How to Relieve and Manage Heartburn During Pregnancy
Most women can manage the usual discomforts of pregnancy, but the constant burning sensation of heartburn is unbearable for many women. Most women do not know that heartburn and acid reflux occurs in about 50% of pregnant women. This article will discuss how to relieve and manage heartburn during pregnancy.
Heartburn generally starts in the third trimester, but it can start earlier especially if you were already suffering from heartburn prior to being pregnant.
The primary cause of heartburn occurs when the LES (Lower Esophageal Sphincter) a tiny muscle meant to keep stomach acid where it belongs, allows the stomach’s contents to back up into the esophagus causing a burning sensation in the upper chest and throat.
What You Will Learn
- 3 reasons why you may get heartburn when you are pregnant
- 15 ways to prevent heartburn during pregnancy
- 10 ways you can relieve or minimize the effect of heartburn during pregnancy
- Why you should avoid heartburn medication during pregnancy
3 Reasons for Heartburn During Pregnancy
- During the second and third trimester, the growing uterus exerts continuous pressure on the stomach causing pressure on the LES, forcing it to remain partially open allowing the stomach contents to back up into the esophagus causing irritation.
- The hormone Progesterone is elevated during pregnancy; Progesterone causes the LES to relax, further increasing the chances that the additional pressure on the stomach will cause the stomach’s contents to back up into the esophagus causing heartburn and acid reflux symptoms.
- The hormone Relaxin is responsible for loosening up the ligaments in the pelvis to make the birthing process easier. Unfortunately, Relaxin, in combination with Progesterone slows digestion resulting in food remaining in the stomach longer than normal causing additional bloating which further increases the pressure on the LES.
15 Ways to Prevent Heartburn During Pregnancy
Your best course of action will be to make a few lifestyle changes that will reduce the chances that stomach acid will flow back up into your esophagus and keep your heartburn under control.
- Avoid overeating. The most important tip is to eat small meals every 2 to 3 hours. This alone may be good enough to help keep heartburn from occurring. Eat 5 to 6 small meals instead of 2 to 3 large meals. Large meals cause additional pressure in the stomach making it harder for the LES to do its job. Keep your meal size to about 1 1/2 cups of food per meal. Smaller meals are easier for your body to digest. Eat the largest meal for lunch rather than for dinner.
- Keep a close watch on what you eat. Avoid foods and drinks that cause stomach bloating such as fried foods, fatty foods, and carbonated drinks. Avoiding these foods will prevent problems. Keep a food diary of what you have eaten that has caused heartburn.
- Avoid foods that irritate your Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). These include anything with caffeine, chocolate, citrus fruits, tomatoes, mustard, peppermint products, processed meat, foods that are spicy or highly seasoned. These foods cause irritation to the LES, and when combined with the additional pressure being exerted by the uterus makes it nearly impossible for the LES to keep the stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. To read more.
- Do not eat for at least three hours before bedtime. This includes liquids.
- Eat slower and chew your food completely before swallowing. This aids in digestion so food is not sitting in your stomach longer than it should.
- Drink liquids between meals - not drink while eating or just prior to eating; this includes water. Drinking liquids while eating can dilute your stomach acid causing digestion to slow down and cause stomach distention, adding additional pressure to the LES.
- The way you sleep also plays a major role in controlling acid reflux. Gravity is your friend. Stomach acid will have a much more difficult time rising uphill. Sleeping on a bed with an adjustable incline, or that has had the head of the bed raised 10 to 15 degrees will help tremendously. A wedge pillow will also help if either of these two solutions are not feasible.
- Anatomically it is better to sleep on your left side rather than your back or your right side if you can. Sleeping on your left side keeps the LES higher than the opening to the stomach making it harder for stomach contents to bypass the LES. Sleeping on your back or right side has the opposite effect by putting the opening of the stomach either at the same level or higher than the esophagus making it easy for stomach contents to move into your esophagus.
- Chewing gum after meals causes you to increase the secretion of saliva, aiding in the digestion of your food. The saliva will also soothe an acid irritated throat. Chewing gum for 30 minutes after meals or whenever you feel heartburn coming on may help alleviate this symptom. Avoid peppermint and spearmint flavored gums – these may irritate the LES making it more difficult for it to close tightly. Cinnamon flavored gum has a soothing effect on the LES.
- Watch your posture. Bad posture can cause additional pressure on the LES making it difficult to close properly or completely. Simply pulling your shoulders back and down will have a profound effect on preventing and relieving acid reflux. Keep your solar plexus perpendicular to the floor. While eating make sure you remain seated with good posture. After eating, sit up straight in a chair or better yet stand up or go for a walk. Avoid doing anything that requires bending over.
