Heartburn & Indigestion During Pregnancy

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • Alternative medicine for GERD

    (8 replies)

    Having had infrequent mild heartburn since pregnancy, I was suddenly hit with horrible GERD in November (probably brought on by a period of high stress). Taking a PPI first 1x, then 2x, per day finally got rid of my esophagitis, and it seemed like I was making progress. I'd hoped to taper off the PPIs. A few weeks ago (still on PPI 2x) the reflux and heartburn got worse again, and now I have them on and off all day (I don't have nighttime GERD problems). From the beginning I eliminated the typical food triggers, as well as my own, including most fruit (even bananas). More recently I've also tried to cut sugar, white flour, and most dairy. My normal diet is mostly vegetarian, high fiber and low in processed foods / sweets. The 'self-help' books all seem to suggest different diets, which leaves me unsure what I should eat. My Kaiser doc’s only suggestions were to up my dose of PPIs (at least temporarily), and just ‘deal with it.’ I’m in my mid 40s and spending the rest of my life on meds and with such a restrictive diet depresses me. Plus, the PPIs seem to give me indigestion, and I've lost 10 lbs thru this process (I was already thin). I'd prefer a more holistic approach to get at the cause (stress? other digestive issues?). I think the stress brought on by feeling unwell (GERD, plus some muscle / joint issues that I used to resolve w/ occasional ibuprofin) isn't helping. Has anyone had success with a homeopath, naturopath, acupuncturist, or functional / integrative med doc for issues like this? I’d love another opinion, but am not sure where to begin.

    I went through a phase of very bad GERD a couple of years ago. Kaiser put me on PPIs but then took me off them when I developed stomach polyps (a common side effect). I, too , tried to handle it with diet, exercise, etc. but I couldn't really figure out all of the food triggers (citrus that bothered me when I was at home was fine when I was on vacation in Hawaii!) .So I think the biggest trigger was stress; I wound up quitting my job and found something less stressful. The other thing that helps me, despite the mixed opinions of experts, is taking a probiotic pill nightly. I have been doing that for two years and I rarely have any GERD symptoms.  I also take a prophylactic over the counter PPI on rare occasions when I know I will be out for dinner and won't necessarily be able to control the ingredients in my meal or might drink wine. I, too, would be interested in learning about some sort of non-Western holistic approach. Good luck.

    I'm sorry you're going through this. I also suffered from GERD and have found profound success with acupuncture and chiropractic adjustments. I can only speak to the practitioners I've used but they both worked very well together.I'm no longer on any prescription medicine and rarely have acid reflux (no longer on a restrictive diet either).

    I see Jill Stevens at Whole Family Wellness in Emeryville and Aaron Rossell at Icor Chiropractic in Piedmont.

    I would definitely consider traditional osteo.  You might have a nerve that’s irritated bc of some misalignment somewhere in your body that’s having an effect on our organs.  This is promising: http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2094628

    Ps- pregnancy certainly can put your body out of whack. And an osteo can help realign your body. 

    I'm so sorry to hear this.  Unknown digestive issues are so annoying!  You could see if OTC probiotics help. Usually they cost $15 - $40 and most people tolerate them well.  (Lifeway Kefir also has a lot of different probiotics.)  Look for one with many different strains (at least 10), rather than just a few.  I find Bifidobacterium strains especially helpful for digestive issues.

    If eliminating certain foods hasn't helped, you could add them back in (for variety) and then eliminate others. What is a trigger for everyone else may have nothing to do with your own situation. Maybe you've developed intolerance to one of your usual dietary staples?

    For stress, you probably know the basic recommendations--trying meditation, deep breathing, walking, etc.  I find gardening, reading, and visiting with friends work best for me, but the key thing is to make it a priority to find the time.

    You could also ask for more tests to make sure you don't have something structural like an ulcer or hernia causing the problem.

    Just becareful because when I went in for my endoscopy, the gastroenterologist said that even though I wasn't feeling any symptoms, the acid is still there. I sleep on a wedge, avoid trigger foods, overeating, etc. My GERD has caused Barrett's Esophagus, a precancerous condition that means there are abnormal cells that I have to monitor and get regular endoscopies. So make sure that whatever you are doing, that you are not producing the acid, whether or not you feel it. I don't think there are any "alternative" methods that can do that for you. I have known 2 people well who have died from esophageal cancer and it is certainly not something I want. Just take it into consideration.

