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Complaint of the Day: Heartburn and Pregnancy

Acid reflux is no one’s friend.  But in pregnancy– especially late pregnancy– it’s very common.  Acid reflux– also known as heartburn or acid indigestion– is when stomach acid swills up into the throat causing a tight feeling in the chest and a burning sensation on the throat and mouth. It sucks.

It’s not just your growing uterus pushing your stomach upwards that causes this unpleasant situation, it’s actually the hormones of pregnancy at work. Progesterone sedates the smooth muscles in your body ,which is great for the pregnancy- the uterus is a smooth muscle and we want it sedated. If it weren’t, it would start contracting.

But this means all the smooth muscles are sedated including the intestines and the stomach, causing sluggish digestion. Hormones also sedate the lower esophageal sphincter which is responsible for keeping stomach acids in the stomach where they belong.

Giving birth is the a sure-fire cure for pregnancy reflux but in the meantime, what can you do? This condition affects the majority of pregnant women in the 3rd trimester, and some all the way through pregnancy.

Here’s are some remedies and adjustments that might help:

1.  Many women find papaya enzyme to be more effective than antacids.  You can eat papaya enzyme via the fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice or papaya enzyme tablets. It’s available in most health food stores and really can help with digestion. This remedy doesn’t make most lists but a lot of moms say it’s the only thing that came close to helping. I have read that unripe papayas are not recommended in pregnancy, so maybe avoid the bitter, rock-hard ones (as if you’d want them anyway).

2. Get gravity on your side by sleeping with a raised head. You can also remain upright for an hour or so after you eat to help things stay where they are meant to be.

3. Drink lots of water but drink it in small amounts throughout the day rather than all at once during or after a meal.

4. Eat bigger meals earlier in the day so you’re not trying to fall asleep with lots going on in your stomach. Or try eating more smaller meals throughout the day tapering off a couple hours or more before bedtime.

5. Avoid hard-to-digest foods (greasy meals and meat) and acidic foods like tomato, citrus, vinegar and the like. Limit or eliminate coffee. I’ve heard vegetable juices help as well as rice, fruits, vegetables, grains and yogurt.

photo: Very Quiet/Flickr

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