A symptom during pregnancy often not spoken about but definitely noticed is gas or, more technically, flatulence. I’m sure we’ve all heard husbands and partners joke about their gassy wives or speculating about the myth that “if its a particularly gassy pregnancy it’ll be a boy.” Actually, the typical person passes gas approximately 18 times a day. The reason for this is that the average person produces up to 4 pints of gas daily. Increased gas during pregnancy is very normal and actually biologically induced. It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable when you’re experiencing more gas production than normal, and it’s all due to the increase of the hormone progesterone which begins in early pregnancy. Progesterone (as well as relaxin) relaxes the smooth muscle tissue throughout your body. Unfortunately, not even your digestive tract is left unscathed! This slows down food digestion resulting in more gas being created in the large intestine, as a result of food that is not fully digested by enzymes. Subsequently, your intestinal muscles relax more, which causes your digestion to slow down. The transient time through the intestine can increase by 30%. This allows gas to build up easier and creates bloating, burping and, of course, flatulence. Gas during pregnancy can also increase later in pregnancy when the enlarging uterus places pressure on your abdominal cavity.
Changing foods and increasing movement helps with the redistribution of accumulation gas in your body. The gas production won’t harm your baby, but if you notice any intense pain or cramping, check with your doctor or midwife.
How to Reduce Gas Production
There are several foods known to increase gas and are, therefore, foods to avoid if you find yourself gassier than comfortable during your pregnancy. Please, note that if you are going to avoid them, you may need to receive your necessary vitamin intake through replacement or supplements! It is important that you do not eliminate everything from your diet that may increase gas. It is more essential to make sure that you are getting the nutrients you and your baby need for healthy development.
Foods that increase gas production:
- Beans & other legumes
- Brussel Sprouts
- Milk or cheese
If eliminating/ replacing all of that food from your diet is too hard, don’t worry! The following are some suggestions to keep yourself the least gassy as possible!
- Eat regularly, but choose several small meals throughout the day rather than less frequent, larger meals
- Eat and chew slowly and avoid talking or gulping while you’re eating
- Choose to drink between meals instead of during meals, and when you do have a drink, drink from a glass (without gulping) as opposed to a bottle or a straw
- Avoid fizzy/carbonated drinks
- Put your legs up to relieve pressure from your abdomen in order to assist digestion
- Sit upright while you’re eating or drinking
- Avoid wearing any tight clothing or belts, choose comfortable and loose clothing
- Avoid chewing gum or sucking on hard lollypops
- Avoid artificially sweetened products and drinks (often in diet drinks)
- Exercise can help – try a brisk walk around the block after a meal for around 20 minutes or so
- Peppermint tea is safe to take and may provide relief If you have a tendency to be anxious or tense, learn some relaxation techniques or take up an activity like Pilates (which is also good for core strength) or yoga.
- See your doctor for some quality prebiotics and probiotics, to make sure your gut is as healthy as possible
- Fiber intake is one of the top suggestions for the prevention of gas and helps with constipation as well. Fiber aids in digestion as it is unable to be digested by your body and therefore aids in pushing the waste products along your large intestine. Slower digestion can actually result in constipation, so it’s a good idea to prevent this from happening. You can avoid constipation and gas by increasing fiber intake slowly and drinking more water.
Foods that include fiber:
- Fruits: bananas, oranges, apples, mangoes, strawberries, raspberries
- Vegetables: generally, the darker the color, the higher the fiber content. Carrots, beets, broccoli, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, artichokes, potatoes (russet, red, and sweet)
- Beans and legumes.
- Breads and grains: Select 7-grain, dark rye, cracked wheat, pumpernickel. Make sure “whole wheat” or another whole grain is listed as the first ingredient
- Nuts: almonds, pistachios, pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Plenty of fresh fruits and veggies help too. Some fiber supplements can be used during pregnancy if you need extra help, but speak to your doctor, midwife, or pharmacist first.