How my gastritis acted up when I got pregnant

Over the past couple of months, several people contacted me to ask about my gastritis journey after reading my blog posts on the topic. I’ve repeatedly been surprised by how many people struggle with this chronic condition for years and years. Apparently, it wasn’t just my problem but many people’s problem as well.

(For those who don’t know what gastritis is, it’s an inflammation of the stomach wall. It’s often a precursor or a gentler version of a stomach ulcer. People who have gastritis have intense stomach pain when they’re hungry or if they’ve eaten something spicy, hot, or irritating in some other way. I’ve written extensively about my experience with gastritis here.)

My gastritis had been doing very well (probably about 70-80% better) over the past two years. I could get by with 3-4 meals a day (compared to the 6-7 meals in the past) and only had pain if I got really, really hungry. I often didn’t feel like I had gastritis anymore and felt like a healthy person again.

Pregnancy changed everything

Suddenly, everything changed when I got pregnant. The first two-three weeks before I knew I was pregnant were truly bizarre. I’d wake up in the morning, starving. One weekend, we were visiting a friend in Brussels, and on both Saturday and Sunday I woke up around 7 am. Still tired and extremely hungry, I made my way to the kitchen while my husband and our host were still sleeping. I barely managed to make scrambled eggs without passing out–my blood sugar levels were so low that I was super light-headed. Once I ate my breakfast, I could finally relax and drink my tea, waiting for the others to wake up. By the time we were all ready to go and went for brunch (around 11-12 h), I was happy to eat again.

Once I found out I was pregnant, this ravenous hunger made more sense. At least it seemed like there was a reason for this craziness. But then the nausea hit around week 5, and nothing made sense anymore. I’d eat a meal and be hungry two hours later. Or I’d eat a snack but be starving only an hour later.

Ravenous hunger + gastritis = not great…

Ravenous hunger is typical for pregnancy, but it becomes tricky when coupled with gastritis. It wasn’t that I was simply hungry, but I was also in pain. Apparently, even though I’d been recovering well from my gastritis, these intense hunger pangs were enough to bring it back. I was back to eating 6-7 (small) meals a day, which is recommended when you’re nauseous during pregnancy. But that meant I was back to being stressed about when exactly I’d get hungry again next, whether I’d have enough food, whether I’d be in pain and terribly light-headed, etc.

It was tough. I felt that everything I’d worked towards and achieved health-wise over the past few years had been a waste and now I was back in the throes of dealing with gastritis. I was frustrated by the crazy way my body was acting, and I felt I had no control over it (hello, pregnancy land!).

What used to work didn’t work anymore

Worst of all, the strategies that had helped me in the past didn’t work anymore. I had done very well eating paleo-style meals, emphasizing protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables (I’ve described this in more detail here). But now, in this crazy new pregnancy land, I couldn’t do this anymore.

As an example, one day during week 5 of my pregnancy, I went to have lunch. I opened my lunchbox of chicken thighs and broccoli, a typical lunch for me, as many colleagues can testify. I felt some resistance to the smell, texture, and taste of the food. I wasn’t sure why, but I really wasn’t enjoying it. I managed to finish my lunch, but it wasn’t nice.

The next day, the moment I looked at my chicken and broccoli, I didn’t want to eat them. I stared at them and tried to understand why I suddenly didn’t want to eat this delicious lunch that I had loved before. After a few minutes, I made myself start eating and barely finished my lunch. It was tough.

On the third day, I couldn’t do it. I felt so nauseated that I couldn’t even look at my chicken and broccoli. It turns out, as I found out later, that poultry and broccoli are some of the most common foods that make pregnant women nauseous. Who would have thought!

That day, I got rebellious. I was ravenous, so I went to the canteen and looked for things that I wanted to eat. It was a bit tough because not much seemed appetizing, but I still wanted to eat! Then, my eyes zeroed in on… pumpkin soup! There was this amazingly smelling pumpkin soup! I got two bowls of that soup. Suddenly, the idea of melted cheese in that soup seemed wonderful. I got several slices of gouda cheese and put them in the soup. My gooey, cheesy pumpkin soup seemed like the best thing in the world.

The problem was that pumpkin soup with cheese didn’t keep me full. Two hours later, I was hungry again, looking for the next thing. Nuts and bananas were okay, so I ate that, but bananas do spike my blood sugar, so after an hour or two I was hungry again. Then I ate a protein bar or something like that. Not great, but it got me through the day.

Pregnancy cravings and aversions

Protein really helps with gastritis because it helps me feel and stay full, which means I don’t get stomach pain. But my pregnancy cravings were for sugary or cheesy things, and I didn’t even want to look at meat. Chicken and fish were the worst, but I didn’t want to eat beef either. I tried to get some protein anyway by eating some form of animal protein and covering it with cheese. I also emphasized eggs (scrambled were okay, boiled tasted blah) and had some pea protein shakes as snacks. In terms of vegetables, I had to completely forgo broccoli and beets and instead ate cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, and carrots.

