Loads of people deal with digestive and stomach problems — so if this is something that you struggle with, know that you’re not alone. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with IBS or deal with uncomfortable bloating from time to time, you’ve probably wondered how and if your symptoms will change or worsen during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, it’s tough to know. Every woman and each body is different, and how your body will react to the changes that pregnancy brings are impossible to predict. But many women do experience troubles with their digestion once they get pregnant, regardless of whether or not they did before. In fact, over a third of women deal with constipation and GI troubles during pregnancy, and they’re usually at their worst during the third trimester.
It’s common knowledge that your appetite and cravings change once pregnant, but how your body processes food can be affected by hormonal changes too: pregnant women are more prone to constipation and stomach troubles, and certain foods can make you feel worse. The elevated levels of ovarian hormones and the added pressure of a growing baby pressing on your bowel walls can make GI symptoms worse.
What can you do?
If you’re dealing with constipation and GI issues, take a look at your diet first: is there anything obvious that triggers your symptoms? Take a realistic look at your water and fiber consumption, too, as it’s really important that you get plenty whether you’re pregnant or not and these two things have a big impact on your digestive health. Regular stretching, yoga, and light physical activity can also help you feel a bit better.
However, if nothing seems to be working, you may want to consider the low FODMAP diet. If you’ve dealt with IBS before, you’re probably familiar with the basics of this eating plan, but for those of you that haven’t, here’s the gist:
The low FODMAP diet
First of all, FODMAP is an acronym that stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (and no, you don’t have to pronounce all of those to avoid them!). The diet is basically an elimination diet taken to the next level–it cuts out all foods that commonly trigger digestive issues, and it’s meant to help you get rid of symptoms for good.
But the good news is, you don’t have to eat a super-restrictive diet forever! You know we’re not a fan of those here at Baby2Body, anyway. What you do is cut out all the high FODMAP foods for 6-8 weeks, then slowly reintroduce them one at a time, so you can see how your body reacts to each one. It’s more like a gut-healing-treatment of sorts, and less like a “diet,” because it’s not meant to be a long-term habit or lifestyle change.
Done properly, a low FODMAP diet can be a game-changer for women with IBS and other conditions. In a 2016 study of IBS patients, those who followed the diet reported a significantly improved quality of life, so for those that need it, going low FODMAP can really make a difference.
What can I eat while on FODMAP?
Well, it’s probably easier to go over what’s off-limits. When you get started you’ll want to steer clear of all high-FODMAP foods, the common culprits of GI problems. On a low-FODMAP diet, you’ll need to cut out:
The following Vegetables: Asparagus, artichokes, onions, leeks, garlic, beans, lentils, chickpeas, sugar snap peas, beets, cabbage, celery, corn, avocado, cauliflower, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, fennel, okra, peas, shallot, radicchio
The following Fruits: Apples, pears, mango, watermelon, nectarines, peaches, plums, cherries,
Most Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, cream
Certain Grains: Rye, wheat, semolina, couscous, bulgur wheat
A few select Nuts: Cashews, pistachios, peanuts
Sweeteners: Inulin, artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup
Adapted from Women’s Health
Please remember that these are NOT bad foods! Most are nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, whole foods that absolutely have a place in a healthy, balanced diet. There’s no need to cut them out unless you absolutely need to for your gut health — so don’t treat this like a catch-all solution if you don’t have IBS or another condition that causes you digestive issues.
Also, the goal will be to reintroduce foods from this list that don’t bother your gut, and learn what it actually is that’s negatively affecting you so you can avoid that and minimize digestive woes going forward.
Is it safe during pregnancy?
If you’re dealing with IBS and need significant diet changes to manage your symptoms, a properly managed low-FODMAP diet could be a safe option during pregnancy, but there isn’t much research in this space yet.
Because of this, it’s generally not recommended that you start a low-FODMAP once you’re already pregnant. If you were following a low FODMAP diet approach before you get pregnant, you may need to make some adjustments.
It’s essential to talk with your doctor before you give it a go, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive. We’d also recommend that you work with a dietitian to make sure that you’re doing it safely and getting the nutrients and calories that your body needs.
The main concern for pregnant women eating this way is that you run the risk of missing some important dietary marks. Without supervision, you may not be getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals that are essential to fuel your body and help your baby grow. You could also be under eating because of just how restrictive this eating plan is–so please talk to your doctor if you think a low FODMAP diet is right for you.
Other approaches to try
Although going full-on low FODMAP during pregnancy can be a challenge, there are plenty of other approaches that can make a huge difference in alleviating GI troubles. Before trying any drastic dietary change, try implementing some of these changes:
- Drink plenty of water
- Limit sugar and artificial sugars
- Reduce foods that cause gas and bloating like beans, broccoli, and cabbage
- Try incorporating meditation and breathing exercises into your daily habits
- Make sure you’re getting enough fiber
- Add probiotic-rich foods to your diet
For more customized nutrition and diet tips, check out the Kitchen in the Baby2Body app! You’ll find new recipes every week that are suited to your stage and nutritional needs.