When I found out I was pregnant, I did what (I imagine) most women do: went straight to Google. I wanted to learn everything I could about nutrition, movement, and the inevitable changes my body would face. One of the most googled topics was about spicy food and pregnancy, and it made me wonder, myself. Does spicy food pose any risks to the baby?
Can I eat spicy foods while pregnant?
Avoiding spicy food is one of those misconceptions during pregnancy. Context is everything. Spicy foods are generally safe to eat during pregnancy, as long as your body already does well with them. It also means you’ll probably be eating something rich and heavy — buffalo wings, nachos, maybe some Indian food. When eating those kinds of spicy foods, it’s more important to make sure your meat is properly cooked and sourced from high-quality sources than it is to avoid spiciness.
As we all know, spicy food can also cause heartburn, which is the bane of all pregnant women. Heartburn gets exacerbated as you enter the second and third trimesters and baby gets bigger, and a plate of spicy food will likely just make it worse.
Heartburn in pregnancy can be caused by changing hormones, pressure on your stomach from a growing baby, and changes in your alignment. Luckily there are ways to naturally prevent and/or manage heartburn so you can still enjoy food while pregnant! These tips also apply for anyone experiencing heartburn. If your partner is with you on the struggle bus, share this article with them, too.
Chew your food fully
When we’re super hungry, we tend to chew fast and swallow without really breaking down the food. With each bite, chew until the food reaches a ‘baby food’ consistency in your mouth. This can help reduce the stress on the rest of your digestive system. Chewing fully lowers the risk of it coming back up (like with reflux). This also slows you down to give your body time to digest your food.
Go for a walk after eating
Instead of sitting or laying down after eating, get up and go for a 10-15min walk. This can help your body digest your food, and give gravity some time to move it through your digestive system. Walking after eating can also improve your health in other ways. Walking after meals can help lower blood sugar, and improve heart health (both are very important for a healthy pregnancy).
Drink liquids between meals, not at meals
Liquids can reduce your stomach acid at meals, making it harder to break down your food. Little sips of water are fine with meals, but save the majority of your hydration for outside-of-meal times.
Coffee is acidic, and even though we love a good cup of coffee, it can contribute to making heartburn worse. Limit coffee intake, and try your best to eat something before drinking that cup of coffee in the morning!
Eat smaller meals
Large meals put more pressure on your stomach to break down your food. Eating smaller meals can reduce the amount of stress on your digestive system and can prevent heartburn.
Ultimately, the healthier you choose to live during pregnancy, the more resilience you’ll develop against the occasional disruptive food. If you don’t get heartburn, then don’t sweat it. Enjoy spicy foods ’til your heart’s content. Just be mindful of the quality of your food. Make sure the rest of your diet is high in protein, veggies and fruits, and not overly processed or fried foods.