7 foods that cause heartburn during pregnancy

Are you having trouble dealing with heartburn during pregnancy? As your uterus continues to enlarge, particularly after the 20th week, it pushes the stomach up against the diaphragm, which in turn condenses stomach contents and moves them up the esophagus. This is what leads to acid reflux and heart burn.

With all those hormones circulating all through your body during pregnancy, the muscle at the top of your stomach, which prevents digestive acids from making their way to the esophagus relaxes a bit (quite like all those other muscles in your digestive tract and other parts of your body. This makes it possible for those painfully acidic digestive juices to splash back up and trigger burning and irritation. The worst part is that you will experience a surge between the 30th and 36th weeks as your uterus will push your stomach towards the throat. Now, there are certain foods that particularly trigger heart burn, which means you should avoid them during pregnancy. A few of these are:

7 Citrus foods or acidic foods

Foods that are acidic, such as tomatoes, lemons, grapefruits and oranges etc. can all bring on heartburn after meals. All of these foods are extremely high in acid, which is why they irritate the digestive tract. Foods like lemonade, orange juice and all other products that are prepared using citrus fruit juices and even marinades tend to have a lot of extra acid, which not only aggravates reflux, but also worsens heartburn. It is for this reason that it is best for you to avoid, or at least limit your consumption of citrus foods and/or products prepared with them.

Acidic foods basically contain a fairly low pH, which is why they cause severe bouts of heartburn. Your risk of having heartburn may double if you consume these foods by themselves or on an empty stomach. Yes, having these foods on an empty stomach is just going to make matters worse for you, so make sure you never make this mistake irrespective of whether you are pregnant or not. By having citrus or high acidic foods on an empty stomach, you are just going to fuel the fire and suffer with a severe case of heartburn – it isn’t going to make pregnancy any better for you!

So what should I do?

There are quite a few things that you can do in order to reduce your chances of having heartburn. For instance, instead of eating tomatoes in a salad, have them on a turkey sandwich. If you like having juice after your morning cereal, try a low-acid juice. If possible, try to skip citrus fruit juice completely.

6 Coffee and soda

Caffeinated beverages are some of the most well-known heart burn triggers and must be avoided. One of the most common heartburn trigger food is coffee, and although it may be possible for you to get away with a cup or so in the morning, it is necessary for you to know what your personal limit is. Also, you need to bear in mind the fact that tea and soft drinks may also contain caffeine, which means you should consider cutting back on these as well to avoid having to put up with heartburn.

Any beverages that contain caffeine are major heartburn offenders. These include soda, coffee, iced tea and many others. However, there is no need for you to give up your Joe forever if you are a java junkie. The only thing that you need to do is cut down your coffee consumption and pay attention to portion sizes. To help you figure out portion sizes, a Starbucks tall, which to most equals a small, is around three cups of coffee. So if you have two cups of coffee from Starbucks, you are actually having SIX full cups of coffee, which is definitely going to trigger heartburn.

How much coffee am I allowed to have?

To avert heartburn during pregnancy, it is best for you to limit your intake of coffee and soda. At best, you should have about a 3- or4-ounce cup of coffee. Don’t guzzle coffee all through the day, because it can truly prove harmful. Also, make sure that you eat something before drinking caffeinated beverage (such as a bagel) or opt for decaf versions.

5 Peppermint

Although many people believe that peppermint is soothing for the tummy, the fact of the matter is that it is a major heartburn trigger food. So what should you do all through your pregnancy? Well, to begin with, just skip the after-dinner mints, particularly if you have had a rather rich meal. Yes, they may be good for your breath, but you need to keep your consumption of peppermint at a minimum if you don’t want to deal with heartburn.

The reason why peppermint increases your chances of having heartburn is because it tends to relax the sphincter muscle that is found between the stomach and esophagus. What this does is that it makes it possible for stomach acids to flow back into the esophagus, thereby triggering heartburn that is definitely going to hurt and irritate you. Irrespective of whether the peppermint is found in candies or used as a flavoring in other foods, it can and will aggravate acid reflux. Yes, some people are not bothered by peppermint, but it is best for you to avoid minty foods like peppermint candy and chewing gum if you notice them triggering your heart burn.

What other options do I have?

If you are used to chewing gum, then it is best for you to try chewing a differently flavored one. The best ones are fruit flavored gum and candy that would not just stimulate extra saliva, but will lower acid levels too. Don’t even think of grabbing those peppermint candies and gums if you don’t want to deal with heartburn during pregnancy – trust me, you’ll do yourself a favor.

4 Garlic

Yes, the aroma of foods packed full of garlic can make your mouth water, but when you’re prone to heartburn during pregnancy, it is best for you to avoid consuming them. Garlic offers many benefits besides flavoring your foods. For instance, it can lower your risk for heart disease, cancer, bacterial and fungal infections in your body and high cholesterol etc. However, there are side-effects as well that you may experience including indigestion (if you consume garlic in large amounts) and heart burn.

