Diet 101 for Heartburn during Pregnancy

Get ready to deal with heartburn during pregnancy with these tips

Pregnancy marks the most beautiful time in a woman's life, and it's usually a time filled with excitement and anticipation. No matter how excited one is to welcome a new life into the family, this period is also associated with uncomfortable changes.

For instance, heartburns are quite common during pregnancy. If you are experiencing discomforting sensations that feel like your chest is burning, then you are probably suffering from heartburn. Find out everything you need to know about heartburn during pregnancy and put your anxiety to rest!

What is heartburn?

Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) refers to the intense burning sensation that occurs in your throat and chest. This is because your stomach produces acids to help digest the food you consume. And in case you have GERD, the acidic contents of your stomach flow backward into the pathway that connects your stomach with the throat (called oesophagus), causing heartburn and sometimes even vomiting.

What causes acid reflux during pregnancy? How common is its occurrence?

Heartburn due to acid reflux is one of the most common gastric troubles during pregnancy and is considered normal. It develops particularly at the end of the first or second trimester, and becomes more evident and discomforting during the third trimester, as the pregnancy progresses.

The cause of acid reflux during pregnancy is complex and attributed to many factors that play a role. As the pregnancy progresses, the expanding uterus exerts pressure on your belly, which causes the lower muscles of the path leading to your stomach to relax, allowing the acidic contents of your stomach to flow back into the throat, causing acid reflux. Additionally, high pressure on your belly delays the process of emptying of stomach contents, which can also increase the chances of acid reflux. This is the reason why heartburn is more evident during that last trimester.

The pregnancy hormones also play a part in causing acid reflux and heartburn. The presence of high levels of progesterone causes certain muscles called smooth muscles to relax. Consequently, lower muscles of the path leading to your stomach relax, and causing acid reflux and heartburn.

Can dietary and lifestyle modification help in managing heartburn?

Yes, lifestyle and dietary modification can help you manage the early and mild symptoms of acid reflux and can prevent its progression. You might be wondering if you need to avoid certain foods that cause acidity or foods that cause acid reflux. Worry not, as here are some tips and tricks to guide you towards managing your heartburn caused by acid reflux.

  • Abstain completely from drinking alcohol and smoking. They worsen your symptoms and not to forget, they are also harmful for the foetus.
  • Eat small frequent meals rather than large meals so that they are not too heavy for your stomach to handle. Avoid eating late at night as hitting the bed immediately after consuming food increases the likelihood of acid reflux.
  • Avoid foods that are spicy and pungent as they worsen your heartburn by irritating your stomach.
  • Foods that are very greasy, bulky and fatty must be avoided as they worsen heartburn.
  • Foods with high acidic content must be avoided too. Acidic foods to avoid include citrus fruits and tomatoes and onions, which are likely to act as irritants to your gastrointestinal tract.
  • Avoid caffeinated and carbonated drinks, soft drinks, sweets, and chocolates, as they cause irritation to your stomach.
  • Eat foods that can help balance your stomach’s acidity such as low-fat yogurt, skimmed milk, non-citrus fruits, bland foods, green leafy vegetables, and nuts.
  • Try sleeping in a more upright position as it prevents reflux due to postural changes.
  • Maintenance of a healthy weight pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy is also essential as obesity is a risk factor for acid reflux and heartburn.

Heartburn during pregnancy is quite common and you have nothing much to fear as it is likely to cause discomforting symptoms which get resolved after delivery. Making lifestyle modifications is the key to managing milder symptoms. However, remember that the condition might require medical attention in case of a severe progression. So, it is essential to keep your caregiver informed about strong discomforting experiences. Avoiding foods that cause acidity and keeping a list of what to eat in acidity handy, can help you manage heartburn during pregnancy better.