Tips for Improving Gut Health and Reducing Symptoms in Pregnancy
It’s no secret that many of pregnancy’s nastiest symptoms have to do with our digestive tract. Nausea, constipation, heartburn and bloating can severely impact your quality of life in pregnancy.
Let’s talk about how we can minimize your symptoms, so you can enjoy your pregnancy!
This symptom is typically the result of the slowing of your intestines that occurs in pregnancy. This occurs in part because of increasing levels of the progesterone hormone, which relaxes the smooth muscle responsible for your intestinal movement. When your food spends more time in your colon, in contact with the bacteria that help you digest food, there is more opportunity for these bacteria to create gas.
- Avoid gas forming foods such as beans, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, apples, dairy
- East slowly
- Avoid carbonated beverages
We can thank progesterone for this symptom as well. The progesterone hormone (get it pro-gestation) is higher in pregnancy to support the relaxation of the smooth muscle in your uterus. You know where else there is smooth muscle? Your lower esophageal sphincter. You esophagus is the conduit that connects your mouth to your stomach. The sphincter in your lower esophagus is there to keep the contents of your stomach in your stomach. Your stomach contains acid to help break down food. When that acid gets into your esophagus it burns. Later in pregnancy, as your uterus pushes up on your stomach, it too can push your stomach contents into your esophagus, causing heartburn.
- Small frequent meals
- Avoid fatty foods (these foods lead to increased acid in your stomach and stay in your stomach for more time)
- Avoid carbonation
- Avvoid peppermint as it also acts to relax the lower esophageal spincter (be wary, many pregnancy or stomach ease teas include peppermint)
- Try OTC treatments such as Tums
- If these tips are not cutting it, talk to your Ob provider as there are other medications that can help!
I think you may be able to guess at this point why constipation is an issue in pregnancy. Progesterone strikes again!
- At least 2.5 L of fluid per day
- Fiber, fiber and more fiber
- Sparkle fiber is a great option if you are having trouble getting enough fiber into your diet through food alone
- OTC stool softeners such as docusate sodium can help though not as much as good old water+fiber
- Talk to your Ob provider if the above isn’t working
Though the exact cause is unknown, the nausea of pregnancy is likely due, in part, to a relaxation of your stomach and the hormones of pregnancy. From an evolutionary perspective, it is thought that the sensitivity to the smell of certain foods may have protected pregnant women from eating potentially hazardous or spoiled foods. For unknown reasons, women who experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy have lower rates of miscarriage.
- Small, frequent meals
- Ginger candies or teas (if you become adverse to the taste of ginger, there are also ginger capsules you can swallow)
- Vitamin B6 supplementation (talk to your Ob provider about the dose that is right for you)
- Optimize sleep (the Pregnant Momma Sleep Guide can help you maximize those Zzzzs)
Alright Momma, I hope this helps. I know these symptoms can be debilitating and can have a profound impact on your mood and the experience of your pregnancy. I’ve been there. Please be gentle with yourself. Sometimes just getting through the day is an accomplishment. If you are in need of some extra TLC check out my Self Care Workbook for Pregnancy.
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