    I’m so sorry you’re going thru this. I experienced GERD during my pregnancy and it was horrid! I tried to stay off the PPI’s as I was pregnant and took Zantac instead. It wasn’t a cure but at least helped ease it. What really helped though was acupuncture! I only wish that I had started treatment earlier in my pregnancy. I went to Berkeley Acupuncture Project as they are really affordable and you can nap in the chair for as long as you need. It’s very relaxing and did wonders for my pregnancy induced GERD. I wish you well on your recovery!

    Hello, I'm so sorry you've had such a hard time! I have a long history of GERD (2 pregnancies, on a PPI throughout both), but just thought I might put one more idea out there, in case it hasn't come up - have you ruled out gallstones? They often become symptomatic (and problematic) after pregnancy, because babies compress the gallbladder and prevent the normal flow of bile, and stones form. Then the stones can cause a LOT of pain (and it isn't just with fatty/greasy foods, either). The classic location of pain would be right upper quadrant, but could also be mid-epigastric (where mine was) and feels a lot like reflux pain or esophagitis or an ulcer... I know it's all very confusing. I just think that any pain related to GERD should resolve with a twice-daily PPI, and if it's not, you might keep looking for other potential issues, maybe with an upper endoscopy or at least a fasting abdominal U/S to rule out gallstones. I had laparoscopic cholecystectomy to take out my gallbladder 2 weeks ago and ALL of that horrible daily pain is now gone and I'm ready to wean off Omeprazole, hopefully forever. Best of luck to you!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Digestive Problems During Pregnancy

March 2005

I'm four months pregnant and have had digestive problems ever since my first month of pregnancy. I feel like nothing I eat goes beyond my throat. I'm always burping and never feel as though anything I eat sits well. I'm not nauseous, but I do throw up sometimes. It seems it depends on what I eat. A bland diet seems best. I'm wondering if anyone out there has experienced this and if so did they find relief in any way? I've tried Tums and Mylanta, they don't work. I'm willing to try acupuncture, homeopathy, anything for some relief!!! Sometimes I think eating littel bits frequently helps, but other times it doesn't. I can't imagine going another 6 months this way, knowing there is worse heartburn to come. Any suggestions?

That sounds pretty standard for pregnancy to me. I know I experienced it, and so did many others I know. I ate whatever I could stomach -- which was bland food like potatoes, white bread, boring cheeses, plain chicken, etc. I couldn't stand the sight of whole grains, finer greens, etc. But, it did subside around week 16 -- for some it doesn't, but it usually does. Then it comes back at the end of the pregnancy. I used Tums, which worked sometimes. It sounds like you're doing everything right, to me.

Don't worry, this shall pass before you know it (even if it does seem like forever right now!) Hang in there and ask your OB about better antacid remedies. Stacey

You can use real food to help with your digestion. The below suggestions, admittedly, take a bit of time in the kitchen, but they can be quite helpful if you have the time.

You can drink kefir, which is supposed to help the digestive system as a whole. You can make fermented veggies (storebought is usually pasteurized, and therefore dead/non-helpful). Small amounts of fermented veggies with each meal assist with digestion. http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefirkraut.html You can eat a small amount of pickled ginger with meals, if you like it. It's supposed to help as well.

By the way.. antacids do not help digestion. They bring it to an abrupt halt, so everything can rot inside of you, only eventually becoming purged when you use the bathroom. But yes, they do have the side benefit of slowing down reactions to spicy/acidic foods. ali

Remedy for really bad heartburn?

June 2002

Does anybody know of an effective remedy for really bad heartburn during pregnancy? Sunflower seeds and seltzer water have recently been ruled out. Even sleeping sitting up isn't working anymore. Thanks! Jill

Papaya extract worked great for me, even better than Tums (what the doctor recommended). It's natural, tastes good, and you can take it with every meal as a preventitive measure. You can get it at any health food store, or grocery store like Berkeley Bowl or Whole Foods. I used to buy it in a convenient roll size (just like Certs!) at Lakeshore Natural Foods on Lakeshore in Oakland. --JL

I had terrible heartburn in the second half of my pregnancy. Although I never found anything to give complete relief, small amounts of yoghurt (especially just before bed) and Tums got me through the worst parts. Helen

you can try papaya enzyme tablets, available at natural grocery stores. they're chewable, tasted ok, and worked okay (not all the time, but sometimes) during my pregnancy. jessica zacher

I assume you've already tried the common suggestions?
- Avoid acidic foods (orange juice, tomato sauce, coffee...)
- Eat lots of tiny little meals, not full meals.
- Drink milk. Even a few sips can make a big difference. Take a thermos of cold milk to bed to sip at night.

