Natural Pregnancy Cures: Digestive Issues

First trimester: Part two of our four-part pregnancy series

Congratulations! You’re probably feeling thrilled, or anxious, or both, about being pregnant. Maybe you’re feeling just a tad bit nauseous, as well. Morning sickness, or all-day sickness as some women think of it, is probably one of the most common early pregnancy symptoms, affecting about 85% of all pregnant women. And many women experience other "tummy troubles" during their pregnancies.

The good news? Nausea symptoms usually subside around weeks 12 to 14. The bad news? It can be a rough 12 to 14 weeks.
 
Constipation, excess gas and heartburn/acid reflux, unfortunately, tend to get worse as the pregnancy advances. Bummer. But there is good news in the fact that you can do something about all of these issues.
 
Morning Sickness and/or General Nausea
 
As with many pregnancy symptoms, the most likely cause of vomiting and nausea, usually in the first trimester, is your changing body and those darn hormones. And although it’s called morning sickness, it can hit anytime during the day.
 
Most cases are mild and go away by the middle of your pregnancy, and in no way cause harm to you or the baby. In some cases, symptoms are more intense and can lead to unhealthy weight loss and dehydration. You should seek medical treatment if your symptoms are more severe. Also, just so you're aware, if you're pregnant with twins, you get more pregnancy hormones and, thus, more pregnancy symptoms.
 
How to find relief:
 
While there is no way to prevent morning sickness, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), studies have shown that women who took a multivitamin regularly at the time of conception are less likely to have severe cases of morning sickness.
 
Paula Giblin, a Certified Nurse Midwife and Director of Perinatal Services at the MCPM Clinic in Denver, says that if you feel dizzy and nauseous from the second you wake up, it could be that your blood sugar is low. “I advise my patients to keep saltine crackers and some type of beverage like apple juice or Gatorade by their bed and to take a bite and sip before they even lift their head off the pillow,” Giblin says. She suggests sitting in bed for about ten minutes while your body absorbs the sugar and food, then slowly getting up.
 
If that doesn’t work: A commonly used natural remedy for nausea is ginger. Pickled, candied, tea or jellied — all types can be used throughout the day to combat queasiness.
 
Additionally, Giblin advises, eat small meals every two hours, drink plenty of water, and avoid spicy and fatty foods to help ease your unpleasant stomach rumblings. “You don’t want your stomach to ever be empty and you don’t want it to be completely full,” she counsels.
 
Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, says that resting when you’re tired or feeling nauseous will help as well as steering clear of the foods and beverages that cause the most problems, because they are the most toxic to us. “Listen to the signals your body is sending out,” she says.
 
Constipation
 
With all the excess gas due to intestinal issues, it seems like there is always some unpleasantness escaping your body during pregnancy. Unfortunately, for some, there is also the issue of nothing leaving your body, i.e., constipation and unpleasant bloating.
 
Once again the pregnancy hormones, which are critical for a healthy pregnancy (so you can take some comfort in feeling bad), are to blame. Excess progesterone interferes with your intestines pushing through food at the same speed and effectiveness, plus your intestines are being physically displaced by your growing uterus toward the second and third trimesters.
 
How to find relief:
 
Giblin says that you should treat constipation in pregnancy similarly to how you’d treat constipation in general. Eat more fruits and vegetables, fiber, cereal and water (lots of it). Additionally she suggests having one caffeinated beverage a day, whether it’s tea or coffee (ACOG recommends no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day) — but only if it doesn’t aggravate your stomach. And lastly, she strongly recommends physical activity. “Exercise is good for getting things moving,” she explains.
 
Indigestion, Heartburn and Other Unpleasantness
 
Have we mentioned that high levels of progesterone can wreak havoc on your digestive system? Well, once again, it’s the main culprit behind indigestion and heartburn. Extra progesterone makes your muscles and blood vessels relax, including the ring of muscle in your lower esophagus that normally keeps food and acids down in your stomach. Starting with minor indigestion in your first trimester, these types of symptoms usually get worse as your pregnancy progresses because your growing uterus can push your stomach out of its normal position.
 
Sharon Phelan, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of New Mexico, says that women who are already prone to indigestion and heartburn will most likely have worse symptoms. Some women, she explains, will belch more and others will have more bowel gas. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?
 
How to find relief:
 
First of all, figure out which foods are the most irritating, advises Giblin. Keeping a food diary can help you determine which ingredients and beverages are the troublemakers. For many women, it’s the typical culprits, says Giblin, such as tomato sauce, spicy and/or greasy foods, coffee and, unfortunately, chocolate. She also warns that an unlikely culprit like peppermint, usually known for calming tummy troubles, can make heartburn worse. Once you’ve determined the “bad foods,” make sure you eat small, frequent meals of “good foods” throughout the day so that there is never too much backed up in your intestines.
 
Another suggestion is to eat food and drink liquid separately. “Try waiting 20 minutes after eating to drink,” Giblin recommends.
 
And lastly, experts agree, avoid lying down or reclining after you eat. Giblin tells her patients to remain upright for at least two hours after they eat.
 
If all else fails, just blame it on the dog.
 
Please remember to always consult your doctor if you’re experiencing pain or discomfort during your pregnancy.
 
Want to learn more? Read the rest of our four-part pregnancy series!
 
Natural Pregnancy Cures: Mood Issues (coming soon!)
 
 

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