My Pregnancy Survival Story: Gallstone Colics & Gestational Diabetes

20 weeks may seem a long time, when you have to give up all the cravings, obey strict rules and combine the two diets

Woman on mounitain, view on another mountain, arms in the air
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Gallstones statistics say I was not alone.

Gallbladder health even though it is an actual health issue for 11–20% of Europeans and 15% of USA population (source worldgastroenterology.org). Despite high numbers, one would likely not know much about this condition.

Pregnancy and gallstone treatment

The procedure is not the same in case of pregnancy. Where I come from, doctors obey the rule to make a laparoscopic operation in 2nd trimester, but no later than 20 weeks. Any time earlier or later (1st & 3rd trimester), as they have explained me, would not be safe enough (unless in case of life and death).

Gallstones & gestational diabetes combo

Gallbladder colic caused by stones is believed to be triggered by fatty foods or too much fibre and too hot or cold foods. Thus, my doctor’s advice was to eat mainly (refined) carbs, well-cooked vegetables and lean cuts of meat or fish. Fats should be minimized to 6 teaspoons of plant-based oils daily. Milk and dairy products should be low fat. No cheese, no nuts, no raw food (goodbye salad bowls) and no egg yolks. And, oh, no more coffee and no chocolate.

Food diary

After receiving the diagnosis, I started eating like a 6-months old baby. I was adding ingredients one by one and noticing which one would give more heartburn or pain under the ribs. I would write a daily diary of everything I’d eaten and how did it affect my sugars and general wellbeing for each bite.

Gallstone attacks (colic)

First month went by with no attack reoccurring. Just when I thought I had the system figured out; attacks came back. At first, I thought they were related only to stress, as I would have one every Saturday. On those days we had visitors, and I was full of expectations, cleaning and cooking and running around a lot / too much, maybe.

What would I eat in order to avoid further attacks and sugar spikes?

Different foods can trigger gallstone colic. Triggers differ for each individual. This means doctor’s guidelines are only meant to be general and are not 100% accurate for you or me. After figuring out what the right and wrong choices looked like for me, I would combine the two diets (diabetes and gallstone) like this:

  • Eating lots of carbs, but not the most refined ones, as my sugar will spike too much
  • Incorporate small pieces of lean meat (poultry or fish) and small types of legumes to have proteins
  • No diary nor egg; after some painful attacks, I realized I cannot tolerate any diary, even if it is low fat
  • Cooking veggies or some fruit with/prior every meal. It helps to lower the sugar and brings some volume to the dish.
  • Eating as liquid and soupy food as I could. Liquid food is more digestible and lessens the heartburn. I had very strong heartburn (also symptom of gallstones, not only pregnancy related) since week 6 of my pregnancy.
  • Add spices–I’ve looked into books which spices are good for my health condition and which one is safe for you. E.g. I would add cinnamon to my breakfast to lower the sugar and cumin at lunch to make it more digestible. I am trying to avoid turmeric and rosemary.
  • Having meat/fish only as part of lunch. This is because the digestive fire is said to be strongest when the sun is highest, e.g. in the middle of the day.
  • Only eating fruits when sun is out (between dusk and down), 1-hour before meal, if possible, with no other food aside. When I eat an apple in the early morning, I always cook it with some cloves.
  • Adding spices, which help my digestion & which are common and accessible in my country. I am a fan of local food. E.g. I would not eat coconut or avocado products as they do not grow in our region.
  • Eating a lot of beets. This advice was given in one interview with Ayurvedic doctor Marianne Teitelbaum, D.C., also author of the book “Healing the Thyroid with Ayurveda”. In this book, she wrote an entire chapter about how gallbladder and thyroid are interconnected.

Other gallstones & pregnancy related experiences

Suitable diet is indeed important in case of gallstones. However, I can describe many more facts, unique to “gallstones & pregnancy” status.

