Q: Hello ,doctor..is it ok to eat spicy foods when pregnant?
A: I love spicy foods! When pregnant, I crave it even more. Most people find it difficult to eat with me when I’m preggie…because the food is just that spicy! Unfortunately, this has a challenge associated with it. Eating spicy foods in pregnancy can cause your esophageal sphincter to stay open for prolonged periods leading to heartburn.
Heartburn really has nothing to do with the heart…I bet all of you knew that, aye? It is usually felt as a burning sensation in the chest which feels worse on bending down or lying down. Okay, why and how does this happen? You know that the stomach produces acid to help with food digestion, right? Have you ever wondered, how come this acid isn’t all up in your mouth all the time? Well, that’s because there’s a ‘lock’ or control at the junction of the esophagus and the stomach which prevents the acid in the stomach from coming back up into the esophagus. This ‘lock’ is called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter. This lock can get strained if the esophagus opens too often or if there is too much food in the stomach…so, if you regularly over-eat, you might want to re-think that 😀 A major no-no is a very heavy meal just before you lie down. It’s almost certain you may have a heart burn 😀
There are also conditions like pregnancy (like in your case) and obesity that make this sphincter stay open for prolonged periods as a result of pressure on the abdomen and there are also foods that encourage this. Examples of these ‘foods’ are fatty foods, alcohol, orange juice, chocolate and coffee, onions, tomatoes, peppermint and as already mentioned, spicy foods. In pregnancy, the hormonal changes and the pressure of the growing womb on the stomach contribute to heartburn.
Heart burn in pregnancy is more likely to occur in women who had heart burn before pregnancy, women who have been pregnant before and women in the last stages of their pregnancy.
So, I suggest you keep a food diary over a period of time and try to figure out the trigger foods. Remember that being over-weight could be a problem or even over-eating.
Prevention involves trying to avoid your trigger foods (quite a number are actually healthy 😀 ) maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding heavy meals just before bedtime, avoiding alcohol or smoking, sitting up straight when eating, try eating smaller meals and avoid tight clothes that may also put pressure on your abdomen.
Treatment is targeted at the acid and healing the esophagus. So, drugs used can stop acid production, reduce acid production and cause healing of the esophagus or neutralize the effect of the acid. Your doctor will prescribe what works best for you.
Have a fabulous evening and remember…no heavy meals before bedtime.
Have a good night y’all 😀