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Heartburn, constipation and gas, oh my!

Pregnancy is no picnic. In addition to morning sickness and swollen feet, there are also a sufficient number of digestive side effects that result from your shifting insides and changing hormone levels. But before you resign yourself to suffering these unpleasantries for the next nine months, try these tricks to settle your troubled tummy. The...

Pregnancy is no picnic. In addition to morning sickness and swollen feet, there are also a sufficient number of digestive side effects that result from your shifting insides and changing hormone levels. But before you resign yourself to suffering these unpleasantries for the next nine months, try these tricks to settle your troubled tummy.
The issue: Heartburn
The culprit: Blame large amounts of progesterone for the first (but unfortunately far from the last!) appearance of heartburn in your pregnancy. This hormone, produced by the placenta, relaxes the muscle tissue not only in your gastrointestinal tract but throughout your entire body as well. When the muscle that separates your esophagus from your stomach relaxes, stomach acids are able to sneak back into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest. Toward the end of your pregnancy, your run-ins with heartburn will, unfortunately, only increase as your growing uterus takes up even more room, leaving no place for those stomach acids to go but up.
The solution: While almost every pregnant woman will experience heartburn at some point, there are a few things to do to minimize discomfort

  • Try eating several small meals a day instead of three larger meals.
  • Avoid spicy, heavily seasoned, fried or fatty foods. Other heartburn triggers include chocolate, coffee, soda and mint.
  • Keep your head elevated to keep those pesky stomach acids down. This technique can be particularly helpful if heartburn tends to rear its ugly head at night—a few extra pillows may be just what the doctor ordered.
  • Chew on a non-mint flavored gum after meals. Increasing the amount of saliva in your mouth can help neutralize any acid that creeps up into your esophagus.

The issue: Constipation
The culprit: You can once again thank extra progesterone for relaxing your muscles—specifically those in your large bowel—and initiating your bathroom woes. With these usually active muscles on sabbatical, food tends to stick around your digestive tract longer than usual, causing you to feel more than a little, ahem, backed up. To make matters worse, your expanding uterus will also begin placing pressure on the bowel, further interrupting business as usual. An increased iron intake from those prenatal vitamins you’ve been popping daily doesn’t help the situation either.
The solution: Never fear! Even with the deck stacked against you, there are several things you can do to get things moving again. (And you’re going to want to get things going ASAP to avoid further constipation complications, including every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare: hemorrhoids.)

  • Fill up on fiber. Make it your goal to get at least 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day through fiber-rich foods like fruits, veggies and whole grains.
  • Up your fluid intake to flush out your system and maintain motion in your digestive tract.
  • Avoid refined foods like white bread and white rice. These foods have the opposite effect of foods that are high in fiber.
  • Opt for small, frequent meals over large, spread out nosh sessions. (Doing so doesn’t just help ward off heartburn!) Overworking your digestive system can cause a major traffic jam, so minimize stress on your system by giving it less to deal with at once.
  • Stay fit to encourage your bowels to be more active too. Sometimes a brisk walk is all your body needs to get things moving again.
  • Talk to your doctor about adjusting your vitamin and supplement regimen. A different dosage may ease constipation troubles.

The issue: Gas
The culprit: Take a wild guess as to what’s to blame for one of the most embarrassing pregnancy party favors. That’s right, your old friend progesterone! The slowing digestion process gives bacteria in your system more time to work on breaking down undigested food, resulting in an excess of gas. And like a ticking time bomb, all of that extra gas is bound to be released at some point, whether through that big burp you just couldn’t keep in or that bout of flatulence you didn’t even see coming.
The solution: You might find a little comfort in the fact that your baby is likely soothed by the gurgling sounds of the gas building in your system, but if you’d rather stick to a more traditional type of lullaby, try these gas-busting tricks instead.

  • Avoid foods like beans, onions, soda, cabbage, fried foods, broccoli, cauliflower and starches, which are known for their gassy encores.
  • Eat and drink slowly. Scarfing food quickly or gulping a large drink can cause you to swallow as much air as food or drink—resulting in air pockets that are released in the form of gas.
  • Reduce your stress level. High amounts of anxiety and stress can make you swallow more air, so calm down to avoid tooting your own horn.