It’s one of the most talked (complained!) about symptom of pregnancy, so it’s not surprising that around 75% of women will experience some heartburn when pregnant, particularly towards the later stages. Whilst it may not sound like a big deal, actually heartburn can make you feel pretty miserable, causing discomfort after eating and even disrupting that much needed sleep in the few weeks before your baby arrives.
Pregnancy heartburn occurs when pregnancy hormones (progesterone is the main culprit!) cause the sphincter muscles at the base and the top of your stomach to relax slightly. At the same time your baby will be pushing your stomach up towards your ribcage. Put the two together and stomach acid, along with partially digested food, can squeeze back up into your gullet (oesophagus) causing a burning sensation in your chest when this happens.
Natural tips to help ease pregnancy heartburn
So what can you do to minimise discomfort and give your body a helping hand? There are of course over the counter remedies, but we think these natural tips are well worth a try too…
- Listen to your body – the Internet will give you a million lists of what does and doesn’t cause heartburn, but everyone is different so listen to your body. If milk gives you reflux, even if it is best quality organic, then don’t drink it for a while. Try a milk alternative, (Oat or Rice) or just eat a little differently so you don’t need it as much. `It is not so much an issue of whether a food is good for you or not, as whether your body is digesting it or not, at the moment!
- Digestive enzymes – to be taken when you eat to help speed food through your stomach. Look for ones made with fruit enzymes like papain and bromelain. They are quite safe in pregnancy and might help to make you more comfortable.
- Acidophilus probiotics at this time can be a lifesaver, both helping settle your digestion and ward off thrush too.
- Eat little and often. You might have to eat your lunch in 3 instalments. As your baby grows and presses against your stomach, you may find that you’ll only be able to eat smaller portions anyway. Don’t worry it will pass!
- Use simple digestive teas after dinner. Peppermint, ginger, chamomile all help improve digestion.
- Smoking is dreadful for aggravating heartburn, another great reason to cut out, or at least cut back on the ciggies whilst pregnant.
- Avoid acidic foods and drinks – Alcoholic is acidic and is likely to cause heartburn and is one of only 2 substances that the body absorbs directly into the bloodstream through the stomach lining so this should be avoided. Trying to eat a more alkaline diet will normally help, so lots of greens and vegetables are good. Other things to try and avoid are sugar, bread and dairy. There are raw chocolate and snack bars if you want to have enjoyable healthy treats that still give you that sweet sensation. Dates are particularly good, they are sweet and alkalising.
- Wash everything in water and preferably in filtered water
- Deep breathing may sound a crazy remedy, but keep your ribs stretched and make room in your body by taking full deep breaths. Pilates and yoga will help with this.
- Food combining is something to think about, it is difficult for the stomach to body to digest both protein and carbohydrates at the same time. There is some good articles on food combining and experimenting with combinations of food may help a lot too