Upon discovering that I was pregnant, I did what most women do— had a full-on, denial-filled meltdown about it!
Oh, that’s not what most women do?
Actually, I have no idea how most women react to the brutal realization that they’re nine months out from pushing a bowling ball out of a bottleneck. I imagine every woman’s experience is a little different, depending upon her personal situation and feelings toward motherhood.
But what I do know, is that most pregnant women run out and buy What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I mean it is the #1 Bestselling Pregnancy Book. So of course, that’s what I did. And I didn’t hesitate to begin reading. If I was 9 months away from the BIGGEST athletic event of my life, it was time to get training!
Early on I recall reading that heartburn was one of the lovely side-effects of pregnancy. I learned that heartburn generally shows face within the early stages of pregnancy and doesn’t get a whole lot better up until delivery.
But I can be a bit of a know-it-all (gross) and was somehow brainwashed into believing that this wasn’t gonna happen to me. I mean, I had a general understanding of what caused heartburn and what to do about it— so I was sure I’d be avoiding all that.
When Does Pregnancy Heartburn Begin?
Of course, every woman is different, but generally, heartburn is among the earliest symptoms of pregnancy, beginning around month two. Often relief from this symptom is not granted until that baby is expelled from the body. Yippie!
Somehow I managed to make it into my fifth month of pregnancy before the heartburn set in. However, once it appeared it was determined to make up for lost time. The good news is I’ve discovered a few ways to naturally manage heartburn. But first, we should revisit what causes this lovely symptom in the first place.
What Causes Heartburn?
When people talk about heartburn they tend to associate it with acidic foods.
That damn hot sauce is doin’ me dirty.
I really overdid it with the Mexican food, but that salsa was so FIRE!
But are acidic foods actually to blame?
According to Dr. Berg, heartburn occurs when your stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. This acid backwash or acid regurgitation is acid reflux, and it can cause irritation to the lining of the esophagus.
Because heartburn is caused by stomach acid it makes sense to think that acidic foods are to blame. However, The reason many people experience acid reflux is because the Ph in their stomach becomes too alkaline.
So what does that mean?
It means the stomach is actually in need of more acid in order to restore its Ph levels. The stomach is an extremely acidic environment, and it functions optimally when Ph levels are between one and three. As your Ph rises, your stomach environment becomes more alkaline.
What’s more, when the Ph within the stomach becomes too alkaline the esophageal sphincter begins to malfunction. The esophageal sphincter is a muscular tube that lets food pass into the stomach and then cinches shut to block it from coming back up. This sphincter protects the esophagus from stomach acid.
The other thing to be aware of is H. pylori. H. pylori is a microbe or type of bacteria found in your stomach lining. And when your Ph becomes too alkaline, H. pylori can actually invade your digestive system.
How do you Combat Heartburn?
In order to relieve heartburn, most people pop antacids, such as Tums or Alka Seltzer. Antacids are over-the-counter (OTC) medications that help neutralize your stomach acid. However, in the case of acid reflux, the last thing you want to do is neutralize stomach acid.
In order to combat heartburn (and H. pylori invasion) you’ve got to maintain an acidic stomach environment. And there are a few ways of going about that.
3 Tips to Combating Heartburn While Pregnant
1. Eat smaller meals
Large meals stretch your stomach, and with baby in there, we don’t have a lot of leeway when it comes to stomach-stretching. Beyond the limited space, a stretched stomach not only leads to discomfort, but it also puts pressure on the esophageal sphincter. And too much pressure on the esophageal sphincter can cause it to open, allowing stomach contents to spew into the esophagus. Again, causing heartburn.
2. Limit high-carb, high-sugar foods
I don’t know what it is about pregnancy that prompts everyone and their damn mom to come out of the woodwork offering cookies, cakes, and candies.
People often tell me, I hope you’re allowing yourself to eat whatever you like while you’re pregnant— you deserve it!
What does that even mean— I deserve it?
Because now that I’m carrying life it’s time to indulge in all the junk food that caused me gastrointestinal discomfort and health issues in the past?
What?! Sounds a little absurd to me. Shouldn’t I be eating even more optimally while building a baby?
Anyhoo, I know everyone is just trying to be supportive and encourage me to forget about the baby weight— so I’ll get off my soapbox— for the moment.
The fact is, we often associate foods such as citrus fruits, spicy condiments, and tomato sauce with heartburn. While these foods can contribute to heartburn (because of their alkalizing effects), we often neglect to mention that high-carb and high-sugar foods are also largely to blame.
A recent study from Science Direct concluded a high carbohydrate diet could cause more acid reflux symptoms in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) patients. On the contrary, a low-carb diet had the opposite effect. Therefore, if you’re struggling to find relief from perpetual heartburn you’d be wise to reduce your carb and sugar intake.
3. Sip on Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been my miracle worker throughout pregnancy! While I’ve had a great deal of success combating acid reflux by consuming smaller meals and improving my diet, I still experience those days of relentless heartburn.
For such occasions, I’ve found drinking apple cider vinegar provides near-instantaneous relief. And that’s because ACV will add acidity to your stomach, effectively decreasing its Ph level— which is exactly what you want for proper function.
Apple cider vinegar will yield the most health benefits when taken on an empty stomach. I’d recommend taking it down first thing in the morning, before eating breakfast.
Also, it’s important to know that acid can weaken tooth enamel. In order to prevent damage, you’d be wise to use a straw when consuming apple cider vinegar.
Finally, there’s flavor to consider. I like the flavor, so I prefer to shoot it— 2 Tablespoons in a mini shot glass (with a straw)— down the hatch. However, if you’re not a fan of the flavor (or if you’re a rookie*), you might be better off diluting it. Try adding 8-16oz of water to your ACV, pair it with fresh ginger, and a dash of turmeric.
Still too much?
You can always invest in apple cider vinegar pills. ACV pills are a great way to reap the health benefits without gagging on the Kool-Aid.
Havasu Nutrition makes an apple cider vinegar pill that also includes cayenne pepper for the ultimate digestive aid. This particular brand doesn’t contain any harmful fillers or additives, so you’re getting a clean supplement that you can feel good about taking.
*If you’re brand new to ACV, there’s a good chance your stomach will reject the first go of it. Think of it like a shot of tequila. Your body didn’t appreciate that initial rip of alcohol— you may have even felt sick to your stomach. However, over time, you adapted. Once your body adapts, you’ll have no issue ripping shots of health.
The Bottom Line
Pregnancy and acid reflux tend to go hand-in-hand. Prior to pregnancy I RARELY experienced heartburn, and now it seems to be a daily battle.
However, it’s not entirely out of my control.
Before I was eating for two, I was accustomed to consuming one or two large meals throughout the day. And although this is my preferred method of eating, it’s not serving me throughout pregnancy. Again, the pregnant belly is best accommodated by eating a collection of mini-meals throughout the day. So I’ve stepped up my grazing-game.
Also, I’ve recognized that even though I know I should be eating cleaner while carrying life, I’ve actually relaxed my dietary “restrictions.” I’m certainly not advocating for this. If anything, this approach has fueled a number of unpleasant prego symptoms. However, I’ve promised to take it easy on myself and allow myself more comfort than normal, because a happy mom means a healthy baby.
Finally, an alkaline stomach environment causes acid reflux to flow like a mo-fo. Therefore, if you’re suffering from heartburn, it means your stomach is actually in need of more acid in order to restore its Ph levels.
I’d love to hear more about your experience with pregnancy and what has worked for you in terms of combating heartburn. Drop me a line in the comments below. Let’s connect!
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This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Katie Rodriguez nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.