Heartburn During Pregnancy


Heartburn during pregnancy [Illustration by Shinod AP]

Heartburn, a very common problem during pregnancy, is caused by the uterus pushing against the stomach, forcing acid into the oesophagus.

The secretion of the hormone progesterone is elevated during pregnancy which softens and relaxes all muscles, including the lower oesophageal sphincter, the region between the oesophagus and the stomach. The sphincter usually acts as a door, keeping the digestive juices inside the stomach. However, in a relaxed state, it fails to perform its function of keeping stomach acids inside. As a result, a part of the acidic juices find their way up into the oesophagus causing heartburn.

Although a simple problem, acidity causes a lot of discomfort when it gets acute. Here are some tips to handle heartburn the natural way.

Maintain the acid and alkali balance of the food you consume ideally at 20: 80.
What to do

  • Avoid artificially ripened fruits and vegetables, especially those bought from the cold storage. Potatoes become sweet in cold storage and are acidic. Stick to seasonal fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid canned foods and junk foods.
  • Avoid too many spices.
  • Avoid aereated drinks. The ph of aerated drinks is 3.4, which is highly acidic. This is strong enough to dissolve teeth and bones.
  • Avoid cold drinks with or after meals. Our body needs an optimum temperature of 37 degrees Celsius for digestive enzyme functioning. The temperature of cold soft drinks is much below 37 degrees Celsius. This will dilute the enzymes and strain the digestive system. Food will not be digested. In fact, it will get fermented and cause acidity.
  • Avoid too much of tea and coffee, and quit smoking as nicotine and caffeine cause acidity.
  • Have one teaspoon of amala powder with water everyday.
  • Include bitter gourd (karela) in your diet.
  • Have green coconut water and cucumber juice.
  • Lemon (with very thin skin) is alkaline, so choose lemons carefully.
  • Have lassi two to three times a day. To counteract intestinal toxins, have a good dose of benign and protective lactic acid which is present in buttermilk, yoghurt and sour milk.
  • Banana also helps.
  • Have small and frequent meals to make sure that your stomach is never empty.
  • Drink enough water, preferrably cooled in a mud pot, as it aids digestion.
  • Eat only when you are hungry as the digestive juices are released only then. Otherwise, undigested food particles get deposited in the stomach leading to fermentation and causing acidity.
  • Have lots of sprouts as they battle against acids. Green leafy vegetables and sprouts have vitamin B an E which help in digestion and also aid in excreting acid from the body.
  • Avoid refined foods like white bread as they lack vitamin B, E and fibre.
  • Soak almonds overnight before having them.
  • Try this recipe. Mix grated cucumber with curd, fresh coriander leaves, turmeric powder (amount to taste) and one teaspoon of mashed mustard (for flavour). This does not only aid digestion, it also quenches thirst.
  • Stay away from pollution and avoid exposure to carbon monoxide.
  • Avoid stress if possible as the nervous system coordinates the digestive system and disturbances in the nervous system are bound to have an effect on your digestion.
  • Treat insomnia as this too affects your digestion.
  • Maintain a balance between physical labour and rest. If you do not indulge in enough activity, you do not produce enough sweat and uric acid gets deposited in the body.
  • As an additional precaution, be sure never to recline within two hours of a meal.
  • Yoga definitely helps. Some asanas like kunjal kriya and pranayam (breathing technique) helps keep stomach problems away.
  • You could also try naturopathy – mud packs on the abdomen and abdomen compression, hot baths help to a great extent.Antacids only provide symptomatic relief. Those which contain sodium bicarbonate, have a risk of causing alkalosis, if readily absorbed and those with calcium, aluminium and magnesium salts have side effects like constipation or diarrhoea. Avoid excess use of antacids. (“Principles and Practice of Medicine” by Davidson).

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