Gas and bloating – It’s one of those pregnancy related “ailments” that can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to not only deal with, but also to talk about.
The Role of Pregnancy Hormones
As early as the first trimester, pregnancy hormones such as progesterone slow the processing of digestion to ensure proper nutrient absorption for your baby. This “slowing down” process often results in the food remaining within the intestinal tract for longer lengths of time, producing more gas than is typically normal for your body outside of pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormones also work to relax your muscles in preparation for labor and delivery. This relaxation process can result in difficulties restraining from passing gas, and can happen before you even realized the urge was upon you.
These hormonal problems are compounded as the abdominal organs are crowded out as the uterus grows.
There are many natural methods of helping this process along, and reducing the gassy and bloated sensations.
1. Increase Water Intake
The body is designed to store water reserves in preparation for labor and birth. The more water you in-take daily, the less water the body will need to store. This means less bloating and swelling as the end of pregnancy approaches. It also means less constipation, gas, bloating, and more regular and comfortable bowel movements.
Your body will replace the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby every 3 hours. Adequate water in-take for baby means clean fluid, and plenty of floating room to properly engage within the pelvis. It also keeps the uterus healthy and reduces the risk of infection during and after pregnancy.
The aim in pregnancy, ideally, is 80 – 128 fluid ounces daily. Yes, you read that right! You are aiming for a gallon a day. Of course, everyone is unique. This is the reason for the range. Some are fully hydrated at 80 oz. and others are 3 – 4 cups from fully hydrated at 80 oz.
Drink in small and regular intervals throughout the during the day. Below are some helpful tips to make it easier to in the amount of water your body and your baby need on a daily basis.
- Drink in intervals throughout the day.
- Often, room temperature water is easier to consume in large quantities.
- Drink from a glass without using a straw to ensure you avoid sucking in excess air.
- Straws are helpful when still dealing with pregnancy related nausea.
- Minimize your consumption of carbonated drinks to avoid ingesting gas bubbles. (carbonated drinks can also contribute to dehydration)
- Fresh fruit juices also help in removing toxins from the body and prevent bloating.
- Non-diuretic herbal teas count as water in-take!
- Keep a water glass in different locations, as you can be reminded often to drink.
- Attempt to drink 5 swallows of water after every bathroom visit.
2. What You Put Into Your Body Matters
Different foods can be triggers for different people. Common gas-causing foods such as dairy products (milk, cheese), beans, peas, whole grains – gluten, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, and onions – to name a few, can be eliminated or significantly reduced if you feel they may be contributing to gas and bloating.
Dairy is one of the top contributors to gastrointestinal issues in the majority of the population. Many pregnant and nursing women find themselves needing to cut dairy from their diets. Newborns, themselves, are not born with the enzymes necessary to break down the proteins found in dairy products – the ability to break down these proteins is achieved once they have reached 12 – 13 pounds.
Avoid teratogens in pregnancy is vitally important to the healthy formation and development of a baby in the embryonic stage. A diet which consists of nutrient dense whole organic (free of pesticides) foods, and avoids GMO (genetically modified), processed, boxed, and frozen options means the best start towards a healthy pregnancy and baby. These changes will also reduce the likelihood of indigestion and flatulence in the most natural way.
- Active culture dairy products, such as yogurt or kefir, aid in digestion.
- Avoid consuming fried or fatty foods.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Avoid intestinal toxins such as MSG (monosodium glutamate) and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).
- Consider adding fermented foods such as kimchee or sauerkraut to your diet. Kombucha is also helpful.
- Soak grains and beans overnight and change the soaking water a few times to help “de-gas” them. Adding acidity to the water can also help (lemon juice or ACV).
- Some women need to reduce gluten, which can cause swelling of the intestinal walls.
Keep in mind that you won’t want to eliminate all gas-causing foods from your diet. Consuming adequate fiber and a variety of nutrient-rich foods is vital during pregnancy and helps in the prevention of constipation and hemorrhoids – which are other common pregnancy discomforts. Being self-aware of which foods cause the greatest problems can help in meal planning and outings.
3. How You Put Calories Into Your Body Matters
Smaller, more frequent meals
While you need to consume additional calories during pregnancy, the hormones which result in a slower digestive system also means that less food needs to be in the intestinal tract at one time. Smaller, more frequent meals will help ensure the digestive system does not become overloaded, leading to gas, bloating, and constipation. This means not getting stuck in the 3 meals a day regiment. Have a light (small) meal, then a snack, and another light meal, and a snack, and repeat continuously, every 2 – 3 hours, through the day.
