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Eat Up! Natural Remedies for Common Pregnancy Ailments

Glowing skin, doubled cup-size and shiny hair are all commonly touted as side effects of pregnancy. But there are some other pregnancy symptoms usually kept on the quiet, such as heartburn, nausea and constipation. You know, the things no one ever really talks about when mentioning the lovely “glow”. The good news is that there are simple, natural remedies for these common pregnancy ailments, and you can find them all at your grocery store.

Constipation

Your gestating body experiences an increase in progesterone, which causes digestion to slow down and intestinal muscles to relax. Also, your growing baby applies pressure to your lower abdomen and intestines, which can result in a fecal blockage. Vitamin supplements are also known to cause constipation, especially if the doctor prescribes that you take several together (such as iron, calcium and other prenatal vitamins).

Remedy: The best solution for constipation is to avoid it in the first place. Do this by staying hydrated (drink at least eight cups of water daily), eating a well-balanced diet (full of fruits, veggies and whole grains), and getting plenty of exercise. If it’s already too late, then try drinking a glass of prune juice, increasing your fiber and fluid intake, and taking a warm bath.

Heartburn

Hormonal variations, such as the aforementioned increase in progesterone, are to blame for that horrible burning sensation in your throat and chest. The valve that normally prevents stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus relaxes, causing irritation. As your baby grows, an increasing amount of pressure is placed on your stomach and intestines, thereby passing stomach acids into your esophagus and causing heartburn.

Remedy: Ginger, ginger and ginger. Try brewing a nice hot cup of tea. If you find warm drinks difficult to stomach, then consider a cold glass of ginger ale. You could also try snacking on ginger candy or ginger snaps. Another option is to take a papaya supplement with meals.

Morning sickness and nausea

While no one really knows what causes “morning sickness” or nausea, it is likely a result of rapidly increasing hormones. An enhanced sense of smell and a sensitive stomach also contribute to the problem. Some women experience nausea as a direct result of taking prenatal vitamins.

Remedy: A simple switch from taking your vitamin supplements in the morning to taking them at night can sometimes solve the problem because by the time the queasiness kicks in, you will already be snoozing. The remedies for curing heartburn - ginger and papaya - also work wonders for curing morning sickness. Emily Streich, LM, CPM, and instructor at Bastyr University, says that if you are vomiting, fluid replacement and electrolyte replacement is important. An alternative to Gatorade is coconut water, which can be found in many natural food and grocery stores. Also, sucking on ice cubes made of coconut water or weak red raspberry leaf tea can also help nausea while replacing some lost electrolytes.

Diarrhea

While some women struggle with constipation throughout their entire pregnancies, you might experience the opposite extreme. This could be caused by an increase in exercise, diet changes or even as a result of taking prenatal vitamins.

Remedy: While these suggestions don’t make diarrhea go away, they will help you through the nasty experience. Plenty of water is necessary to keep you from getting dehydrated. Put down your pickles and ice cream and start eating the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast). “Pumpkin is also a veggie that contains a lot of fiber and can be very good at firming stools; and finally, yogurt contains many good probiotic bacteria which can help the digestive system,” says Streich.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids, blood vessels that become swollen, most often appear as a result of straining due to constipation.
Remedy: “Trying to keep stools soft is the key to not worsening them, so make sure there is adequate fiber and water in the diet, and stop processed foods,” says Streich. Applying chilled witch hazel packs or soaking in a warm sitz bath can help alleviate the pain. Streich suggests holding a (cool) black tea bag on the area, which soothes and helps shrink them. You could also cut a potato in half and hold it on the area for the same effect.

Yeast infection

Due to higher estrogen levels during pregnancy, your vagina produces more glycogen, which creates a breeding ground for yeast.

Remedy: Increase your dietary intake of foods containing live-active yogurt cultures, such as cottage cheese, yogurt and Kefir milk. Streich says that miso, kimchi and sauerkraut contain beneficial bacteria as well. Yeast feeds on sugar, so reduce your sugar intake while battling a yeast infection.

Itchy skin

Higher estrogen levels and stretched skin are at the root of your constant itch.

Remedy: The best way to turn off the itch is to add more EFAs (essential fatty acids) to your diet. “These can be in the form of fish oils from fatty fish that are low in heavy metals and toxins, such as sardines, wild salmon and anchovies, or a plant-based source, such as flaxseed or flax oil,” says Streich.

As you notice, eating the right foods can prevent most of these ailments from even occurring. Streich notes the importance of maintaining a healthy and varied diet since it is “the building blocks used to grow a baby, and keep the mother strong and healthy through the pregnancy, birth and beyond.”

Sarah is a freelance writer and mother of four children.

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