What to Eat to Avoid Heartburn During Pregnancy
Heartburn during pregnancy is a fairly common problem. This is because the uterus gradually compresses the diaphragm, which in turn reduces the space available for the stomach pouch. As a result, it’s possible to experience gastrointestinal disturbances, such as reflux or heartburn, which affect a woman’s feeling of well-being.
Fortunately, most of these problems can be managed by optimizing the diet. It’s important to emphasize the contribution of certain foods and reduce the consumption of others to notice improvements. Also, other healthy lifestyle habits can help. In the latter case, there’s always the option of going to the doctor to start a pharmacological treatment.
Foods that can reduce heartburn during pregnancy
First of all, we’re going to focus on which foods are able to reduce heartburn during pregnancy. They can be included in the context of a varied and balanced diet to reduce these symptoms. Later, we’ll also tell you which foods to avoid, as they intensify the problem.
Milk has a basic pH. Thanks to this property, it can neutralize stomach acids when it enters said organ. It’s not a remedy that attacks the source of the problem, but it manages to provide momentary relief that’s almost as effective as drugs and with far fewer side effects. A glass of fresh milk will relieve the burning sensation.
Now, always try to include this food in its whole version. This ensures a much higher nutritional contribution, taking advantage of the fat-soluble vitamins found inside. In addition, the skimmed versions can be harmful to certain people, such as women who’ve developed polycystic ovary syndrome.
As far as possible, opt for a variety of organic milk. When cows are raised in the wild and graze on pastures, the concentration of fatty acids in the dairy that comes from them is of a higher quality. Thanks to this, inflammatory mechanisms can be controlled, which helps reduce pain.
Apples are characterized by their content of soluble fibers, known as pectins. These compounds improve the health of the microbiota, as they serve as an energy substrate for the bacteria that live in the digestive tract. It should be borne in mind that influencing this organ could reduce heartburn in pregnancy.
At the same time, roasted apple is also capable of neutralizing acids, thus moderating the burning sensation. However, in the event that the cause of the sensation is a Helicobacter pylori infection, increasing the intake of fiber and sugars may not be as appropriate. In this case, studies have proven that treatment should involve probiotics, along with the corresponding drugs.
Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil contains a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids. These compounds contribute to modulating inflammatory states in the body, as evidenced by research published in the journal International Immunology. In this way, gastritis can be alleviated when this is the source of heartburn during pregnancy.
Of course, you’ll have to be careful with the amount of oil consumed. Fats have slow gastric emptying, so if they’re ingested at night and in large doses, they could temporarily increase symptoms. It’s best to include a couple of teaspoons of this food raw with your midday meal. This will allow you to make the most of it.
At the same time, it’s important to know that you must limit the intake of seed oils. These can cause an effect opposite to that of olive oil, increasing general inflammation and causing more burning. They have a greater refining process and their lipid profile isn’t as healthy.
Yogurts are products that stand out for their high nutritional density and for the concentration of probiotic bacteria inside. These are able to help reduce both heartburn and reflux, as shown in an article published in the journal Nutrients. Although the results of larger studies are necessary, those found to date are encouraging.
Of course, when choosing a yogurt it’s important to make sure that you’re purchasing a quality product. Most of those that we can choose in the supermarket have an excessive amount of simple sugars. They aren’t good for your health, as they can increase the incidence of metabolic problems. It’s best to always consume this food in its plain, unsweetened version.
Watermelon is one of the fruits with the highest water content that exists. Its basic nature will help neutralize stomach acids, thus reducing the burning sensation. For this reason, its inclusion in the diet is beneficial. Now, you have to bear in mind that it’s a food with a high sugar content. If gestational diabetes has developed, its intake may not be adequate.
In this context, you’ll need to limit the carbohydrate intake of the diet. Otherwise, the baby’s future metabolic health could be put at risk. It should be noted that being overweight before pregnancy, as well as the regular consumption of ultra-processed foods, are risk factors for the development of this transitory disease.
Guidelines to avoid heartburn during pregnancy
Not only is it important to know what foods can be included in the diet to avoid heartburn during pregnancy but it’s also key to restrict the intake of those that are capable of increasing symptoms. In general, those with a spicy or irritating nature should be excluded from the diet, as evidenced by a study published in the journal Current Opinion in Gastroenterology.
Culinary spices are also unsuitable when experiencing heartburn during pregnancy. They’re products that are considered healthy, but they can cause difficult digestion or have a slightly irritating effect on the digestive tract. It’s best to limit your consumption in these cases.
