Sometimes pregnancy feels like a medical Catch-22: You may have new health issues (hello, constipation!), but some of the common treatments are not recommended for moms-to-be. The good news is there are healthy eating tips that can provide relief. Whether you're struggling with morning sickness, sciatica or constipation, relieve pregnancy's less-than-glamorous side effects with these easy diet tweaks.
Try Chilled Foods
There's no question morning sickness stinks; worse, scientists aren't entirely sure why it happens. It seems that pregnancy trips the part of the brain that controls vomiting, which leads to nausea. The quease may also be linked to increases in some hormones (such as estrogen) and your heightened sense of smell, Mother Nature's way of protecting your bambino. "Your body uses odors to assess safety," explains Miriam Erick, M.S., R.D.N., author of Managing Morning Sickness. "Sensing rotten food saves you from eating something bad." But that sensitive nose can make perfectly safe roasted chicken a no-go as well. To combat nausea, try reaching for cold foods (sorbet, please!)—hot bites are more likely to have an aroma that triggers your gag reflex.
Eat Early in the Day
Stash a box of crackers in your bedside table and nibble a few as soon as you wake, since eating early in the day can help stave off morning sickness. "An empty stomach ups nausea," Erick explains. And not every cracker is alike—"the saltier, the better," she adds. Saltines will never taste so good — and after pregnancy, you'll wonder why they were so appealing!
Get Some Lemon Aid
Keep lemons on hand. Sniff them, squeeze them in drinking water or even lick slices—the refreshing smell and taste can calm your stomach when morning sickness hits. Lemon drops can help too—keep some stashed in your bag if you're feeling off while you're out and about.
Dial Up the Vitamins
Sciatica refers to the shooting pain that branches from the lower back down your legs. "As your belly grows more prominent, your center of gravity shifts forward, making your spine more susceptible to injury," says Hooman M. Melamed M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon in Beverly Hills. Diet can be part of a holistic treatment. "Some foods have been shown to reduce painful muscle tissue and nerve inflammation," Melamed says. Snack on foods full of omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts or kale chips; vitamin A, like carrots and spinach; and vitamin B, like sweet potatoes and bananas.
Stave Off a Sweet Tooth
"Sugar can exacerbate sciatica—it aggravates nerve endings," Melamed says. "Instead, treat yourself to an ounce of dark chocolate—70 percent cocoa or higher. It's one of the healthiest indulgences."
Bring on the Complex Carbs
Constipation is a common complaint in pregnancy. "Your digestive system slows down when you're expecting, most likely so your body can absorb more nutrients from food," says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Melinda Johnson, R.D. "That means it takes a while for waste to travel through the system. The longer this takes, the more water is removed, creating harder, smaller stools that are tougher to eliminate." Whole grains are particularly helpful right now. "Eating them produces a type of waste that's easier on the intestine," Johnson explains. "Plus, the grains' fiber tends to hold onto water, which keeps stool softer." Eat at least three servings per day.
Get Those Greens
All fiber is great when you're suffering from constipation—but fruits and veggies contain a special type of fiber, xylooligosaccharides (XOS), which may help keep things moving. "Our bodies can't digest XOS, but it's food for a type of friendly bacteria in the gut," Johnson says. "Eating foods containing XOS—that's all fruits and vegetables, plus soybeans, honey and milk—seems to promote a healthy intestine and colon, helping speed up your digestive system. Additionally, the bacteria's by-products help soften stool." Aim for 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables per day to get your GI tract back on track. That way you can take your mind off the bathroom and onto prepping for Baby!