Leonora speaks to health expert Jane Clarke about why women feel bloated during pregnancy and the best ways to remedy it.
Why do women experience bloating during pregnancy?
The first thing I’d say is that someone’s eating habits can change when they’re pregnant because they’re suddenly very aware of what they put inside their body. They’re really wanting to do right by their baby, whereas before they may have neglected themselves. It just means that as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you’re just thinking, “right, every ingredient, every matcha powder, every super green is going in”. Women are eating far more fruit and vegetables than they usually do. We’re classically not good at eating vegetables in this country but during pregnancy the organic boxes start arriving, the juicer comes out. It’s the change of diet.
I never thought of it that way but you’re so right!
As much as raw vegetable juices are fantastic for you and they’re a great way of getting ingredients like antioxidants, vitamin C, flavanoids, and all of those nutrients. They’re pretty hard to digest. If you’re not careful you end up putting in all of this food, this great green stuff, and then you end up blowing up like a balloon which feels really uncomfortable. You start getting really worried about your body shape and you start thinking you’re piling on weight and bloating is really uncomfortable too.
The hormones of pregnancy also affect the gut. Progesterone and oestrogen levels obviously change dramatically when you’re pregnant. Some women become more constipated or they can go the other way. Again, the change in the bowel habits means bloating is more common because they’re producing all the different bacteria from the different diet, but equally the change in the hormones alters the gut bacteria balance.
We’re now seeing so much amazing research about the microbiome (they’re the good bacteria in the gut). When you’re experiencing hormonal changes and diet changes, these upset that microbiome. If you’re not careful in compensating for those changes with a good probiotic that’s suitable for someone who’s pregnant, then you get bad bacteria in the gut. Then you get the bloating because it’s the bad bacteria that cause the gas to be produced.
So you’d say look for a good probiotic?
A really good probiotic thats suitable for someone who’s pregnant, yes. I’d say don’t go hell for leather on the healthy eating habits straight away, especially if you’re just worried. If it’s your first pregnancy just go steadily. Go maybe fifty percent increase in a week and one hundred in a couple of weeks. Also keep a little diary of what you’ve eaten and what your body is feeling; then you can start to identify that maybe too much kale in your juice will leave you feeling like Windy Miller.
READ MORE: 10 Probiotics You Should Try This Month
Equally if you go for something beetroot or carrot-based, that’s more settling on the gut, so that can make a difference of just not going too heavy on a specific one can makes you bloated. The other thing is that too much fatty food — and I’m not saying that this is what pregnant women go towards — but that not many people know that your liver, which is the main digestive organ, is just as sensitive to tuscan olive oil as it is butter because it’s fat. When you’re going through the pregnancy your liver is going through a lot of changes. Maybe you’re having to take an iron supplement because you’ve got iron deficiency, which can affect the gut too, which we’ll talk about in a moment. But the liver, if you’re not careful — maybe you’ve just started thinking I need more calories, I need to dunk my piece of sour dough in olive oil — that actually can make you really bloated.
So again, just go steady with it.
Yes. Don’t go towards low fat products because they end up containing all sorts of nasties. Whether it’s refined sugars that make you feel lousy and upset the gut. I’d also say that too much of the refined sweet stuff can also cause a little bacterial overgrowth. Something like candida overgrowth can also be responsible for a pregnant women’s bloating.
Possibly go more towards the cooked vegetable side of things because they’re easier to digest. That’s a great thing for late afternoon, when you think “There’s no way I can go from seven or eight o’clock when the children have gone to to bed or your partner returned. It’s my lull my weak point.” This is where the bone broths come out or lovely soups you can have in the freezer. Just defrost it, and enjoy the warmth — that can really help.
A warm hot water bottle is very gently warming too. Try soothing infusions like fennel or chamomile but to check before having these that they will not have any interaction with your pregnancy. Generally very gentle herbal infusions work best.
What about hot water and lemon?
Yes, perfect. Hot water and lemon is lovely. Otherwise ginger is really good. What you can do is either freeze it as a whole root, and then you just grate it frozen. If you’ve got a big root, chop and freeze it into ice cubes — turmeric works really well in ice cubes too. Then get some hot water and just bung it in. It takes you ten minutes to do a months’ worth and they last months in the freezer.
Brilliant I think they’re some serious top tips for bloating that I’ll be going by, even while I’m not pregnant!