Pregnancy and Heartburn

Ugghh, heartburn during pregnancy?  During my twin pregnancy I had it bad.

Pregnant women commonly develop heartburn symptoms of burning and sour taste, up to 50% at some point during their pregnancy.  It can happen at any time but most commonly in the third trimester.  This is certainly not a pleasant experience.  As many pregnant women will admit, other related symptoms include burping, regurgitation, bloating and nausea.

So what causes pregnant women to get heartburn?

During pregnancy the hormone Progesterone is secreted in higher amounts, which causes the valve between the esophagus and the stomach to relax.  The stomach acid then flows backwards into the esophagus.  The irritation from the stomach acid is what causes the burning sensation in the chest.  In addition, the growing baby (or babies) cause the uterus to expand which puts pressure on the stomach and other internal organs.  That pressure can also force stomach acid and food back into the esophagus.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, heartburn comes from changes in the Stomach meridian.  The stomach meridian begins near the eyes and then travels downward through the heart and stomach, finishing at the second toe.  The growing baby sends the stomach qi energy upwards which causes the heartburn symptoms.  We refer to this as counterflow stomach qi

What can be done to prevent heartburn?

Many women want to avoid taking medications during pregnancy.  Here are helpful tips:

Acupuncture! Acupuncture is safe to use during pregnancy and has been effectively treating heartburn and other side effects successfully for thousands of years.  Acupuncture offers wonderful relief without the use of medications. Although a single acupuncture treatment may bring about terrific relief, you will usually require consistency to the end of pregnancy for optimal comfort.  At the same time, acupuncture can be used to bring more energy balance and keep mama nourished.  It will also help to reduce other unpleasant side effects of pregnancy like swelling, hemorrhoids, headaches, sciatica, aches and pains, etc. (why you should use acupuncture during pregnancy) How terrific is that?

  • Avoiding common heartburn foods
    • Caffeine
    • Spicy foods
    • Tomatoes
    • Fatty and greasy foods (so much for that fried chicken craving)
    • Chocolate (what?)
    • And carbonated beverages
  • Try adding in fresh Ginger to your food or tea. Ginger is a classic ancient remedy for nausea and heartburn.  It helps to descend the stomach qi.
  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day.. Avoid eating 3 hours before retiring to bed.  Elevate your head and upper body during sleep
  • Watch your posture. Sit straight while awake to reduce pressure on the stomach
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothes.

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