Sleeping upright and happy nightly pain

Sometimes I could feel a lot of pressure under the ribs, especially when lying down. Since the painful experience began, I slept on my left side. However, if I could still feel dinner or a late-night snack in my stomach, I would go to sleep in the sitting position. Of course, I would then wake up in the middle of the night in a pain. I would check–is it pain from stiff neck or am I having pain colic? As long as pain was coming from the neck, I’d call it my “happy nightly pain”.

Repeat the food-choice-challenge with each new season

My gallstone issues began in summer. It was a time of zucchini, cucumber and lots of other garden vegetables. Cooking fresh and fast was easy. But then, autumn came and suddenly, I had to figure it out again–which foods make me feel better and which would make my pain and heartburn worse?

Even alternative medicine wants you to wait

To be honest, my first response to the surgeon was, “I don’t want to give up a whole organ!”. I was determined to find an alternative solution. I had double-checked my diet guidelines with an Ayurvedic doctor, wrote to homeopathic organization, visited an osteopath and planning to visit Centre of traditional Chinese medicine. I’ve also ordered and read the famous Moritz’s book about the cleanse & flush. (This book seemed to be the most cited and recommended resource in social media groups).

The only time (ever) I am not proud of losing some weight

I have been gaining (most of the time) and losing (sometimes) weight since started going to school or even earlier. I can say I am very good at adding kilos to my body, while losing them was always a special struggle and did not last long enough. But not this time.

You are looking good!

Losing weight because of the diet meant my legs became leaner, my face lost its double chin, and of course my backside has missed some of its feminine curves.

Emotional eater on therapy & no cravings allowed

There is a saying: as much as you give to the child, the child gives back and you both grow together. Indeed, this baby has changed me so much already, even before giving birth. I mean, who could say they have overcome emotional eating without seeing an expensive therapist?

Eating out

How do you order pizza, when you shouldn’t eat any processed meat (e.g. ham) and no diary (e.g. cheese)? What salad plate would you choose when you cannot eat fresh vegetables? Or how to order anything else, if you are not sure how much oil they are going to put into the dish?

What a relief when the belly goes South!

“During last weeks of pregnancy, the belly drops a little and the pregnant lady can breathe easily”. This is the description in the manuals for the parenting. In my case, I did not only breathe easier, I could sleep again on my right side without the pain under whole ribcage.

Heartburn

Teitelbaum D.C. in her book Healing the thyroid with Ayurveda also mentions how acid reflux is one of the major symptoms of thick and not flowing bile in the body. This was true in my case. As my due date colleges would start to have heartburn after some 20+ weeks of pregnancy, my throat would burn from week 5 on. I tried to ease it by eating many smaller meals, cooking moist and liquid food and eating sourdough bread instead of a conventional one, based on yeast.

The guilt

In nowadays, pregnant lady is reminded very often to eat nutrient-rich foods in order to offer her baby the optimal conditions to grow and develop. Well, every time I would hear or read something like this, a million “what ifs” would rush through my mind. What if my baby’s brain can not develop properly because there is not enough fat? What if he is going to be stupid because of me? What if he is going to be ill because of all the medicine I have eaten during those attacks? I felt so guilty, even before he was born.

Party time and the day after

Every time I had an attack, my body would go through a real hungover the next day. In fact, I think there are a lot of similarities between biliary colic attack and teenager-style party:

Calm down and relax: it’s time for your wellness

Diet can do a lot for the gallbladder health, but so does peaceful mind. Before gallstones’ pain stopped me, I would live a fast and stressful life. Then, suddenly, I had to stop and relax. Being calm and relax lessened my chance of getting more attacks.

Fear childbirth not

Around week 30, when the belly gets so big, it becomes very normal to feel the fear of letting this baby creature out of you. But I was not scared. I would joke how I gave birth 10 times already. My colic pain intensity was always very similar to the one I knew from the first labour. One more painful experience will not scare me.

It is the end, but it is not over yet

I am not pregnant anymore, but gallstones are remaining. I am on the waiting list for the operation and meanwhile trying out alternative methods. I am also in the process of transforming my modern, fast-paced life into a slow one.

Environmentally conscious marketing professional. Plant based (95%) food lover. Mom. In a transition from fast-speed to a slow living life.

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