Studies show that up to 60% of the population report having acid reflux symptoms at least once in their lives. It’s one of the most common digestive disorders in the West. Its most symptoms include heartburn, acid regurgitation, and constipation.
Although doctors are still unable to understand what exactly causes acid reflux, evidence supports that pregnant women are predisposed to having acid reflux because of changes in their body. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable enough as it is – adding acid reflux to the mix won’t make it any better.
So, what are the top home remedies for pregnant patients experiencing acid reflux? Smarter food choices and better eating habits are two immediate things you can do to alleviate reflux symptoms. This includes taking antacids, choosing non-fatty foods, and eating multiple smaller meals as opposed to bigger meals in a day.
In this article, we talk about the top acid reflux remedies for pregnant women, as well as ways to prevent flare-ups.
Pregnancy and Acid Reflux: Why It Happens
Morning sickness and food sensitivities are just two of the most common pregnancy side effects, but it turns out these two aren’t the only common ones. Heartburn and acid reflux also affect a significant portion of pregnant women.
Heartburn is characterized as the feeling of burning in your chest. Despite its namesake, it has nothing to do with your heart burning; heartburn is a symptom of acid and gas flaring up the chest. This is usually triggered by certain foods and eating habits.
On the other hand, acid reflux refers to the backwash of acid contents up the esophagus, leading to an acidic sensation in the throat and mouth. Acid reflux and heartburn go hand in hand in a condition generally known as acid reflux.
Chronic acid reflux is quite common, with 20% of adults in Western cultures being diagnosed with this long-term digestive problem. As for pregnant women, acid reflux can suddenly become a bane due to hormonal and physical changes caused by pregnancy. Most pregnant women stop exhibiting acid reflux symptoms after giving birth.
What Causes Acid Reflux During Pregnancy?
Doctors speculate a handful of reasons that lead pregnant women into exhibiting acid reflux symptoms. These include:
1. Hormonal Changes
Pregnant women regulate hormones differently. As a result, the digestive system tends to slow down because of hormonal changes in the body. A once-efficient digestive system becomes slower, forcing the stomach contents to travel back up the esophagus.
Hormonal changes in the body can also trigger mechanism changes. Doctors believe that pregnancy hormones, specifically progesterone, have an impact in the development of acid reflux in pregnant women.
The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a muscle connecting the esophagus and the stomach. This small muscle acts as a “valve” which separates stomach acid from the esophagus.
Because of hormonal discrepancies, the LES sometimes weakens in pregnant women, causing stomach contents to travel back up the esophagus. Some women report having a weak LES in the beginning of their pregnancy, while others only experience it during their third trimester.
3. Stomach Pressure
Pregnant women who only experience acid reflux during the third trimester can attribute it to the baby’s growth. The presence of the baby in the womb can put pressure on an expectant patient’s stomach, forcing stomach contents to travel back up the esophagus.
How Common Is Acid Reflux During Pregnancy?
If you think you’re the first one to experience heartburn and acid reflux during your pregnancy, think again. A study published in Clinical Evidence reveals that heartburn is a common complaint during pregnancy, reported by up to 45% of patients according to the findings.
The incidence of heartburn increases as the patient progresses through the pregnancy stages. The incidence of heartburn increases from 22% in the first trimester to 39% in the second and up to 72% in the third trimester.
Acid reflux symptoms vary from one patient to another. Some studies found that pregnant women only experienced acid reflux in the first trimester, while others reported experiencing this only during the third trimester.
Does Acid Reflux Affect the Baby?
While an uncomfortable experience, acid reflux does not harm the baby in any way. Old wives’ tales such as the baby getting hairier with acid reflux is also not true. Acid reflux is a common and harmless gastrointestinal problem that won’t directly affect your baby in any way. It is also not a hereditary condition, and won’t impact their growth.
Can You Take Antacids During Pregnancy?
Over-the-counter antacid options in chewable and liquid form are both allowed for pregnant women experiencing acid reflux. Antacids made from calcium carbonate (Tums) are a safe antacid option for women. Antacids containing magnesium oxide and hydroxide are also good options, and typically come in liquid form.
Watch out for antacids with high levels of sodium, aluminum, as well as those including aspirin – these types of antacids aren’t ideal for pregnant women.
Antacids work by neutralizing the acid in your stomach. If you find that your antacids aren’t helping, ask your doctor for stronger aid such as acid reducers. This kind of medicine stops most acid production instead of neutralizing existing acid.
Acid Reflux Home Remedies for Pregnant Patients
Below are some home remedies you can do to alleviate your acid reflux symptoms. Take note that not all home remedies work for every patient. Go through each and test out which ones work best for you.
1. Drink Peppermint Tea
Peppermint is effective in soothing acid reflux and heartburn symptoms. Drink a bag of peppermint tea before every meal to soothe your stomach. Chamomile tea is also another popular remedy for acid reflux because of its soothing properties.
2. Raise Your Head
When you’re sleeping or sitting, make sure your head is elevated above your stomach so your stomach juices don’t flow back your throat. Prop a pillow against your head and ensure that your head is raised higher than your stomach to aim the acids away from the esophagus.
3. Drink Tons of Water
Keep a tumbler of water next to you so you can sip small amounts throughout the day. Rehydrating on water will keep your digestive system healthy and mitigate any hiccups during your pregnancy.
