Ever see those street performers who eat fire? They stick a flaming object down their throat for entertainment. I think this image best describes severe heartburn during pregnancy, but as most women would agree, there’s nothing entertaining about it. It feels like hot, acidic lava burning and rising up in the chest, leaving a nasty taste in the mouth. I think that that kind of pain is best left to the fire eaters!
Heartburn can occur throughout pregnancy, often starting in the 1st trimester and intensifying from there. Here’s everything you need to know to avoid it – and get relief from heartburn during pregnancy – naturally.
What causes heartburn?
There are many possible causes of heartburn during pregnancy, including:
Yes, hormones play a part of everything when you’re pregnant, even with heartburn. Pregnancy hormones cause all types of stomach symptoms, including heartburn. The hormone progesterone causes the valve that prevents stomach acids from passing back into the esophagus to relax, allowing for acids to pass more easily and irritate the lining.
Hormones also slow down digestion, causing for less stomach acids to be produced. Although it can seem counterintuitive, less stomach acids actually create heartburn and acid reflux.
Making room for baby
Baby takes up more and more room in your abdomen, as pregnancy goes along. Baby compresses all your digestive organs and diaphragm up into less space, leaving it easier for stomach contents to pass back up into the esophagus. This becomes particularly prominent in the 3rd trimester.
Okay, as you can see, there isn’t much that can be done about preventing the organic causes of heartburn during pregnancy. Hormones and baby’s growth are natural and wanted aspects of pregnancy. So what can you do?
Natural ways to relieve pregnancy heartburn
Most women with healthy, normal pregnancies will find easy, convenient, and effective measures to relieve heartburn discomfort naturally.
Of course, as with everything in life, there are exceptions to this. If you find your pregnancy heartburn persists or seems extra severe, talk to you doctor or midwife.
Here are some natural pregnancy heartburn remedies.
Raw apple cider vinegar
Mix 1-teaspoon vinegar (building up to 1 Tablespoon) with approximately 8 ounces water; sip throughout day and an hour before meals.
Raw vinegar is one of the small wonders of the world! Seems strange to think about drinking vinegar when your chest is burning. As stated above, low stomach acid actually creates heartburn, so this works because it increases the acids, resulting in relief. Make sure the vinegar is raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, and best in an amber bottle.
Fresh lemon in water
Squeeze 1-2 fresh lemons into a minimum of 8 ounces water. Add stevia or honey. Heat for tea or leave cold water for lemonade/juice.
Lemon is another small miracle. Lemon juice increases the production of digestive juices and bile, which helps balance low stomach acids and aids in digestion.
Grate ½ – 1 tsp. ginger to 8 ounces hot water for tea. Steep for 10 minutes. Enjoy.
Use in moderation. Ginger can possibly lead to contractions, if used frequently or in high doses.
With the recent boom in all things coconut, the coconut fruit or technically “drupe’s” water (not officially a nut) acts as a great natural acid neutralizer. The water is easy to access and may give relief with heartburn symptoms during pregnancy.
Plain old water
Drink lots of water, but not all at once. Gulping a lot of water in one sitting actually increases the risk of heartburn, particularly when baby’s larger size is pushing your stomach upwards. Instead, sip water all day long. Consistent intake of water keeps things flushing through and hydrates, which will reduce heartburn.
Crush a small amount of fennel seed. Add to above lemon recipes, either hot tea or cold drink. The flavor of fennel works great with lemon! Fennel by itself is lovely too. Steep crushed fennel see in hot water and ENJOY!
Fennel seeds and fennel seed oil ward off heartburn. They naturally soothe the digestive tract, reduce acid, and decrease inflammation. Like ginger though, excessive or frequent amounts of fennel is presumed to lead to contractions. Again, use in moderation!
Peppermint tea or sucking on peppermints eases heartburn tremendously! I leaned heavily on peppermint lozenges (these ones don’t have sugar in them… yay!) and peppermint tea.
Yogurt or Milk
Yogurt or a glass of milk can relief heartburn. Cow’s milk can offer immediate relief, however, some say over time it can worsen the heartburn. Try nut milk, rice milk or goat’s milk as alternatives.
Warming the milk and adding some honey seems to soothe the burning in the chest for some.
High Enzyme Foods
Papaya, pineapple, avocados and bananas all contain naturally-ocurring enzymes that helps us breakdown our food. Some mamas swear by papaya enzymes but keep in mind that they are not recommended during pregnancy as they haven’t been studied enough. Green papaya can also lead to premature labor.
Even more potent, fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, kim chi, and kefir are brimming with enzymes and good bacteria which support healthy digestion. These are especially important to include when eating a high protein meal or before bed.
HCL & Pepsin
If we need more support, we can boost our HCL & Pepsin reserves by taking a supplement like this one. Our body naturally produces HCL & Pepsin any way, so it’s a great natural option that’s extremely effective when nothing else works. Most mamas do well with 1-2 per meal but follow the instructions on bottle. Reduce your dose if you feel any burning in your stomach. Plant digestive enzymes are another option.
Stir 1 – 2 teaspoons of bentonite clay with a minimum of 8 ounces of water. It’s important to drink a lot of water when taking clay, to help move it through.
Bentonite clay is highly absorbable! It’s alkalizing and absorbs excess acids, toxins, hormones, and more. Our bodies don’t actually absorb or assimilate the clay (link 5 natural remedies for morning sickness). It simply moves through, taking the imbalances with it, easing heartburn symptoms.
This natural healing agent can be obtained from the live plant’s leaves or simply buy the gel at a health food store. Topically, apply gel form on chest, throat and abdomen.
