What Is Heartburn?
The heartburn is caused by the stomach acid that flows back into the esophagus and irritates the lining, which is very sensitive at this level, thus causing discomfort. It is normal for the digestion process to trigger the secretion of acids needed to transform the consumed food. However in the case when the acid flows back into the esophagus through the phenomenon of gastro-esophageal reflux, it causes a series of unpleasant sensations such as the burning at the bottom of the chest with a tendency to climb towards the throat, the acid or the bitter taste, the stomach pain and the acid regurgitation.
Heartburn And Pregnancy
The heartburn is common among the pregnant women and it is caused by the physiological and hormonal changes the body goes through during the pregnancy. The heartburn in pregnant women occurs during the first three months of the pregnancy and it usually gets worse in the last three months, when time for giving birth is approaching.
The gastro esophageal reflux is caused by the stomach valve functional problems that instead of preventing the repression of the stomach acid back into the esophagus, it allows it to flow back, causing the above symptoms. In pregnant women this valve is functional but it is relaxed by a hormone essential for pregnancy called progestin (it also relaxes the muscles of the uterus).
The esophagus, the stomach and the intestines contract in order to carry the food and to facilitate the digestion. The progesterone slows down the contractions causing a much slower digestion. Also, in the last months of the pregnancy the fetus grows in size and it pressures the abdominal cavity, which favors the repression of the gastric acid from the stomach into the esophagus.
Although the heartburn can not be treated completely during the pregnancy, there are still methods that can help alleviate the discomfort. For example: do not eat before sleep, wear comfortable clothes, eat in small portions, do not lay down immediately after you eat, try to sleep with the head and upper body slightly raised.
Also, avoid these foods: vinegar, citrus, mint, tomatoes, garlic, chocolate, raw onion, black pepper, fruit juice, alcoholic drinks, carbonated beverages, spicy foods, foods high in fat.
In most cases the pregnant women improve the discomfort caused by the heartburn by these simple changes in diet and lifestyle. However, if the heartburn persists in intensity, you can try other remedies, such as the drugs prescribed by your physician. Usually, in such cases, the doctor prescribes magnesium, calcium or sodium bicarbonate based antacids.
Even though the drugs against acidity could give the results you want, you should avoid them in the last months of the pregnancy, because they can have a negative effect on the natural phenomena that occurs during birth (for example the magnesium may influence the uterus contractions during labor).
Besides the antacid medications, there are herbal remedies against the heartburn. These include aloe vera juice, slippery elm preparations or high mallow.
Before you start any treatment against the heartburn, either medical or natural, you must talk to your doctor first.