4. Drink Low-Fat Milk
Milk is another great liquid for neutralizing heartburn. However, make sure you’re drinking low-fat milk since foods high in fat are known to exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Stay away from full fat options and choose skim, low-fat, or even plant-based milk options.
5. Don’t Eat Before Bed
Eating before bed (or sometimes on the bed) can seem pretty unavoidable when you’re pregnant, but doing so will only worsen acid reflux symptoms. If you can’t avoid snacking after dinner, make sure you’re sitting upright while you’re eating and to remain seated upright for two hours after the last meal to allow the food to travel down without problems.
6. Snack On Almonds
Raw almonds have been known to soothe acid reflux and heartburn symptoms due to their high oil content. Eat a handful of it to soothe your stomach, but don’t overeat almonds since they’re high in fats and could trigger the symptoms.
7. Eat Fruits Like Bananas And Apples
These two fruits in particular have antacid properties that can help with acid reflux symptoms. When choosing your fruits, stay away from more acidic options like oranges, pineapple, and grapefruit.
8. Wear Loose Clothing
As a pregnant woman, you’re likely already wearing loose clothing. If your acid reflux symptoms are flaring up, check to see that your clothing doesn’t add pressure to your stomach or belly area. Trade tie-up pajamas with a loose shirt and shorts.
9. Snack On Licorice
Studies suggest that licorice is useful in protecting the stomach against acid. It contains properties that increase mucus coating in the esophagus, which could protect it whenever acid travels back up the esophagus. Ask your doctor for DGL or deglycyrrhizinated licorice, available in both pill and liquid form.
10. Chew Gum
Chewing gum stimulates the production of saliva, which is considered an effective acid buffer. Chewing gum can help reduce the inflammation in your esophagus by lubricating the throat. Chew sugar-free gum for thirty minutes after a meal to reduce symptoms of acid reflux. If you have the option to buy bicarbonate gum, choose that instead.
What to Avoid If You Have Acid Reflux While Pregnant
Knowing what foods and lifestyle choices trigger acid reflux can be beneficial in preventing it in the first place. Below are just some of the things you should avoid when dealing with heartburn during pregnancy.
- Avoid eating big meals throughout the day. Acid reflux gets worse with undigested food. To avoid putting stress on your stomach, avoid eating big meals and eat smaller meals throughout the day instead. Divide three big meals into five or seven smaller meals to help your body digest the food properly.
- Don’t exercise. Exercise can put stress on the body and worsen acid reflux symptoms. To prevent flare-ups, stick to low-stress exercise like walking. Ask your doctor for exercise recommendations. Read more in our post: Does Working Out Make Acid Reflux Worse?
- Refrain from snacking too close to bedtime. Lying down after a meal is one of the fastest ways to trigger acid reflux. Snacking close to bedtime also has the same effect. To prevent late night heartburn, sit up for at least 2 hours after your meal to prevent the food from traveling back up the esophagus.
- Avoid citrusy and high fat foods. Foods high in fat and citrus content can also trigger acid production. Stay away from citrusy foods and foods high in fat to avoid trigger heartburn and acid reflux.
- Skip the coffee. Coffee is an acidic beverage, which could contribute to your acid reflux. Skip the morning coffee, as well as the orange juice. Stick to beverages without any caffeine content.
Top Trigger Foods for Acid Reflux
- Spicy foods can trigger acid reflux. If you’ve got a craving for spicy food, it might not be the best time to give in to this craving. Foods such as pepper, onions, and garlic can irritate the stomach lining and trigger acid production. Avoid acid reflux symptoms by staying away from spicy foods during your pregnancy.
- Fatty foods slow down digestion and trigger heartburn. Avoid foods like hamburgers, french fries, steaks, certain cheeses, and chocolate. These foods are all high in fats and could lead to symptom flare-ups.
- Avoid late night snacking. It’s not just certain foods that can trigger acid reflux, it’s also eating habits that could worsen acid reflux in pregnant women. Late night snacking leads to acid reflux because there the body isn’t being given enough time to digest the food before falling asleep.
If you’re keen on having late night snacks, choose healthier options like fruits and oatmeal and stay up for another couple of hours before heading to bed.
When to See a Doctor
Acid reflux is a common occurrence among pregnant women and should be no cause for worry. Common symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) usually after eating
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bad breath
- Disrupted sleep
On the other hand, consider getting in touch with a gastroenterologist once you experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- You are experiencing bloody bowel movements
- You have observed a change in your bowel movements
- You have chronic cough that won’t go away with medication
- Your heartburn has become more frequent or severe
- Your acid reflux symptoms are accompanied by unprecedented weight loss
- You experience heartburn symptoms even after taking medication
- Your stomach pain gets worse with time
- Your acid reflux symptoms are accompanied with neck, jaw, arm, or leg pain not related to pregnancy
- You have difficulty breathing
- You experience extreme fatigue and weakness
Get Treated for Acid Reflux
Need specific medication for acid reflux? Get in touch with us at Gastro Center NJ to learn how to manage acid reflux during pregnancy.
With our expertise treating digestive problems, we’re dedicated to giving you a more pleasant pregnancy by creating a treatment plan that will soothe your discomfort.
Book an appointment with us today.