It’s also important to avoid the consumption of trans fats. Not only do they have a marked inflammatory nature, but they spend too much time in the stomach and promote acid secretion. They’re difficult to digest. Therefore, you’ll need to reduce the presence of fried foods in your diet. Battered foods aren’t suitable either, as they contain toxic compounds, such as acrylamide.
Of course, you’ll need to eliminate alcohol from your diet. It damages the development of the fetus and causes an increase in heartburn, gastritis, reflux, and other associated gastrointestinal problems. It’s a toxic substance regardless of the dose consumed that negatively affects digestive function. This is confirmed by research published in Best Practice & Research.
The same is true of tobacco. It’s another risk factor for the development of heartburn and can cause malformations in the fetus. The substances it contains can reach the fetus through the placenta and severely damage the health of the future baby.
Other good habits to improve digestive health
In addition to the aforementioned, it’s essential to take other measures to reduce heartburn and the feeling of reflux during pregnancy. First, you’ll have to pay special attention to posture. It’s not a good idea to lie down just after meals, as it could promote the rise of acid through the esophagus. It’s best to wait a while to take a horizontal position.
Similarly, you should sleep with your upper body slightly elevated. Placing a couple of cushions to help you sit up could work to avoid uncomfortable sensations that make it difficult to rest later. Likewise, the last meal of the day should be lighter in order to facilitate digestion. Accompanying it with water and restricting the consumption of soft drinks and juices will also be useful.
Don’t forget to eat slowly either, chewing each bite well. Digestion begins in the mouth and an optimal shredding of food at this point will reduce acid production in the stomach. In addition, this technique will reduce the time that food spends in this organ, so the risk of discomfort will be lower.
When to go to the doctor
Keep in mind that, if despite implementing all these recommendations and having improved your diet, the burning sensation doesn’t stop, it may be best to visit your doctor. There are certain pharmacological tools to control heartburn. They’re not the best option at first, as these drugs have proven to be harmful in the medium term. However, they can be a relief if all else fails.
It’s always optimal to visit a specialist before introducing any drug into the diet, especially during pregnancy. Some medicines could cause alterations in the health of the fetus, so they should be avoided in this context. Likewise, there are also possible interactions with food, which would make modifying the diet necessary.
The doctor will probably want to perform a series of diagnostic tests to find out the origin of persistent heartburn. You may be suffering from gastritis or a bacterial infection or your stomach sphincters may not be competent. In any case, the treatment can go beyond dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
However, most often, a dietary intervention almost completely corrects heartburn problems during pregnancy. As we mentioned, the most frequent reason why they occur has to do with a reduction in the space that the stomach has available from the growth of the fetus. After delivery, the symptoms usually disappear.
Modify your diet to avoid heartburn during pregnancy
Heartburn during pregnancy is a common problem, although in most cases, there’s a simple solution. It’s as simple as promoting the introduction of certain foods in the diet and limiting the presence of other less suitable ones in order to achieve a decrease in symptoms.
Now, in some situations, the symptoms may not go away. If that’s the case, then the best thing to do is to go to the doctor to find out the cause of the problem and attack the root of it. Keep in mind that experiencing digestive problems could negatively affect your diet, generating an inefficient supply of energy or nutrients during pregnancy.It might interest you...
- Goderska, K., Agudo Pena, S., & Alarcon, T. (2018). Helicobacter pylori treatment: antibiotics or probiotics. Applied microbiology and biotechnology, 102(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-017-8535-7
- Ishihara, T., Yoshida, M., & Arita, M. (2019). Omega-3 fatty acid-derived mediators that control inflammation and tissue homeostasis. International immunology, 31(9), 559–567. https://doi.org/10.1093/intimm/dxz001
- Cheng, J., & Ouwehand, A. C. (2020). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Probiotics: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 12(1), 132. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010132
- Sethi, S., & Richter, J. E. (2017). Diet and gastroesophageal reflux disease: role in pathogenesis and management. Current opinion in gastroenterology, 33(2), 107–111. https://doi.org/10.1097/MOG.0000000000000337
- Ness-Jensen, E., & Lagergren, J. (2017). Tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. Best practice & research. Clinical gastroenterology, 31(5), 501–508. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpg.2017.09.004
- Paz, M., de Alencar, M., de Lima, R., Sobral, A., do Nascimento, G., Dos Reis, C. A., Coêlho, M., do Nascimento, M., Gomes Júnior, A. L., Machado, K., de Menezes, A., de Lima, R., de Oliveira Filho, J., Dias, A., Dos Reis, A. C., da Mata, A., Machado, S. A., Sousa, C., da Silva, F., Islam, M. T., … Melo Cavalcante, A. (2020). Pharmacological Effects and Toxicogenetic Impacts of Omeprazole: Genomic Instability and Cancer. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2020, 3457890. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/3457890