You’ve just finished having a meal with a friend or family member when you start to feel it—that burny, acidic taste creeping in the back of your throat and down to your stomach. It’s heartburn. You may have experienced little to no symptoms of heartburn before pregnancy but for some reason, it’s beginning to make an appearance with every meal. You try lying down and drink some water but the feeling just ends up getting stronger.
Heartburn occurs when stomach acids begin to venture up your esophagus. You may experience an acidic or metallic taste in your mouth and a burning at the top of your stomach. When you are pregnant, the hormone progesterone supports fetal growth and overall reproductive health. As you progress in your pregnancy, your levels of progesterone will go up to relax your muscles and prepare your uterus via contractions. Not only will progesterone relax your uterine muscles, but the rest of your muscles as well—aka your stomach muscles. Because of this relaxation, it is easier for stomach acids to creep their way up your esophagus and leave you with the discomfort of heartburn.
You don’t need to run to the doctor right away if you’re experiencing feelings of heartburn. There are many acute changes that can be made in your day to day life that can help relieve these symptoms.
1) Eat smaller meals more frequently: This is usually recommended in pregnancy anyways to keep your energy and nutrient levels up. When you eat smaller meals you are preventing your stomach from pressing against your diaphragm and causing more discomfort. If you enjoy eating larger meals, try to have them in the middle of the day instead of at dinner time or later.
2) Sit/ Lay upright after eating: When you lay down after a meal, gravity will move the acid from your stomach up into your esophagus. If you feel tired, try lying on an angle or on one side of the couch so you are less horizontal.
3) Sip your liquids: Yes, sip. Don’t down that glass of water or tea. Try carrying a water bottle with you so you remember to get your daily intake of liquids in. This will wash away the acidic taste in your mouth and help aid in digestion. Try infusing your water with lemon, chamomile, or ginger to help relax and soothe.
4) Eat whole foods, drink whole drinks: Avoid processed, spicy or sweet snacks. Try to trade out at least one poor eating or drinking choice a day and see if it helps! Little changes can have big results. Reach for nuts or protein if you are craving sweets or protein. Even the switch from milk chocolate to dark has its benefits! Try adding in a cup of herbal tea (like red raspberry or nettle for a uterine tonic) instead of coffee. Instead of chips, try seeded crackers. See what the little things can do for you!
5) Drink apple cider vinegar water or aloe vera juice: Yes, vinegar! Yes, aloe vera! It may seem like a bad idea to put acid on acid but apple cider vinegar actually neutralizes your ph. I personally drink at least a glass of apple cider vinegar water every day (1 ounce of vinegar in a glass of water) and feel great! Aloe vera juice works in the same way by coating, healing and neutralizing stomach acids. Try sipping on either of these liquids first thing in the morning and before you eat to see if they work for you.
If these changes do not help with your symptoms, I do recommend speaking to your health care professional or visiting an acupuncturist/naturopathic doctor.
With love, From Ficus.