Aloe vera successfully treats inflammation, reducing heartburn and acid reflux symptoms.
Slippery Elm Bark and Marshmallow Root
Some mamas find relief from mucilaginous herbs like Slippery Elm Bark and Marshmallow Root. Due to their gummy consistency, they coat the intestines and soothe digestion. Be sure to use under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner and away from food and supplements at they can interfere with nutrient absorption.
Some recent studies show that seeing a chiropractor can help with heartburn. Certain chiropractic adjustments shift the esophageal valve into a better working position. This relaxes the muscle, helping prevent acids from making their way back up.
Natural Ways to Prevent Pregnancy Heartburn
So far, we’ve listed a lot of natural remedies and relief for heartburn during pregnancy. Now, let’s focus on some tips to help avoid heartburn in the first place.
Diet, Nutrition, & Lifestyle
What and how you eat or don’t eat can make all the difference with heartburn during pregnancy. Here are a few tips:
Suggestions of things to incorporate:
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day
- Try to make your main meal at lunchtime – this takes pressure of the digestive tract later in the day when the body is tired or ready for bed
- Try to avoid eating a couple hours before bed or a nap
- Stay sitting upright after eating, lying down can push stomach contents back up
- When sleeping, prop head with a couple of pillows, this positioning may help.
- Stay hydrated – sip water and liquids throughout the day and between meals, rather in larger quantities
- Try naturally sweetened gum after a meal – chewing stimulates your salivary glands, naturally neutralizing acids
- Alkalizing foods that actually soothe or help prevent heartburn (link Acid/Alkaline How to stay in Balance or Intro to Alkaline/Acid Balance)):
- Most vegetable, particularly your greens (link Top 9 Leafy Greens)
- Green drinks or smoothies are a great way to get the greens in for relief, nutrition, and hydration!
- Herbal teas, such as peppermint, chamomile, and lemon tea
- Garlic – a clove of garlic a day keeps heartburn away! Or at least some say so. If you choose garlic capsules make sure they are rich in allicin to be effective with heartburn. As always, before taking supplements, check with your midwife to make sure they are right for you.
By adding in as many of the alkalizing foods and lifestyle suggestions in your daily routine, will help balance the hormonal side effects. Also consider avoiding the more aggravating food and behavior culprits.
Suggestions of things to avoid:
- Avoid tight fitting clothes if you have heartburn during pregnancy. It puts even more pressure on your organs.
- Avoid liquids while you eat. This dilutes your digestive juices, making them less effective.
- Avoid eating the following aggravating acidic foods:
- Caffeinated and sugar beverages, like tea, coffee, soda, etc.
- Citrus fruits
- Spicy, fatty, rich, and fried foods
- Fizzy drinks
- Large quantities of meat in one sitting – the body works harder if overloaded or too rich
- Iron supplements can cause heartburn. Check with your doctor to see if changing to a liquid supplement might be an option.
Again, adding and subtracting certain foods and behaviors daily will help build a more balanced foundation for your wellness.
If any one of these suggestions for natural remedies and relief for heartburn during pregnancy doesn’t work – TRY ANOTHER. Your body may respond better to one than another, which is why I wanted to give as many suggestions as possible. If all else fails, try 1/8 tsp. of baking soda in water. You might be one of the few who actually do have too much stomach acid. This will serve as a natural antacid.
Here’s what other natural mamas have to say about relieving heartburn during pregnancy naturally…
I asked the moms on my Facebook page about their go-to natural remedies for pregnancy heartburn, and here is a sample of their responses.
- Acv, pickle juice, digestive enzymes! – Katie Keepman
- An apple in the morning and right before bed. – Elsa Silva
- I would get heartburn/reflux late at night. It May sound weird but I would either drink a little pickle juice, or eat a spoonful of peanut butter and within about 5-10 minutes it was gone and I was able to sleep. I actually ended up leaving a jar of pb and a spoon by my bedside just so I wouldn’t have to get my big pregnant butt out of bed. – Jessica Fields
- Milk worked for me, one of my nurses told me that that couldn’t be right, because it’s a myth that milk would ever work, well dear nurse, that was the only thing that would work for me, so, back off! – Areli Josserand
- Apple Cider Vinegar helped me! (Had quite a bit of heart burn… but my babies didn’t end up with much hair – at all! Old wives tale! ) – Devon Johnston
- Baking soda in a little bit of water helped! Was it gross? A little, but still more enjoyable than heartburn! I had raging heartburn the whole time. A midwife suggested ACV but that made it worse for me! – Erin M. Strand
- Maybe not the healthiest, but I always had ginger snaps next you bed. I ate one or two at night for the heartburn and another one or two in the morning for the nausea. – Sarah Gilroy
- I didn’t treat my heartburn with any natural remedies, but did learn that bad heartburn can often present itself as nausea/morning sickness! Women who experiences bad nausea/MS should consider your remedies as well! – Renee Jillian
- Papaya Enzyme was a lifesaver for me
Jessica Smith Plant Bananas and yogurt. Sara Wrazen Parise
- So far, wearing hazelwood helps some. Not perfect, but helps a little. – Susan Miller
- I had heard to eat a few green olives. So when a pregnant friend was needing relief, I suggested her to try it – and it works!!! She can’t believe it but now tells everyone about it! And she has been known to carry green olives with her now. – Shawna Beaubien
- Liquid slippery elm works instantly! – Ashly Burke-Goike
How about you?
Did you experience heartburn during pregnancy? What natural remedies offered you relief? Share with us in the comments below.