Gastrointestinal Complaints

Several gastrointestinal complaints can strike during your pregnancy. Knowing how to deal with them can help to decrease your discomfort. The way you eat and the lifestyle you live can go a long way in relieving some of these problems.

Controlling Constipation

Constipation can be a very common problem during pregnancy. Hormonal changes relax muscles to help accommodate your expanding uterus. In turn, this can slow the action in your intestines and the movement of food through your digestive tract. If you are taking iron from either an iron supplement or a prenatal vitamin, this can also cause constipation. Increased pressure on your intestinal tract as the baby grows can also cause hemorrhoids. Preventing constipation (as much as possible, anyway) can help you to avoid hemorrhoids. Some circumstances, such as hormonal changes and the growing baby, can't be helped, but there are plenty of dietary and lifestyle changes you can make that will make a difference.

Never discontinue your prescribed supplements. If you feel they are causing constipation or other problems, speak with your doctor before you stop taking them. Your doctor can recommend a different brand, maybe with a stool softener, or break up your iron dosages throughout the day.

A high-fiber diet can help to relieve constipation, but you must drink plenty of fluids or this option can make your constipation worse. Women under fifty should shoot for 25 grams of fiber daily. Make sure you are drinking eight to twelve cups of fluid daily. The majority of your beverages should be water, but you should also include fruit juice and milk in your total fluid intake. Include high-fiber foods to help alleviate your symptoms, such as whole-wheat breads and pastas, high-fiber breakfast cereals, bran, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Some foods are known to act as natural laxatives, such as prunes, prune juice, and figs; other dried fruits may help as well. It is also essential to be physically active each day. Regular activity can help to stimulate normal bowel function. If nothing seems to help, speak to your doctor about possibly taking a fiber supplement such as bran, Metamucil, or a similar product mixed with water or juice once a day.

Do not use over-the-counter laxatives or stool softeners while you are pregnant to help relieve your constipation unless you have talked to your doctor first. Some may not be safe to use during pregnancy. Before relying on medications to relieve your symptoms, first make sure your diet, fluid intake, and activity level is adequate. Avoid castor oil as a remedy because it can interfere with your body's ability to absorb some nutrients.

Taming Gas

The same changes in a pregnant woman's body that cause constipation can also cause excess gassiness. Increase your fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of fluids each day. Increasing fiber too quickly, especially when you are used to a lower-fiber diet, can cause gas and other gastrointestinal problems. Some foods can exacerbate gas problems, such as broccoli, beans, cabbage, onions, cauliflower, and fried foods. Carbonated drinks can also cause problems with gas. All women are different as to what foods they can tolerate, so keep track of what bothers you so that you can cut back on those things.

Oh, the Heartburn

In the beginning stages of pregnancy, heartburn is usually due to hormonal changes. Heartburn has nothing to do with your heart but everything to do with your stomach and esophagus. The irritation you feel and the sour taste in your mouth comes from acidic stomach juices that back up into your esophagus. As your pregnancy progresses, your growing baby puts more and more pressure on your stomach and other digestive organs, which can cause heartburn. Although this problem can happen at any time during your pregnancy, it is more prevalent during the last three months when the baby is rapidly growing.

To help relieve symptoms, take the following steps:

  • Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day, every hour or two if possible.

  • Avoid known irritants that cause heartburn, such as caffeine, chocolate, highly seasoned foods, high-fat foods, citrus fruits or juices, tomato-based products, and carbonated beverages.

  • Keep a food diary to track foods that might be triggering your heartburn. Everyone is different, so what bothers someone else may not bother you.

  • Eat slowly and in a relaxed atmosphere.

  • Do not lie down right after eating a meal. Instead, remain seated upright for an hour or two after eating. Even better is to walk after you eat to help your gastric juices flow in the right direction.

  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

  • Limit fluids with meals, and drink them between meals instead.

  • Sleep with your head elevated to help prevent acid backup.

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.

  • Talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications, such as antacids. Your doctor can advise you on what is safe to use.

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