Women

Fix It With Food! (Part 1)

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- How to have natural miscarriage
- Foods That Cause Miscarriage
- Signs Proving You Have Boy Pregnancy

Self-medicate a range of pregnancy symptoms safely with what you eat

Whether it’s swollen feet or seeing stars, reflux or retching, the tortures your pregnant body inflicts on itself are certainly inventive. Yet most medicines are on the ‘no’ list during pregnancy. So trick your body right back: Many foods contain ingredients that can counteract common pregnancy niggles. Here’s our guide:

1.    Nausea

Only a very few lucky women seem to escape the horrid feeling of nausea, at least for around weeks six to 14 of pregnancy. The theory is that the rush of the hormone hCG and possibly estrogen, a hypersensitivity to smell, and the physical changes in a sensitive tummy cause the sensation.

But isn’t it weird how you can be starving even while nauseous? This is because, in pregnancy, nausea is often caused by low blood sugar, explains Shirley Norman, a registered dietician from Johannesburg. Your body needs extra kilojoules for the work of building your baby up to 1900 of them a day by the third trimester. “Frequent carb snacks can help stave off nausea caused by low blood sugar,” says Shirley. “Your body needs the extra energy, but you can choose low-GI snacks such as a Provita with Marmite. And tart, spicy flavors such as lemon and ginger steeped in hot water also seem to alleviate nausea.”

The theory is that the rush of the hormone hCG and possibly estrogen, a hypersensitivity to smell, and the physical changes in a sensitive tummy cause the sensation.

The theory is that the rush of the hormone hCG and possibly estrogen, a hypersensitivity to smell, and the physical changes in a sensitive tummy cause the sensation.

If this doesn’t work:

If you’re losing weight, dehydrating and battling to keep any food at all down, your doctor may diagnose hyperemesis gravidarium and prescribe pills which are safe for use in pregnancy.

2.    Heartburn

Heartburn or acid reflux occurs when stomach acids are forced up the esophagus, literally burning your throat. It’s worse in pregnancy, whether we’re blaming softening ligaments, or less space in the stomach, that make it easier for gastric juices to force themselves through to where they’re not welcome.

Eat a papaya. “Paw-paw is known to help indigestion symptoms because it contains papain, an enzyme that helps break down food,” says Joburg dietician Busisiwe Mafentile. Also try melon, cantaloupe and watermelon.

Heartburn or acid reflux occurs when stomach acids are forced up the esophagus, literally burning your throat.

Heartburn or acid reflux occurs when stomach acids are forced up the esophagus, literally burning your throat.

Milk or a yoghurt can help, as dairy products are not acidic, so they act as a buffer solution, absorbing some acid in your stomach and lessening the symptoms when you do regurgitate. But fatty foods and heavy tomato-based sauces are known to worsen reflux. For Bolognese sauce, go easy on the tomato and use half beans, half extra-lean mince to cut the fat.

If this doesn’t work:

Most over-the-counter heartburn remedies are now safe for pregnancy, but check with your doctor first.

3.    Constipation

Your pregnancy hormones are making your bowels relax and shift food through the gut slower, while the growing bulk on your belly can also block things up. Your iron supplement might also be a culprit. Drink lots of water to soften the stool, exercise to encourage peristaltic movement – and eat foods known to, you know, stimulate things.

4.    Water retention

You are carrying a lot more fluid in your body while you are pregnant, and your circulation is sluggish. In addition, your kidneys usually retain water when you eat salt.

But in pregnancy, your kidneys retain water even when sodium levels go down, because they are primed to divert fluid and sodium to the fetus.

For that very reason, says Shirley, “Pregnant women are not usually advised to reduce their salt intake”. Don’t drink less water either – it won’t make a difference to your kidneys’ water retention habits.

“Rather go for a swim,” advises Shirley. “The cold water will help contract your skin and help with that waterlogged feeling.” Loose clothes, cool weather, putting your feet up and exercise are better than coffee, as caffeine only acts as a diuretic when you drink large amounts of it (a no-no during pregnancy anyway).

“Pregnant women are not usually advised to reduce their salt intake”

“Pregnant women are not usually advised to reduce their salt intake”

Some foods help maintain healthy kidney function. As potassium can be lost in urine, load up on replacements such as bananas, beetroot or potatoes.

Citrus fruits are natural diuretics, as are apples, cucumber, celery, watercress, peppermint and parsley (which also is a natural antiseptic for the urinary tract). Dandelion leaf tea can also help eliminate excess fluid.

If this doesn’t work:

Instead of eating them, wrap cool cabbage leaves around your ankles to draw out moisture. This tip is best known for soothing engorged breasts while breastfeeding, but it works just as well for edema (retention).

5.    High blood pressure

Your dietary answer here is twofold: less salt, more potassium (similar to the advice for treating water retention, as edema and hypertension, another name for high blood pressure, often go hand in hand). Your omega-3 fatty acids are important because they help relax blood vessels, as doe’s vitamin C, so add fish and citrus to your diet.

But – wahey! What’s this? Magnesium is also a blood vessel-relaxer, and it’s found in... chocolate. Have a few pieces a day, you know, just to be safe. (“But nuts and whole grains are good sources of magnesium too,” cautions Shirley.)

Have a few pieces a day, you know, just to be safe.

Have a few pieces a day, you know, just to be safe.

If this doesn’t work:

The signs of pre-Eclampsia (or toxemia) are high blood pressure, water retention and protein in the urine. It’s a dangerous condition, so check it out immediately if you have symptoms.

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