By Rita Brhel
We like to joke about pregnant women and their food cravings. Ice cream and pickles. Sending hubby to get an order of fries at 2 a.m. But it’s no joke for a pregnant woman who eats gluten-free for medical reasons and suddenly, desperately, craves food that contains gluten. (When I was pregnant, I craved beer!)
Complicating matters is the usual nausea, heartburn, and constipation that come with pregnancy. When you’re struck with first trimester sickness, any food that sounds good at the time is one that you can probably keep down. And often those foods contain gluten.
When you’re unable to eat every food that pops into your brain, you have to find some way to resist the gluten cravings. I ended up seeking the help of a nutritionist, who advised me to substitute the gluten cravings with their gluten-free cousins — gluten-free bread, for example.
Now, this works sometimes, but some pregnancy cravings are very specific. For example, I wanted onion rings from Burger King, nowhere else, and a homemade variety wasn’t going to cut it.
Some of my cravings were never satisfied (I never drank beer) or weren’t satisfied fully, but I did find that some disappeared and that as the pregnancy progressed, the rest of my cravings were lessened, if I ate healthfully, got enough sleep, and generally lived a healthy lifestyle. The nutrition factor was probably the most influential. If I ate poorly for a day, especially if I skipped on my prenatal multivitamin due to nausea, the cravings grew stronger.
It is important to make sure you have a good prenatal multivitamin for the entire pregnancy and afterwards, whether or not you’re gluten-free. If you’re gluten-free and still have some lasting effects from the years of being undiagnosed celiac, like me, you may need to take extra vitamins and minerals. I have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 and folic acid, so I had to take extra of these above the multivitamin to ward off the associated anemia. Be sure to check with your doctor on this, as some vitamins and minerals are dangerous if taken at higher doses, and any health decision should be made in cooperation with a medical professional, which I am not.
I also had a great deal of trouble stabilizing my blood sugar while pregnant. I didn’t have gestational diabetes, but I developed reactive hypoglycemia after meals and would wake up starving in the middle of the night. I found that if I could manage this, mostly through frequent snacking and always pairing a protein with a carbohydrate, this lessened my cravings as well.
Everyone is different, so here is what other experienced women and nutritionists had to say:
- Pregnancy changes the body chemistry during those nine months, so much so that some women find they enjoy foods they previously did not. Try something new!
- Eat more protein.
- Satisfy carb cravings in other gluten-free ways. Not only cereals, but also fruit and dairy. If you’re sick, sip on broth or milk.
- Eat more food. Craving gluten might mean your body just needs more calories.