It was difficult to make choices that worked well for my gastritis, so I was constantly dealing with ravenous hunger, cravings, aversions, and stomach pain. I also woke up every night around 3-4 am, extremely hungry and in pain. I had nuts (cashews, peeled almonds, or macadamias) next to my bed and ate a handful before even getting out of bed. In the mornings, before I got out of bed, my husband brought me a glass of bone broth with some lemon, which soothed my painful stomach and gave me some energy to get up, while the lemon tasted refreshing. This continued for two months. It was tough.

Then it just stopped

And then, just as suddenly as it had started, it all stopped. Week 13 was my last week of nausea, week 14 was a bit of a transition, and by week 15 it was gone. Such a relief! I felt like a normal person again with reasonable hunger and fullness cues. The gastritis pain also decreased. I was not ravenous and in pain between meals and at night anymore.

By now (at 24 weeks), I’m back to eating my regular way. I eat 3-4 meals a day, emphasizing protein, healthy fats, and non-starchy vegetables. I really enjoy fatty things like cheese and avocado, so I eat more of those than before I was pregnant. I’ve also become a fan of fruit (I didn’t care much about fruit in the past), so I eat peaches, cherries, or berries in the evening. Interestingly, I used to crave desserts before I was pregnant, while I don’t have such an interest in them now. I have an ice cream or some dark chocolate once in a while, but that’s kind of it.

I have to say that my gastritis is doing even better now than before I was pregnant. I think it’s because I don’t restrict my food intake now, but rather I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I often feel fine with only 3 meals a day, which I didn’t expect would be possible when pregnant.

Interestingly, pregnant women are often told that the cravings and the ravenous hunger really pick up in the second and third trimester. For me, it was the opposite: I had crazy cravings and hunger during the first trimester, and they died down from the second trimester onward (still waiting to see how the third trimester goes, of course). My weight gain also followed a similar path: I gained some weight in the first trimester, then remained stable in the fourth month (when you’re supposed to actually start gaining weight), and then started gaining gradually from the fifth month onward.

How much of this is due to gastritis?

My story only goes to show how differently pregnant bodies can respond to the massive change of pregnancy. A friend of mine had exactly the opposite where she was so sick during the first trimester that she lost weight. Then, once the second trimester rolled in and the nausea lifted, she got super hungry and gained weight quickly, resulting in a healthy weight for her and her baby.

I had the experience of ravenous hunger during the beginning of pregnancy and a gradual tapering off of hunger as well as of stomach pain as the pregnancy continued. Did my gastritis cause this, or was the increased gastritis pain a result of my changing metabolism and hormones? There’s no way to know, but I’m more likely to think it’s the latter.

That first trimester was a strange and difficult time for me, and I think that the gastritis pain was one of the consequences of all the changes going on. Unfortunately, adding irritated gastritis to the already challenging mix of early pregnancy symptoms made things more difficult but not unbearable. The little one and I made it through, and we’re doing fine now. I’m so glad that that chapter is over, and I hope it doesn’t return later in pregnancy. Bye bye, first trimester! See you in the next pregnancy! (Nooooooo…… Can’t I just skip the first trimester? :S)

Have you had a tough first trimester? Or a difficult stomach/gut condition? Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

13 thoughts on “How my gastritis acted up when I got pregnant

  1. Pingback: What I’ve been eating while pregnant – A Good Life

  2. Lia

    I’m dealing with the same issue now. I’m about six weeks along, and my gastritis symptoms had been under control the last few months. I noticed my symptoms came back full force the last few days which coincides with when I started taking prenatals and omega 3 supplements. Do you think your symptoms may also have been related to taking vitamins?

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    1. First of all, congratulations on your pregnancy! To tell you the truth, I don’t think it was caused by prenatals or omega 3 supplements because I’d been taking those for 3 months already before I got pregnant (I started taking the prenatals once my husband and I started trying for a baby, which was there months before we found out I was pregnant; I’d been taking omega 3 supplements for years already). My gastritis acted up around week 5, I believe, and not before. Around week 5, my blood sugar regulation became very poor (hungry and light-headed all the time), and I think that was linked to my gastritis symptoms. I’ve experienced this combination of hunger, light-headedness, and gastritic pain in the past at all, so I think they are linked. My solution was to try to get in some protein (although “morning” sickness made this difficult) and enough fat to stabilize my blood sugar somewhat. Water with salt also helped me to have somewhat better blood sugar balance. Good luck and let me know how you feel! For me, the nausea and the gastritis symptoms improved very much after week 13, and I hope that happens for you too. Good luck and all the best!

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      1. Dielle

        How was the rest of your pregnancy with gastritis?! I’ve been suffering for a year after a cdifficile infection. I don’t want to have another baby if my symptoms get worse! I feel like things are just getting under control as well. Eating more of what I want. Thank you! Any other information would help too!

