As many as half of all pregnant women experience acid reflux. It can start at any point when you’re expecting, but it’s more common after 27 weeks.
“It’s [often] blamed on hormones,” says Dr. Schiller. “The uterus gets bigger and increases pressure on the belly. Hormones are higher, which tends to relax the sphincter.”
You’re more likely to have acid reflux when you’re pregnant if you’ve had it before or if you’ve been pregnant before.
Paying close attention to your diet and eliminating trigger foods are your best bet for reducing acid reflux symptoms when you’re pregnant. Talk to your doctor before trying any over-the-counter medications, as not all are safe to take during pregnancy. The reflux should subside after your baby is born.
Even though medications can magically relieve much of what ails us as human beings, they all have side effects. And sometimes the side effect is acid reflux. Drugs that can aggravate reflux include:
- Pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) and aspirin
- Blood pressure drugs called calcium channel blockers
- Antihistamines for allergies
- Sedatives, including benzodiazepines
- Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (although these aren’t used that often anymore)
- Certain antibiotics, including tetracycline
- Oral osteoporosis drugs
- Anticholinergic drugs, used to treat a variety of disorders from overactive bladder to COPD
Iron and potassium supplements may also contribute to reflux. Talk to your doctor if you think any of your medications are contributing to reflux. He or she may be able to suggest an alternative without this side effect.
An oft-cited Gallup poll found that nearly two-thirds of people with heartburn said stress worsened their symptoms. No one is sure why. Experts have speculated that anxious people may produce more stomach acid, and some studies indicate that, during times of stress, your perception of the discomfort of reflux is heightened.
Stress can also propel us toward other behaviors that can trigger acid reflux, like smoking, drinking alcohol, skipping the gym, and stress eating. Chronic reflux itself may aggravate stress.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s connective tissue. Many people with scleroderma list acid reflux as a symptom. Tissue scarring that happens with scleroderma causes food to move more slowly through your digestive tract and can prevent the LES from closing properly. Other digestive symptoms in people with scleroderma include constipation and diarrhea.
The same basic strategies to ease reflux can help scleroderma patients as well: Avoid trigger foods and alcohol, don’t lie down after eating, eat smaller meals, and lose weight if you need to. Over-the-counter antacids may also help, but talk to your doctor before using them.