Eat slowly and thoroughly chew your food
The majority of gas within the digestive system is produced when bacteria in the large intestine is tasked with breaking down food that has not been thoroughly digested by the enzymes in the mouth or stomach. Breaking down food by taking the time to properly chew will lessen the load on the intestinal bacteria and reduce gas production. Take your time, and enjoy and savor the taste of your food.
4. Eliminate Consumption of Refined Sugars
- Every time you crave “sugar” eat protein instead!
- Avoid Fructose, often found in artificially flavored juices.
- Avoid chewing gums and lozenges which contain sorbitol.
- Taking a probiotic 3x week (don’t over use), to help ensure healthy gut flora.
- Candida (yeast) thrives on sugar, and is often the culprit in “sweet tooth cravings.”
- Essential Oils Lemon, Melaleuca, and Oregano help kill off candida within the body (medicinal grade – after the first trimester).
5. Baked Not Fried
Remember, the intestinal tract is moving slower during pregnancy. Foods that may not typically “release gas” into the body, can cause bloating when sitting in the digestive tract for an extended period of time. Even simple foods such as fries and chips can leave behind a “fried” sensation in the gut. These foods also counteract the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.
6. Consume Foods Rich In Fiber
Finding the perfect balance of reducing gaseous foods, and maintaining adequate fiber in-take can be a tedious task at first.
Getting in 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily is ideal to maintain good bowel health, and avoid constipation. A diet high in nutrient dense whole foods can change everything about how you feel physically and mentally throughout the day.
7. Fenugreek Seeds
The consumption of fenugreek seeds has been a tried and tested solution to control gas trouble during pregnancy. You can take a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds and soak it in water overnight. Filter the seeds from the water and drink the water to reduce flatulence.
8. Lemon Juice
Squeezing a whole lemon into a bowl, adding one cup of water and half a teaspoon of baking soda. Stir until the baking soda is completely dissolved. This can bring complete relief for intense gastric issues.
Drinking warmed lemon water first thing in the morning can also relieve morning intestinal pain and bloating.
9. Herbal Teas
Herbs are one of the most trusted and reached for home remedies. During pregnancy, herbs such as mint, blackberry, raspberry, fennel, and chamomile are known to aid in the digestive process.
While herbal teas can be enjoyed hot or cold, drinking at least one cup warm daily, significantly helps the digestive system in functioning properly, and preventing constipation. Even better is drinking a cup warm each morning, and before bed.
Peppermint has long been used as a natural remedy for gas, nausea, and indigestion. Either in the form of an herbal tea, an essential oil, or a capsule. For capsules, ensure that they are enteric coated (pass through the stomach and into the intestines before dissolving), so that you get the peppermint to the location where it is needed the most.
Consumed raw, or added to cooking meals, coriander helps the digestion process. Coriander leaves are also great for acidity and burning sensation in the stomach. Adding roasted coriander to a glass of buttermilk is useful to keep indigestion and gas at bay.
12. Drumsticks (moringa)
This fibrous food is a necessary addition to your meal especially if you are suffering from hard stools. Since the bowel movements are irregular, there are chances of excess gas formation in your body. It will increase roughage content in your food and will improve stomach health to a great extent.
This natural stool softener can help in countering some of the negative effects caused by the slowing of the digestive system during pregnancy – keeping things naturally moving along, and comfortable. This also means that gas and bloating don’t build up.
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14. Yoga and Exercise
Exercise helps stimulate digestion. This means your food will move through your intestinal tract more quickly — and produce less gas along the way.
Yoga, swimming, and walking are great forms of physical activity that allow for modifications that prevent over-exertion of the body during pregnancy, but also encourage the body systems to move and function.
A brisk walk each day is a good habit that addresses several common pregnancy discomforts. Swimming is also helpful and brings great relief from gravity during the third trimester. There are also three yoga poses which are known to help with gas. All three are done on-all-fours:
- The pelvic rock or “cat” position involves arching your pelvis up like a cat, then gently dropping it down to make a hollow in the small of your back.
- The side-to-side or pelvic “rock” position involves arching sideways to the right, bringing your head and rear end close together, then gently arching yourself sideways to the left — just like you’re wagging your “tail.”
- The circular rock position involves rolling your pelvis around as if you were belly dancing, but while on all fours.
15. Wear Loose Clothing
Tight clothing around your waist can further constrict a digestive system that is already being crowded by a healthy growing uterus. Nothing should be digging into the skin, leaving marks or indents, as this cuts off circulation, increases edema, and deters movement through the digestive tract.