Gas and bloating

Gas, bloating, flatulence — more fun aspects of being pregnant! Under the influence of pregnancy hormones, your digestive system slows down. Food moves more slowly through your gastrointestinal tract. This slowdown serves an important purpose: It allows nutrients more time to be absorbed into your bloodstream and to reach the fetus. Unfortunately, it can also cause bloating and gas. The problem may be aggravated during the first trimester, when many women have a tendency to swallow air in response to nausea.

■ Prevention and self-care for gas and bloating

To minimize the amount of gas and bloating you experience during pregnancy, follow these suggestions:

• Keep your bowels moving. Constipation is a common cause of gas and bloating. To avoid it, drink plenty of liquids, eat a variety of high-fiber foods and stay physically active on a regular basis. (See also Constipation.)

• Eat small, frequent meals, and don't overfill your stomach.

• Eat slowly. When you eat in a hurry, you're more likely to swallow air, which can contribute to gas. Take a few deep breaths before meals to relax.

• Avoid gas-producing foods. These vary from one person to another, but some common culprits include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, onions, carbonated beverages, fried foods, greasy or high-fat foods, rich sauces, and, of course, beans.

• Don't lie down immediately after eating.

■ Medical care for gas and bloating

Don't take an antacid for gas, bloating or indigestion without talking to your health care provider first. Many antacids contain sodium, which can increase swelling and water retention. They may also contain aluminum, which can cause constipation and aggravate the problem. Antacids that contain magnesium can lead to diarrhea.

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