Foods that can help with heartburn during pregnancy

Medically reviewed October 2022
6 Foods That Won’t Cause Heartburn During Pregnancy | Naytal

Heartburn is a regularly reported side effect of pregnancy. Whilst it’s nothing to worry about, heartburn can be uncomfortable so you may be wondering what you can do to ease the discomfort.

Here we share how your diet can have an impact including the best foods you can eat (and avoid!) to avoid heartburn during pregnancy.

Why does heartburn happen during pregnancy?

Heartburn, or indigestion, is a burning feeling in your chest caused by stomach acid travelling towards your throat.

The causes of heartburn during pregnancy can include:

  1. Your uterus growing - as your baby grows, your uterus grows and this can grow into your stomach. This can push the stomach acids upwards into your oesophagus. This is one reason why heartburn is common in the third trimester as your baby is at its biggest.
  2. Progesterone is a pregnancy hormone which can cause the oesophagus sphincter to relax and this can result in stomach acid moving upwards into the oesophagus.
  3. In pregnancy, your hormone levels can affect how you tolerate and digest food. These hormones slow down the digestive system which can cause bloating and heartburn

Speak to a pregnancy nutritionist

You are more likely to experience heartburn during pregnancy if:

  • You have/had heartburn prior to becoming pregnant
  • You have been pregnant before
  • You are in the later stages of pregnancy

What foods cause heartburn during pregnancy?

There is not one particular food which may cause heartburn but certain foods which can increase the likelihood of heartburn. These include:

  • Spicy foods like a curry
  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons
  • Certain vegetables such as tomatoes, pickles, onions
  • Some condiments like vinegar and salad dressings
  • Fruit juices such as orange juice
  • Fatty foods such as bacon
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks such as cola and sparkling water

You may also identify your own personal triggers which are not on this list.

What foods won’t cause heartburn?

There is no one food which won’t cause heartburn as it can depend on what that food is eaten with and your own personal triggers.

However, there are some foods that have been seen to be helpful and relieve or help with heartburn symptoms.

1. Milk

Milk has been found to help relieve the discomfort caused by heartburn. Milk is an alkaline composition so helps to create a thin barrier that lines the stomach and can decrease irritation. Ideally skimmed or semi-skimmed milks are best as high fat milk sources can cause heartburn to become worse.

Pregnant women require 700mg of calcium per day and 100mls of milk provides 120mg calcium. Therefore milk is a great source of calcium which should be included in your diet for your bone health. You can add milk to cereal, use it as an ingredient for cooking or use milk as the main liquid base for a smoothie or hot drink.

2. Herbal teas

Herbal teas such as ginger, fennel and peppermint are well-known home remedies for heartburn. Whilst there is little scientific evidence for herbal teas preventing heartburn, anecdotally pregnant women have experienced good results in decreasing symptoms. Therefore, you could drink herbal teas in between meals as a good source of hydration which may prevent or relieve symptoms of heartburn.

3. Fermented foods

Fermented foods contain lots of probiotics, examples of which include sauerkraut, kefir and tempeh. Probiotics are beneficial for our digestion and gut microbiome, also promoting the secretion of digestive juices which can help keep your digestive system regular. These can help prevent problems like indigestion and heartburn in some cases. Aim to get 1-2 portions of these foods in your diet each day.

4. Yoghurt

Like milk, yoghurt has a role in helping to decrease the irritation caused by heartburn. It is a probiotic and alkaline source which can help neutralise the stomach acid.

Yoghurt is another good source of calcium and protein so it can help meet your nutritional requirements. Choosing a plain and lower fat yoghurt is usually the best option for heartburn relief so try adding yoghurt into a snack or use it as a savoury dip at a meal to help decrease the risk of heartburn.

5. Melons and bananas

Melons and bananas have a lower acidic content than most fruits. Therefore these are good options to ensure you get one of your five a day and meet your fibre requirements without triggering symptoms of heartburn. Both fruits could be added to yoghurt as a snack, or added into your morning breakfast cereal or porridge.

6. Wholegrains

Wholegrains such as brown rice, brown pasta, wholegrain bread and oats are all high in fibre. The fibre, in some cases, can help speed up the digestion of food through the stomach, preventing the food from being stasis in the stomach for a longer time than required which can limit the amount of acid produced. Therefore, this could reduce the chances of acid reflux.

To incorporate wholegrains into your diet, you can swap white bread for brown or rye which can be used for toast or a sandwich at lunch. Equally, you could make a breakfast which contains oats such as porridge or a breakfast flapjack bar.

What else helps with heartburn during pregnancy?

  • Eating several smaller meals rather than large meals
  • Drinking between your meals and not at your meals
  • Limiting foods which can potentially trigger heartburn
  • Sitting upright when you eat
  • Don’t lie down immediately after eating
  • Try avoid late night eating and snacking
  • Keep your head higher when your sleeping to help prevent stomach acid rising into your chest
  • Stopping smoking
  • Avoid alcohol which is what we would advise anyway if you are pregnant

Over the counter medication is available to relieve heartburn, many of which are safe to take during pregnancy. Make sure to talk to a health professional or pharmacist before taking any.

Want expert help on how best to eat during pregnancy? Whether you have a specific concern or are looking for general advice, our pregnancy nutritionists can help. Book a 1-2-1 appointment at a time that suits you.

Ellie, Naytal Dietician

Ellie is a qualified HCPC registered Dietitian and a member of British Dietetic Association. She's passionate about helping women use food to improve the health and wellbeing of themselves or their baby.

Diet and nutrition
Pregnancy symptoms
Third trimester
Second trimester

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