How can I ease my pregnancy heartburn?

Chest pain after a meal? You may suffer from acid reflux. Here are ways to avoid this uncomfortable condition…

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It’s date night and you’ve just enjoyed a sumptuous meal with your hubby at your favourite restaurant. But what’s this, though your meal was delicious, you’re starting to feel a burning sensation originating from your tummy to the centre of your chest.

There’s also a sour taste at the back of your mouth and food seems to be stuck in the throat. Before you panic and imagine that you’re having a heart attack — you’re suffering from heartburn.

SmartParents expert and consultant ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong lists reasons for pregnancy heartburn, a condition commonly suffered by pregnant women:

* A bigger womb The enlarged size of your womb presses on the intestines, slowing the speed at which food enters your intestines. In fact, your womb is exerting greater pressure on your whole digestive tract, thanks to the lack of space.

* Hormonal changes during pregnancy Dr Chong says these changes can slow down peristalsis, the process where food moves along the intestines. Gastric juices also pass at a slower rate, as well. Another pregnancy hormone — progesterone — causes a loosening of the “valve” (the sphincter) that connects the oesophagus to the stomach. This makes it easier for acid to move from the stomach to the gullet, a process known as acid reflux.

You should experience fewer aches and pains if you make sure to set aside time to exercise throughout your pregnancy.

* A drop in physical exertion or movement A lack of physical activity can cause your metabolism to drop, so food isn’t being burned as efficiently into energy. You should experience fewer aches and pains if you make sure to set aside time to exercise throughout your pregnancy.

* Vomiting, gagging and nausea It’s commonly suffered by pregnant women, especially those dealing with morning sickness. Heartburn is caused when gastric juices and reflux of foodstuff rise into the gullet, resulting in heartburn.

For some mums-to-be, heartburn may even lead to GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. This is caused by the constant irritation of the gullet’s lining from frequent acid reflux. Besides giving rise to bloody stools and causing painful sores in your oesophagus, GERD may even lead to Barret’s Oesophagus. In this condition, abnormal cells — which have the potential of turning cancerous — replace damaged cells in the gullet. So, to keep your heartburn in check, do follow Dr Chong’s advice:

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1. Avoid spicy, fried and fatty foods Fried food and currys require more gastric juices to break food down effectively, it will worsen your heartburn condition.

2. Load up on probiotics These live bacteria and yeast are great for gut and digestive health, especially if you’re taking antibiotics, which can kill good bacteria. Sources include yoghurt and tempeh.

3. Chow down on ginger In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a soothing cup of warm ginger tea has the ability to reduce “wind” in your body and flatulence. This eases pressure on your digestive tract and frees space in the tum.

4. Eat small meals, more often When your stomach has a smaller amount of food to work through, it will produce less acid than that for bigger amounts of food. This will also facilitate an easier passage for food to be processed, Dr Chong notes.

Thanks to your womb’s larger size, any additional pressure on the abdomen can aggravate acid reflux.

5. Wear loose clothing Since a body-hugging dress is tight around the abdomen, resist the urge to flaunt your baby bump in a too-tight outfit. Kep in mind that thanks to your womb’s now larger size, any additional pressure on the abdomen can aggravate acid reflux.

6. Exercise to improve circulation in the body Exercising boosts your metabolism, revving up your body’s ability to turn food into energy.

7. Rest in an upright position Try to maintain an upright position when you’re resting after having a meal. Dr Chong says that thanks to gravity, sitting in upright will help ensure that food stays down .

8. Take antacids These meds, usually taken after food and before bedtime, help to neutralise your stomach acids. Look out for ingredients like aluminium hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, calcium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate.

Photos: iStock

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