While it’s common to have heartburn during pregnancy, I had the misfortune of suffering from acid reflux and heartburn before I got pregnant for the first time. I used to just pop tums every time I felt it coming on until I finally saw gastroenterologist about it. I ended up taking Omeprazole for a few months and it got MUCH better. Eventually, I started caring more about what I was putting into my body especially when it comes to medication and realized that I needed to watch what I ate instead of relying on meds to mask my symptoms. It worked, but that is easier said than done when it comes to pregnancy heartburn. It seems like almost EVERYTHING you put in your mouth can cause that fiery sensation in your chest and throat. And we all know when a craving kicks in, especially for pizza, there isn’t any amount of heartburn in the world to keep us away from that saucy, cheesy goodness. I’m going to explain why pregnancy heartburn is so common, the foods to avoid, behavior modifications and my go-to super easy, all-natural supplement solution!
Pregnancy heartburn is extremely common because a hormone called progesterone relaxes the stomach valve that keeps acid from going into the esophagus. As your belly bigger, the crowding in your uterus will also force the acid up causing some serious discomfort. For first time heartburn sufferers, you may panic the first time you feel it. Some women think they’re having a heart attack or a serious medical issue because the burning can be so intense. You’re most likely to experience this in your third trimester so let’s get prepared to deal with it before it happens!
Although I don’t believe pregnancy heartburn is completely preventable for most moms, there are definitely trigger foods that will cause a flare up. Every mama is different so if you experience heartburn, start making a little mental note of everything you ate before the heartburn started. Before long, you’ll notice a pattern. When I was pregnant with Lily, my triggers were tomato sauce and spicy food (both of which I continued to eat because I loved them so much). Some common pregnancy heartburn triggers are citrus (including tomato and tomato sauces), spicy foods, coffee and soda, fatty foods and chocolate. These foods are also common bladder irritants, so limiting your intake can also help those middle-of-the-night potty breaks. There are some other behavior modifications that can help fend off the pregnancy heartburn, too: Eating smaller more frequent meals, slowing down while eating, sipping liquid during meals instead of drinking quickly, not eating too close to bedtime (3 hours is ideal) and not lying down or bending over shortly after eating. If you start to feel the tingly sensation while in bed, it helps to prop your head and chest up with pillows or specially made bed wedges to keep the acid down. By the end of my pregnancy with Lily, I was sleeping with THREE pillows under my upper half many nights.
So now you know what causes heartburn, the foods to limit/avoid and behaviors that can reduce your chances of pregnancy heartburn. But, if you’re anything like me, you still want chocolate, pizza, Franks Red Hot sauce, and would be way too hungry to go 3 hours without eating before bed.
Good news! I have the lazy girl’s solution for pregnancy heartburn! A little lifesaver called Papaya Enzyme. Papaya Enzyme chewable tablets were recommended to me by my chiropractor after I told her I was depending on Tums constantly. While Tums are considered safe during pregnancy (if you do take tums, be sure to space them apart from your prenatal vitamin because the high amounts of calcium in antacids can hinder the absorption iron in your prenatal), I prefer to take the least amount of medication possible while I’m pregnant and nursing. Papaya Enzyme is a natural alternative to antacids for pregnancy heartburn and I’m telling you, it is a total game changer! Papaya Enzyme is used to treat a lot of different ailments including digestion but unfortunately is not super well-known as a heartburn aid. Some people will recommend taking it preventively every day, but I usually just eat a single tablet right when I start to feel heartburn coming. It is truly SO much more effective than Tums and I love knowing that I’m not putting anything nasty in my body. All of my health care providers have assured me of Papaya Enzyme’s safety but, as always, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking anything new. My friends have LOVED this recommendation and always tell me about how it saved them from their awful pregnancy heartburn. I hope it can help you, too!
One last note: there are tons of different brands of Papaya Enzyme but the only one I’ve liked so far is American Health brand Original Papaya Enzyme. It comes in a little roll and you can keep it in your purse and usually in stock at Whole Foods!