Heartburn is very common symptom during pregnancy, especially in the later stages. It is also known as acid reflux or indigestion and causes a burning sensation in the oesophagus and throat and can create a sour, acidic taste.
Both hormonal and physical changes contribute to symptoms of heartburn in pregnancy. During pregnancy the placenta produces the hormone progesterone which relaxes smooth muscles. It also relaxes the lower stomach valve which usually prevents acid from entering the oesophagus. FYI: progesterone is the hormone which also contributes to constipation in pregnancy. As your baby grows larger and takes up more space in your abdomen, the stomach organ is pushed upwards, which can force stomach acid up into the oesophagus, causing that unpleasant burning sensation.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, heartburn is due to the changes happening on the Stomach meridian and organ system. The stomach meridian begins around the eyes and travels downward through the heart and stomach and finishes at the second toe. The energy and increasing size of your precious foetus can send the Stomach Qi upwards. In Chinese medicine this is referred to as Rebellious Stomach Qi or Counterflow Stomach Qi. The upwards energy flow causes heartburn symptoms.
7 Tips to reduce heartburn:
1. Try to wear comfy, loose fitting clothes.
2. Try doing some simple and effective acupressure to reduce heartburn. The acupuncture point Stomach 44 (ST44), also known as the Inner court, is at the end of the Stomach Channel and is located on BOTH feet, in the web between the 2nd and 3rd toes (in the border between the red & white flesh). It is the fire point on the Stomach channel and helps the Rebellious Stomach Qi descend. If you want to try some acupressure, press one or both of these points for 3-5 minutes. If the point is too awkward to reach, ask a friend or your partner to help you out. You can press on this point several times a day or night for relief.
3. Acupuncture is safe to use during your pregnancy and has been treating heartburn effectively for thousands of years. Your relaxing treatment will help reduce the symptoms of heartburn, by adjusting the oesophageal pressure, lowering gastric acid and balancing the functions of the digestive organs.
4. Don’t go to bed full; try to digest food for 2-3 hours before lying down. This prevents the stomach acid from entering the oesophagus. Sleep with your upper body elevated with several pillows. This will allow gravity to do its work and keep stomach acid where it belongs.
5. Eat smaller meals more often, this will put less pressure on the stomach. Also try to eat your food slowly, as just about any food will cause acid reflux if too much is eaten too fast.
6. During waking hours try to sit up straight, as this puts less pressure on the stomach, preventing the acid from rising.
7. Fresh ginger is an ancient remedy for heartburn and nausea. It has a descending action so will tell the Rebellious Stomach Qi to descend. Try adding some freshly grated ginger into your tea or in your cooking.
Good luck and congratulations!
I suffered from terrible heartburn in the third trimester of my pregnancy. The combination of acupuncture, acupressure while at home, and following simple self care tips really gave me relief and let me focus on enjoying my first pregnancy.
(Betty Jones, Woollahra, 2013).
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