- It is a good idea to keep a food diary so you can determine exactly what foods cause issues. Record the food, the quantity, the time it was ingested, and the time when the heartburn began. Once you narrow it down to the foods that affect you, you can easily avoid these foods. Not all foods affect people the same. Be aware that sometimes individual foods won't trigger heartburn but when combine with other foods ingested at the same time they will.
- Avoid excessive weight gain (stay within the suggested limits) and wear loose fitting comfortable clothing. Tight fitting clothing can have the same affect as a bloated stomach.
- Do not eat large quantities of meat – eating too much meat at one sitting can overtax the digestive system. This may indicate that you have low stomach acid.
- If you are taking an iron supplement check with your doctor – some cause heartburn in some women.
- This seems obvious, but I’ll state it anyway – avoid smoke whether first hand or second hand; smoke irritates the LES. Do I need to mention alcohol? Alcohol also irritates the LES and causes it to relax.
10 Ways You Can Relieve or Minimize the Effects Of Heartburn During Pregnancy
- Drink 2-3 ounces of purified Aloe Vera juice mixed with water can relieve irritation in the esophagus. It’s very important that the juice has been purified or it may cause diarrhea. Please don’t just grab an Aloe Vera plant and make juice from it.
- There are foods that help soothe heartburn. You may wish to consume: Oatmeal, Ginger, Parsley, Celery, Salads, Bananas, and Melons. As with all foods, you will have to monitor the effects on your body since individuals vary.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar in an 8-ounce glass of water. Sip it slowly prior to any meals that contain protein. It helps to speed up digestion by promoting the release of stomach acid and pepsin.
- Supplement with Betaine HCl and Pepsin prior to meals that contain protein. There is an article on this site that explains how to determine how much Betaine HCl is safe to take.
- Add fresh lemon to your water – squeeze 1-2 fresh lemons into 8 ounces of water. Lemon juice helps balance low stomach acid and promotes quicker digestion. Drink it 30-minutes prior to eating. You may also add Manuka honey to improve the taste and soothe your throat.
- Eat pineapple, avocados, and bananas to improve digestion.
- Eat raw sauerkraut, kim chi, and kefir to promote good bacteria which support healthy digestion. These are good before a high protein meal or before bed.
- A chiropractor can help with heartburn by adjusting the LES, moving it into a position that improves its ability to keep stomach contents in the stomach.
Avoid Antacid Medication If You Are Pregnant
Heartburn is caused by not having sufficient hydrochloric acid in your stomach to initiate the release of Pepsin and to digest your food. Taking so-called heartburn or acid reflux medication actually makes matters worse by further reducing stomach acid and increasing the length of time it takes to digest your food.
Antacid medication will give instant relief, but the heartburn will continue to occur and will sometimes be worse than before.
Only as a last resort should you take any type of antacid medication and then only as directed by your doctor. The same goes for baking soda.
Possible Side Effects of Antacid Medication
- Recent antacid studies have shown links between the medication and strokes, arterial damage, dementia, kidney disease, heart attacks, and asthma in newborns.
- Some Antacid medication contains calcium carbonate – too much calcium carbonate can block iron absorption.
- Some Antacid tablets contain aluminum hydroxide or aluminum carbonate which can cause constipation and can be toxic in large amounts.
The Anti-Heartburn Green Smoothie
- ½ Head Spinach
- ½ Bunch of Kale
- 2 ounces of purified Aloe Vera juice
- 1 Mango
- ½ Cup Apple Juice
- 1 Cup fresh strawberries
- 1 Cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp of Manuka Honey
- 1 cup Ice
- Combine all your ingredients in a blender with several ice cubes to thicken.
- Blend on High till blended
*Makes two to three servings.
To summarize, prevention is your best bet to avoid heartburn during your pregnancy.
- There are several options available to you here if you’re pregnant and have heartburn. Not every suggestion will work for everyone but do not despair; something here will work for you.
- Everyone is different; your body may respond better to one remedy than another.
- Follow the eating tips and sleeping tips given above.
- Do your best to find ways and means to provide relief for yourself.
- Keep a food diary of what you ate, the time it was eaten, and record all incidences of heartburn.
- Do your research or talk to your doctor.
- The pain can be mitigated if you know what to do. You just need to find out what works for you, and it’s just a matter of paying attention to your body.
The information contained here does not constitute medical advice and is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure disease. Please contact your doctor. The information provided is for informational purposes only and are solely the views of the author.