When it comes to this fast food favorite, it's probably not the potato that's causing your indigestion. High-fat foods (such as greasy French fries and other fried foods) tend to relax the normally tight muscular valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach, allowing gastric acids to seep back up. Pregnancy hormones that help the uterus relax and expand during pregnancy also relax this valve, doubling your chances for your burning indigestion when you eat fatty foods.
A lower-fat alternative that's easier on the stomach? We like Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Drizzle, made with just a little olive oil. If vinegar in foods gives you trouble, skip the recipe's balsamic vinegar sauce.
Ate a hamburger for dinner and still paying for it hours later with burning, gassy discomfort? Not only can fatty foods affect the stomach valve (releasing stomach acids into the esophagus), but foods with a higher fat content digest more slowly—this leaves food and acid in the stomach much longer, increasing your chances of experiencing heartburn. Is the burger to blame? Check the fat content of the meat you are using. Ground beef that is 75 percent lean means that 25 percent of your serving is saturated fat! For less fat, switch to 95 percent lean ground beef—if this still gives you indigestion, swap the meat for a boneless grilled chicken breast or lower-fat "veggie burger."
Acids in tomatoes can really do a number of your stomach when you are already having problems with acid reflux, so proceed with caution when including tomato slices in your salad or sandwich. Just can’t eat spaghetti without a topping of zesty tomato sauce? Experiment with a small serving first—overeating, especially if what you are eating too much of is a trigger food, is another common cause of indigestion.
Rather than a heaping serving of spaghetti with sauce, serve it as a side dish and make chicken or fish the main attraction of a stomach-friendly meal. Some moms-to-be may find that even small amounts of tomato may cause acid reflux, so be prepared to forgo this fruit until after your baby is born.
Think you are going low fat when you skip the red meat burger and go with chicken nuggets? A typical six-piece serving of chicken nuggets contains approximately 30 percent of your daily intake for fat, making nuggets a good candidate for what could be causing your heartburn.
A tasty, quick-cooking alternative? Try these lower-fat Crispy Chicken Nuggets made with heart-healthy canola oil and a hint of grated cheese.
Oranges and grapefruits are a good source of vitamin C and other important prenatal nutrients. Unfortunately, acidic citrus fruits are also a common heartburn trigger food for many moms-to-be. Vitamin C-rich alternatives that won’t give you tummy trouble? Try less acidic fruits like raspberries and strawberries. One cup of halved strawberries provides 86 mg of vitamin C, or just over 100 percent of the prenatal RDI for the vitamin (and even more vitamin C than a medium-size orange contains).
Chocolate contains theobromine, a naturally occurring compound that relaxes the muscular valve separating the stomach and esophagus, allowing stomach acid to squirt up into the esophagus. Chocolate is also a source for caffeine, a common stomach irritant. For chocoholic moms-to-be, cutting back and eating only a small amount of chocolate every now and again might be acceptable to your stomach.
Even a small morsel causing big tummy trouble? Try switching to carob, the chocolately-tasting bean of the carob tree. Carob is free from the stimulants caffeine and theobromine found in chocolate.
Drinking mint tea has long been thought to aid in digestion, but according to some heartburn experts, mint may actually stimulate reflux in people who are already having trouble with acid indigestion (by causing the esophagus valve to relax even further). A tea that actually tames acid reflux? Pour yourself a cup of chamomile tea. The calming herb helps to relieve inflamed or irritated mucus surfaces of the digestive tract, speeding up food digestion.
Need a cup of caffeine to get going in the morning? Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks (even hot chocolate!) are notorious triggers for acid indigestion. What about decaf? Because all types of coffee are acidic, even a cup of joe without the caffeine may be enough to aggravate heartburn. The verdict is still out on how much coffee is safe to drink during pregnancy, so consider cutting back—way back—until your baby is born. If you just can't handle not having coffee in your life, try making "coffee milk" by adding a splash of coffee to a glass of milk.
The caffeine content of soda, cola, and other soft drinks can lead to stomach irritation. But the real problem with soft drinks? All those tiny bubbles; drinking carbonated “fizzy" beverages causes the stomach to distend and triggers an over-production of stomach acid. Just can’t get by without your daily dose of pop? Try taking small sips of soda, rather than big gulps—burping can lead to esophagus irritation. Also, buy your soda in single serving cans (and skip the big liter bottles) to limit how much you are drinking.
Gassy and acidic, onions are almost synonymous with heartburn for many acid reflux sufferers. Avoid onions altogether—or carefully watch when you eat the vegetable. Having a heavy meal (with lots of onions) just before bedtime is an almost certain recipe for disaster. When you lie down with a full stomach, partially digested foods press harder against the sphincter valve between the stomach and esophagus, increasing the chances of refluxed food. In other words, eating a small amount of onion in that lunchtime potato salad might not give you a problem, but gorging on onion rings as a midnight snack likely will.
They are creamy and delicious—and a good source for calcium when you are pregnant. But dairy products, including whole milk, regular cottage cheese, sour cream, ice cream, and milk shakes, contain lactose (lactic acid) and fat, two triggers for acid indigestion.
Need to go dairy-free? Rice milk with added calcium may be a stomach-friendly alternative. You can also give soy a try, but proceed with caution. Some moms-to-be may find soy to be as much of a stomach irritant as dairy.
Cranberries may be an antioxidant-packed “superfruit,” but the tart berries, eaten whole or in juice form, can also be super-irritating to sensitive stomachs. Acidic orange juice, grapefruit juice, and lemonade are also infamous for kicking up acid indigestion. What to do when you need a juice fix? Try diluting some apple juice with water or just go with the flow and drink plain water until after your due date.
Could a sensitivity to wheat gluten be what’s driving your acid indigestion? You don’t have to have celiac disease to have a sensitivity to grain-based foods. To check for a wheat intolerance, remove gluten-containing foods from your diet for two weeks. Feel better? Continue to avoid wheat-based foods—or reintroduce slowly and in small quantities.
Instead of eating bread with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, look for creative ways to get around sandwich-based meals. We like eggroll-style Chicken Lettuce Wraps that use lettuce instead of flour-based wrappers.
Cookies, brownies, and just about every other drool-worthy baked good out there can cause heartburn, due to the high butter (fat) content contained in most recipes. Tummy-friendly alternatives? Practice portion control. Rather than scarf down a plate of freshly baked cookies in one sitting, limit yourself to one every few hours to help the body more easily break down fats—and cap yourself at a reasonable total for the day, of course!
Being spicy and greasy is part of what makes chicken wings so good. But when you are having trouble with heartburn, this combination can spell disaster. Should you swear off all spicy foods? Depending on your cultural background and the foods you traditionally eat, some moms-to-be may have no problem with chile peppers or hot curries. If that’s the case, spice it up! But for many, skipping out on spicy foods may just be a stomach saver.
It’s already on the no-no list for pregnancy, but here’s some stomach-friendly advice for after your baby is born. Drinking too much can lead to acid reflux due to compounds in beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks that easily irritate and damage the lining of the esophagus and stomach. Have heartburn after that celebratory champagne toast to welcome the new arrival? Carbonation in beer and champagne (and fizzy mixed drinks) can also increase the production of stomach acid, leading to sudden bouts of acid reflux.