Acid Reflux During Pregnancy
Acid reflux or Heartburn can be a nuisance during pregnancy, but here are some fantastic tips to overcome it.
It’s lucky our memories are selective as despite this being my third time round, I had plain forgotten about one of the less pleasurable side effects of pregnancy: gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), more commonly known as acid indigestion or heartburn. In the first couple of trimesters, our hormones are the main culprit here, namely progesterone produced by the placenta, which relaxes the valve separating the stomach from the oesophagus thereby allowing gastric acids to come back up.
Later in the pregnancy, the baby starts crowding out the stomach area, again pushing acids back up our oesophagus. Unfortunately, most mothers-to-be will experience this discomfort, and while it’s best to consult your doctor when it comes to taking drugs, (OTC and prescription), there are many ways you can help yourself, by simply changing your diet.
No size fits all in GERD as there are different trigger foods for each person. Personally, as much as I love curling up on the sofa with my bump and a spag bol, the onions and tomatoes in the sauce are a big no-no for me right now, as they usually lead to a very burpy evening which is not terribly sociable! Making matters worse is that I later discovered that some of my cravings and foods I had been eating to relieve morning sickness were probably the cause of my reflux. Doesn’t everyone get out of bed at 3am to juice 6 grapefruits?! Citrus, onions and tomatoes are common trigger foods for GERD, but there are also others to watch out for:
Spicy foods: Szechuan cuisine is sadly off limits for a few months, especially annoying for all the pregnant ladies craving chilli and the fab restaurants in Hong Kong serving it!
Caffeine: you are no doubt cutting back on this anyway during pregnancy, but did you know that even decaffeinated coffee contains a little caffeine? You should therefore cut this out too if you want to be squeaky clean. Don’t forget to eliminate tea and cola drinks too.
Peppermint: just in case you thought you would take refuge in a mint tea, think again. Despite peppermint oil touted as a beneficial to some stomach conditions such as IBS, it can actually relax the sphincter muscles between the stomach and oesophagus and aggravate your GERD.
Alcohol: if you're pregnant, you are no doubt avoiding the temptation of vodka jelly shots at Al Diner’s, as so you should, as alcohol is also said to relax the sphincter muscle too.
Fizzy drinks: here the bubbles are said to expand inside our tummies and increase the already high pressure. Caffeinated and acidic fizzy drinks are the worst, e.g. cola.
Chocolate: as if giving up booze was bad enough, chocolate is another common culprit since it contains caffeine, high levels of fat, and the cocoa itself can be known to trigger reflux.
Fatty foods: fried and fatty foods are one of the most recognised causes of reflux. Red and fatty cuts of meats are therefore worse in this respect along with cheese, cream and oils.
It may sound like there is nothing left to eat, but be reassured that there are plenty of delicious options out there to nourish you and your unborn child while keeping the acid at bay.
For breakfast, ditch your coffee for a large mug of chamomile or ginger tea. The latter is an age old Chinese remedy for an unsettled stomach, made simply adding a few slices of fresh ginger root into a cup of a hot water. Switch your OJ for a green juice, full of alkaline veggies to balance out your tummy’s acids: pear, kale and celery works well. Oatmeal is another great way to start the day, which you can improve further nutritionally with a teaspoon of ground flax, high in folic acid which so important for your baby’s development. Sweeten it with berries or banana, two of the more alkaline fruits.
For lunch, stick to salads of leafy greens, avoiding those acidic tomatoes and raw onion. Parsley has also long been used medicinally for poorly tummies, so chop some fresh leaves into your salad too. Go easy on the fat in the dressing, but do include apple cider vinegar however, a fast-acting remedy known to reduce and prevent acute pain from GERD.
As for carbs, make these complex! Refined grains such as white flour can be known to worsen conditions so stick to wholegrains such as bulgar wheat or seeds such as quinoa. Avoid French fries given the oil used to cook them, but do consider baking your potatoes or making the even more nutritious sweet potato fry with just a drop of olive oil.
Keep your protein lean such as chicken & turkey, avoiding bacon, the fattier cuts of red meat and skin on chicken. Fish is also highly recommended, taking care to cut down on those with potentially higher mercury content such as swordfish and tuna.
For dessert, yoghurt and its inherent source of probiotics, is no better to end the meal, best sweetened with peaches, or try slices of crisp apple spread with almond butter. Given the high level of fat, you are best leaving the cheeseboard until the baby arrives, when you can really get stuck in!
On the whole, small frequent meals are preferable, as not only can that ease morning sickness but prevent an overfull stomach pushing food back up the oesophagus. Don’t despair! The good news is that usually all the above symptoms magically disappear after you have given birth, and you will completely forget about them, until the next time…