It may be embarrassing to talk about, but that doesn’t make it any less of a fact: people have gas. Whether through a belch or flatulence, people pass gas 14 times a day on average, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unfortunately for expecting women, this gas expulsion average is even higher, making for some uncomfortable moments. But fear not! Find out what triggers gas and what you can do to prevent and manage it.
What Causes Gas, Anyway?
“Bloating [and gas] during pregnancy can be caused by many things,” says Jackie Keller, founding director of NutriFit, LLC. It might be something as simple as swallowing air when you eat or chew gum. Or, the foods you eat may contribute the uncomfortable tightness you feel in your abdomen.
The prominence of progesterone in a pregnant woman’s body also plays a major role in excessive gas. Progesterone slows the digestive process, causing that horrible bloated feeling and subsequent gas. Likewise, the weight of your growing baby presses onto the digestive tract, further slowing things down. This spells gassy mayhem when you’re expecting.
It may seem that there is no solution, but don’t fret! Here are five easy ways to reduce gas and bloating so you can feel better and (breathe easier!) during pregnancy.
The foods you eat have a direct impact on the amount of gas you experience, pregnant or not. But for the pregnant woman, gassy foods can be particularly troublesome. Avoid “artificial sweeteners, especially those in diet soda,” says Keller. If you haven’t noticed, many of these artificially sweetened drinks have warnings on their labels regarding their likelihood of causing diarrhea. Gas should also be on that warning.
Certain foods cause gas in just about everyone, says Dr. Patricia Raymond, MD, gastroenterologist and assistant professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School. These foods include, “beans, cabbage, onions, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus and corn; fruits such as pears, apples, prunes and peaches; whole grain products and oats; milk, ice cream and cheese; and carbonated drinks [and] fruit juices,” says Dr. Raymond.
This may leave you feeling as though every single food causes gas. While that’s certainly not true, many people experience gas with specific foods on an individual basis.
Keep a Food Journal
If you feel as though you’re experiencing gas on a more than normal basis, keep track of the foods you eat and the volume of gas experienced within six hours of each meal, suggests Dr. Raymond. If you become gassy at dinner time, check to see what you ate for lunch. Did you drink an artificially sweetened soda? Or, did you eat another food that has crosschecked on your food journal to be a consistent culprit?
“It takes about a full six hours for portions of a meal to be released as gas,” reminds Dr. Raymond, “so if you have a particularly gassy sensation, it might not be that snack you just ate, but rather the meal you had awhile ago.”
Sometimes, having gas is just a reality we must accept. A great way to deal with gas and get a bit of exercise is to walk after a meal. Take a walk around the neighborhood, wash the dishes, or walk the dog. Sitting still makes it so the gas just remains in the bowels, causing bloating and pain, says Dr. Raymond. “Once you have [gas], you might as well mobilize it.”
Elevate Your Legs
If you find yourself burdened with an uncomfortable bout of gas, sit somewhere that you can elevate your feet, suggests Keller. Doing so will take the pressure of baby off of your abdomen and let your body digest more freely. While you’re at it, avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes. Even though your maternity jeans may accommodate for your growing belly, they may still dig into your abdomen, restricting digestion and causing pain.
Do you eat three well-balanced meals a day? If so, that may be a major contributor to your gassy state while pregnant. Since there are a lot of factors already slowing your digestive system, you’ll want to be nice to it! Break those three meals up into several smaller ones, allowing your body adequate time to digest, and freeing you of the bloating and gas so many pregnant women find unbearable.
Feeling lighter yet? Don’t be surprised if implementing just a few of these gas-busting strategies makes you feel much better. It’s really all about listening to your body and adjusting accordingly. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to muddle through an intolerably gassy nine months. Instead, change the little things in your life that bring on the most bloating bouts and you’ll be well on your way to a gas-free pregnancy.