consistent consumption of foods that have lots of glucose (aka. sugars) can cause glucose levels in the body to spike, and lead the body to produce that excessive amount of insulin we want to avoid.

When this happens, iInstead of converting blood sugar into energy efficiently, this resistance can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, known as insulin resistance, which can contribute to various health complications over time, including fertility. This is because elevated insulin levels interfere with the hormonal pathways in the body, including those we know and love that regulate reproductive function, ovulation, and fertility. In other words, if your body isn't responding to insulin as it should, this can have downstream effects on all the hormones you're tracking each month of TTC.

6 Strategies To Keep Blood Sugar At Bay When Trying to Conceive

Even if you’re not pre-diabetic or diabetic, keeping your blood sugar at bay when planning to conceive is important! In fact, how your blood sugar fluctuates is a crucial indicator of your fertility health. Here are a few science-backed blood sugar hacks.

  1. Avoid highly-processed foods: Opt for minimally processed, whole foods over highly-processed counterparts. This choice promotes stable blood sugar and supports overall health.

  2. Swap out "white" foods: Choose whole-grain alternatives over refined options like white bread and white rice to mitigate blood sugar spikes.

  3. Save your carbs for last: Though we only have data from small studies in people with pre-diabetes and diabetes, these early studies indicate that eating protein and veggies before carbohydrates can lead to less of a blood sugar spike after your meal (AKA better blood sugar control and happier hormones). ⁠This may be because your body is trying to break down proteins and veggie first, which takes longer and delays the “fast” carbs from flooding your body with blood glucose.

  4. Pregame a meal with nuts & seeds: Nuts and seeds are rich in protein and healthy fats, both of which can help you manage blood sugar. Eating a 20g serving of almonds before a meal could help reduce the resulting blood sugar response by around 28%. Eating nuts reduced blood sugar responses after the participants ate a slice of white bread. 25 g of chia seeds or 31.5 g of flaxseeds reduced participants’ blood sugar responses after they ate a high-sugar snack.

  5. Go for a walk after eating: When you move your body, your muscles need more energy. New research shows that by going for a walk after eating, glucose is more readily absorbed from your bloodstream to fuel your muscles instead of resulting in a blood sugar spike. 

  6. Opt for whole foods when you can!: When you eat a whole fruit, for example, you consume the sugar it contains in its natural form. This form not only includes the individual nutrients and compounds present in the food but also their physical and chemical arrangement, which can affect how the body absorbs and processes them. So, by juicing fruits, for example, you strip away all the fiber within the natural structure. Without the fiber, the sugar the fruit contains is more easily absorbed in your bloodstream, which can lead to an unhealthy blood sugar response.

BONUS: Continuous glucose monitoring: Especially if you’re concerned about your blood sugar, trying a continuous glucose monitor can be a good idea. It helps you get more precision around what foods are most triggering of a blood sugar spike for you. But what we hear from most members is that this kind of monitoring actually makes them more aware of their blood sugar and therefore make smarter choices.

Managing Blood Sugar Pre-Pregnancy Can Lead To Fewer Risks Once You're Pregnant

Maintaining balanced blood sugar through smart nutrition lays the foundation for a healthier reproductive system and can help you get pregnant. But studies have also shown that prioritizing blood sugar regulation pre-pregnancy can also help set you up for a healthier pregnancy by reducing your risk of a condition called gestational diabetes.

According to the World Health Organization:

Gestational diabetes is hyperglycaemia with blood glucose values above normal but below those diagnostic of diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.
Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of complications during pregnancy and at delivery. These women and possibly their children are also at increased risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through prenatal screening, rather than through reported symptoms.

Managing blood sugar levels before pregnancy is crucial for everyone, especially those with diabetes, pre-diabetes, or those at risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Your path to parenthood begins with knowledge and the right choices. We're here to help!

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