Growing up, I watched my paternal grandmother stick her fingers several times a day to check her “sugar”. At a young age I became familiar with the notion that diabetes “ran in my family”. Every since I can remember, about age 2, I’ve had a heart and a desire to heal. I grew up wanting to be a doctor because I associated medical doctors with people that healed. I can remember having the desire to heal my grandmother one day and making sure that no one else in our family ever had to deal with “sugar” again. A part of me has always believed that every disease can be cured some way, we just have to figure out how.
I saw my granny sticking her thumb. Her next prescription would come. Diabetes and high cholesterol? Where did our eating habits come from? Probably the slave masters that fed us the crumbs. Now disease runs in the family, even Uncle Tom.”-Corinthian Elizabeth
Years passed by and I learned that more of my family members had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes including both of my parents. This was a hard pill to swallow considering that I wasn’t old enough to go to medical school yet to find the cure. This also implied that I could possibly get diagnosed one day too. Fast forward to my pregnancy with Jarvis Jr. when I received the news that my labs came back positive for gestational diabetes. My OBGYN at the time explored my family history and quickly let me know it may go away after the pregnancy but my chances of being diagnosed with type 2 later in life were high. This could also be something that I would have to deal with lifelong. This was an even harder pill to swallow, this time literally as I picked up my prescription of the new, large white pills that I would have to take every day. I was advised to limit my sugar intake by not eating sweets and whenever I ate fruit to balance my sugar levels by eating something high in protein like peanut butter or cheese. I did this but I still had to take the pills up until the day that I gave birth. I felt like I had failed myself, broken the promise that I made to cure diabetes in my family, and above all I had let the little boy that I was carrying down.
I was relieved to find out at my 6 weeks postpartum visit that the gestational diabetes had gone away. However, my doctor advised me again to watch out for diabetes later on in life and that I would have gestational diabetes with any subsequent pregnancies that followed this one. Not only did this make me leary of having a future with good health but also fearful to have more children one day.
During my pregnancy with Legend I was going through a spiritual awakening. Prior to this pregnancy I had already been trying to go vegan. I share more about this in previous blogs What Happened When I Stopped Eating Dairy and What Happened When I Stopped Eating Meat . My body was out of harmony in the beginning of my first trimester with Legend and I was determined to figure out why. While watching a documentary, “What the Health”, on Netflix I saw that some patients had been cured of diabetes by switching to a plant based diet. This was more motivation for me to change my diet believing that gestational diabetes could fall into this category too. By this time I had more than just a hunch that the body can heal itself. Challenge accepted.
When it came time to take the test for gestational diabetes during the pregnancy with Legend, I was happy to receive my results saying that I didn’t have it. The saying that “three times is a charm” has rang true as I’m currently 8 months pregnant with my baby girl and I passed the test again with no signs of gestational diabetes. Both OBGYN’s for these pregnancies appeared to be surprised that I didn’t have it considering my medical history. Here recently my OBGYN wanted to do the urine test as well as a blood test just to be sure. Nothing again. I was in the clear. I could feel my late grandmother rejoicing with me from the other side.
I may not have been able to heal my grandmother but thankfully I was able to heal myself as well as break another “curse” in my family by changing my diet. Last month my doula gave me a pamphlet encouraging to return to our roots and incorporate the diet that our African ancestors followed in order to maintain a health pregnancy. The diet consists of eating more greens, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, herbs, and spices. The African Heritage Diet also suggests eating small amounts of healthy oils, eating sweets sparingly, and drinking plenty of water. As far as meat, the diet suggests eating tuna, mackerel, salmon, and sardines by boiling, grilling, or lightly pan cooking them and eating eggs, poultry, and other meats in small portions or as garnishes for other dishes.
I personally don’t eat any meat or dairy. I only drink water, herbal tea, and an occasional real fruit smoothie. I eat mainly vegetables, beans, rice, pasta, and all of the fruit that I want without having to “balance it out”. Here recently I stopped eating bread too. I’m thinking of making this a permanent change. The pamphlet from my doula on the African Heritage diet also includes some of the benefits based on scientific research. I’m listing the ones that I have personally experienced:
- Lowered risk of high blood pressure (another sickness that runs in my family)
- Avoid or help treat diabetes
- Achieve a healthy weight gain and avoid obesity
- Reduce depression
I was thankful to receive this pamphlet from my doula. It was a nice confirmation that changing my diet has been beneficial in my healing. To read more on the benefits of my lifestyle change check out my past blogs What Happened When I Stopped Eating Meat and What Happened When I Stopped Eating Dairy . Also visit www.oldwayspt.org for more information on the African Heritage Diet.