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      2. Hi Dielle! I only had heightened gastritis symptoms during the first trimester. The rest of the pregnancy was fine, and the first 14 months of my son’s life have been very good, my gastritis staying the same, about 80-90% recovered. I expect that with another pregnancy, I’ll have the same: a tough first trimester and hopefully alleviated symptoms afterwards, so I’ll need to focus on stabilizing my blood sugar as best I can during the tough period. About what you’re saying, I don’t think you have to have another child right away, right? You can take your time recovering and enjoying the fact that things are getting better. And when you feel that you want another child, you can go for it. But that doesn’t have to be right away by any means! I’m sorry to hear you had an infection, that must have been really tough 😦

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  3. Pingback: The craziness of trying to “get back in shape” after a baby – A Good Life

  4. Jenn

    How long did you have gasritis before pregnancy?
    I’ve had gasritis for a few years (2018)
    A year and a half ago I was officially diagnosed with a scope and biopsy. The ONLY thing I find that helps my flare ups are my PPI proscription .

    At the time of my diagnosis I would have attacks 4 times a week! Now it’s ones every few months 😁 so it’s improved drastically!
    My last attack was in January . And it was because I drank something I knew I shouldn’t of.

    My husband and I want to try for our last baby . The thought of Getting attacks in pregnancy and not being able to take anything for it. Or the fear of “what if it effects the baby?” Scares me so much.
    Obviously I would discuss all these things with my doctor. But I have a history of ectopic pregnancies as well. My last one being in past October.
    So I’m already anxious enough to try. And now the thought of my Gasritis getting worse with a pregnancy is kinda freaking me out 😭
    (I also have health Anxitey because of my Gasritis and ectopics)

    I feel better venting to people who understand 🤪

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    1. Daneisha

      I’ve been trying to find something to explain how i’ve been feeling since I too am newly pregnant. I’ve only had gastritis for a few months but I seemed to have had it under control, even being able to drink a glass of wine or two and have no symptoms. But I found out I was pregnant on Mother’s Day l, i’m 5wks 4days now & I had the same experience soon as week five hit I have had nausea, light headedness and hunger pains that are almost unbearable. The nausea makes it hard to eat so I try to get something with ginger down quickly but just as quick as I do that & then eat & feel somewhat better I can feel it coming right back. I have spent the last 3/4 days lying on my couch barely able to do anything other than try to get food down and rest. Hopefully mine starts to get better, I can’t take this for the entire 7 1/2 months I have left.

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      1. That’s so hard! It’s such a tough time… The first thing I’d like to say is that it most likely won’t last for the next 7.5 months. Nausea usually eases off when you enter the second trimester, which is in week 13. So 7 more weeks to go… I know it sounds like a lot and it will be tough, but it will come!
        Next time I’m pregnant, I plan to emphasize electrolytes. Proper hydration (drinking enough water + electrolytes) is key to not feeling light-headed and nauseous, so I’ll make sure I’m getting my electrolytes in. What I currently do it:
        1 liter of water
        1/2 tsp of Himalayan pink salt (for sodium chloride)
        1/8 tsp of magnesium malate
        1/16 tsp of potassium chloride
        Put it all in a bottle and shake well, then drink throughout the day.
        Putting about 3g of BCAAs in a glass and drinking also helps with lightheadedness, so I’ll be doing that too.
        And definitely trying to get some food in and then lying down… Ah, this time is so tough! I wish you all the best!!!

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      2. Hillary

        Thanks for sharing this! I’ve had gastritis pain my entire pregnancy (9 weeks) and have been struggling mentally and physically. I’m only able to eat bland foods and have lost 13 pounds. I have to take pantoprazole and sucralfate but OB says it’s safe. I’m hoping it’s all due to the hormones and my symptoms will subside in the second trimester. I can’t take much more of the ups and downs. I’ve had gastritis in the past and sucralfate and pantoprazole have helped within days. Not the case during pregnancy.

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      3. Hi Hillary! That’s really rough! Such a shame that you’re not getting gastritis relief from meds that used to provide it, but pregnancy really is a different state of the body. I really hope your symptoms subside in the second trimester! I’m wishing you all the best! Marisha

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  5. Mayra

    Hello,

    I had gastritis before I found out I was pregnant but then all of sudden I felt better and just recently as I hit 5 weeks I started feeling hunger pains again. I wanted to ask you what kind of prenatal vitamins were you taking are you taking specific one for gastritis because I am scared to take some that will irritate my stomach. I will be talking to my doctor tomorrow but I would like to hear from someone who has been through my same problem. Thank you so much for sharing my your story because I was starting to feel scared and sad about my gastritis.

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    1. Hello Mayra,

      It is really tough to go through this. I understand your worries!

      I think most prenatals will be okay for gastritis if you take them together with food or after food (whatever the instructions say). I took this one: https://www.newchapter.com/products/perfect-prenatal-multivitamin/
      I took it about halfway through my meal and didn’t experience any aggravation of my gastritis because of it. Nowadays, I take this one: https://www.newchapter.com/products/vitamins/every-womans-one-daily-multivitamin/ and I also don’t notice gastritis problems from it.

      I hope this helps, and hopefully your doctor can also advise you on this!

      All the best with your pregnancy, and let me know how it goes!!! I hope your symptoms improve a bit soon!

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