My prenatal yoga teacher, Saraswathi at Yogalayam, recommended also to eat ''basic'' (opposite of acid) foods such as millet and some kind of dried salted(?) Japanese plum

My heartburn was moderate, not severe, so I'm not sure if these suggestions will help and you are probably already doing most of them. I ate millet but never went for the dried plum. Charis

I had terrible terrible heartburn with both pregnancies and it didn't make any difference what I ate. I even got heartburn from drinking a glass of water. Some books recommend not taking any anti-acids when you are pregnant. I am not sure why - something about the salt I think. However my doctor said it was OK (and I probably would have done it anyway, no matter what the dr. said because it made me very uncomfortable and unhappy to have heartburn all the time) so I ate a lot of Gelusil (over the counter like Tums or Rolaids). I also sometimes had a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. Both these remedies did the trick. Ginger

Eat lots of fresh papaya. It helped me a lot. There is some enzyme that helps with the heartburn. You can even get papaya tablets, but I didn't find those to be as effective.

I also found yoga to help, especially Saraswathi Devi's classes at Yogalayam. The more you can do to ease your assimilation and digestion, the less acute the heartburn will be. Good luck! -- Ilana

My nurse practioner recommended eating cheerios shortly before bed. That, along w/ Tums, helped some. But the only thing that really helped was prescription-strength Zantac, which may not be the answer for everyone. CJ

I hate to say it, but the best thing that worked for me was liquid Mylanta. Extra strength. It may as well have been water at times, seems like I drank so much!....Fizzy drinks helped a lot too (what I would have given for some good burps!). Seemed to be worse with my second pregnancy. It was amazing how it simply disappeared when the babies were born! hilary

Have you tried Ginger? It worked sometimes for me. Otherwise it was Rolaids or Tums. Joelle

I have only one word to say about pregnancy heartburn: Extra Strength Mylanta. I bought it in bulk at Costco in my last trimester and sometimes combined it with a few Tums. My OBGYN reassured me on at least 4 occasions that it was perfectly safe to take even daily, despite my admitting to her that I chugged it straight from the bottle. Waiting at least an hour to lie down after eating also helps, but as I recall that is easier said than done. molly

During my first pregnancy what saved me was something called gastrosoothe-- pricey things you chew on-- probably available at whole foods. Now, during my second pregnancy, I tried gastro soothe again and it helped, but it wasn't the magic cure it was the first time. This time around what's helped the most has been chewable papaya enyzmes (much cheaper and tastier than gastro soothe too), chewing on fennel, and eating smaller meals. Also I try not to eat too late at night. If I'm really hungry I eat something easily digestible like a banana or yogurt. I still get a bit of heart burn, but it's mostly gone. You can get payaya enymes at a healthy vitamin shop or whole foods. Hope some of this helps. Heartburn is no fun. susan

Try eating almonds. I tried it skeptically with my last pregnancy but it worked 100x better than Maloxx. I bought a 5lb bag of almonds from Costco and ate a few (maybe 10-15) every hour or so the last four weeks of my pregnancy and it kept the heart burn at bay pretty much completely. I was even able to eat Mexican for lunch and pesto for dinner one day and managed to sleep through the night with out being awakened. (Previously a simple diet of bread or rice would have had me up for hours at night.)I know that you said sunflower seeds were out, but maybe almonds are different enough that they would be worth a try. Rose

I had extreme heartburn during my last pregnancy, which was caused by my intestines slowing down. I avoided dairy products as much as was feasible because they slow down digestion, and tried to increase fiber consumption as much as I could. Before bed I would have a glass of water with a large tablespoon of maltodextrin, which is some kind of complex carbohydrate used by athletes during distance endurance events. I also kept Tums by my bed and took two during the night if I needed to. I also made sure to carry Tums with me whenever I went places where food might not be available. The heartburn vanished the minute my daughter was born. Fran

I had always thought that mint was good for an unsettled stomach, etc but I saw a ''to avoid'' list for gastrointestinal issues at my doctor's office recently. Lise