Along with heartburn, consuming garlic can also lead to bad breath, body odor and even bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue, muscle aches, sweating, nausea and flatulence if consumed in large amounts. If you consume a high dose of garlic, there is also the risk of you suffering from colitis and blood thinning.

A simple warning

Garlic is a widely consumed natural food and spice and it is safe to be consumed during pregnancy. However, garlic has blood-thinning affects, which may lead to uncontrolled bleeding during labor, C-section and delivery. For this reason, it is best for you to avoid consuming garlic before, during and even after labor and delivery. During pregnancy, the worst side-effect of garlic consumption is that of the heartburn that it triggers. Honestly speaking, with all the discomfort that it causes, it is just because for you to avoid using garlic in the meals you prepare. Apart from that, it may even increase your insulin release and lower your blood sugar levels while reducing your iodine absorption. So while pregnant, just limit your utilization of garlic so you don’t have to put up with its side-effects. 

3 Chocolate

Yes, this one is definitely going to break a few hearts, but if you truly want to avoid putting up with heartburn, then it is best for you to lay off the chocolate during your pregnancy. So how does chocolate lead to heartburn? Well, it basically relaxes the sphincter, which thereby lets the acid from your stomach flow easily into your esophagus.

Chocolate is actually loaded with caffeine, but even without that characteristic, chocolate is most definitely a heartburn food in and of itself. Honestly speaking, if you don’t want to deal with heartburn, then chuck out every bit of chocolate found in your house – trust me, you won’t regret doing this considering the discomfort it will save you from.

We all know just how delicious chocolate is, and according to research, dark chocolate contains high levels of healthful antioxidants like theobromide, which has the potential to boost you mood. But no one can deny chocolate’s negative side effect of triggering heart burn too. Just so you know, theobromide and all the high levels of caffeine found in chocolate are all methylxanthines. For those who don’t know, these are naturally occurring substances that prevent the lower esophageal sphincter muscle from getting tightened, thereby leading to reflux and heartburn.

What’s the solution?

The simple solution to this problem is: eat less. Just do your best to limit your intake to a drizzle of chocolate sauce or only two squares of a chocolate bar. Also, you should avoid having chocolate on an empty stomach to make sure that it doesn’t lead to reflux.

2 Spicy foods

Mexican food, pepper, chili and all other foods that are packed full of pepper or other spices can cause severe cases of heartburn. For this reason, avoiding the consumption of spicy food during pregnancy is a must if you don’t want to deal with heart burn. If you have a craving for spicy foods, well, just try having milder version of whatever you like – don’t go for the full-blown spicy version.

If you aren’t willing to let heartburn stop you from having those delicious spicy foods you love, then you should also try limiting the amount of food you eat. The thing with having large meals is that these place immense pressure on the valve, which is what leads to those bouts of acid reflux after a big meal. This problem is particularly worse with meals that cause you to belch as it requires the valve at the top of the stomach to open. When this happens, all the trapped air escapes, thereby bringing up acidic stomach contents along with it.

Stay away from spicy foods

Any foods that have a spicy, fiery flavor tend to add a bit of a kick to your diet. However, you are bound to feel this same kicking burning in your chest again once all that terrible heartbeat kicks in. Some of the most well-known triggers of heartburn are spicy dishes that contain a variety of chili peppers and related ingredients in them including cayenne pepper. Although some people can tolerate spicy food pretty well, those who are prone to heartburn should avoid them as much as possible, particularly during pregnancy.

1 Cheese and avocados

Do you know what these two foods have in common? Both of them have very high levels of fat. Although these foods do not receive as much press as acidic foods in terms of heartburn, you need to bear in mind that these are major triggers. Why so? Well, because fat slows down the emptying on the stomach, which means that there is more opportunity for a big distended stomach. This, in turn, increases the pressure on the esophageal sphincter, thereby leading to reflux and heartburn.

Yes foods that are rich in fat typically tend to taste yummy, but there’s no denying the fact that these lead to heartburn too. Animal foods are some of the worst triggers considering that they are hard to digest, loaded with cholesterol, and very rich in saturated fat. However, there are some healthy fats like those found in oils, seeds and nuts that can trigger heartburn too. The thing with fats is that these tend to sit in the stomach much longer than any other foods. During digestion, this puts extra pressure on the stomach muscles, thereby causing irritation and reflux. The worst part is that heavy consumption of fatty foods tends to weaken the LES muscle in stomach, which is responsible for keeping the acids moving in the right direction.

So what should I do?

Just because fat-rich foods trigger heartburn, doesn’t mean you can’t have them at all – just limit your intake. Also, instead of having a cheese plate at the end of a meal, have it early in the day when you aren’t already full. 

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