fireKelly, a Hormonology reader, wrote to me saying she gets more heartburn during her Week 3–which starts right after ovulation. She wondered if it had to do with her hormones.

Well, I did a search for studies examining a connection between heartburn and cycling hormones–especially progesterone, which rises throughout Week 3. However, the researchers found that while hormones, specifically progesterone, can be a factor when it comes to heartburn symptoms, it’s only during pregnancy when this hormone rises to much higher levels, according to this study and this study.

But, this doesn’t mean heartburn isn’t more common during this week of your cycle. Here’s why: 

Research shows you’re more drawn toward larger food portions and high-fat foods (such as French fries, cheese, guacamole, butter and ice cream) in your Week 3 due to progesterone, which pushes you to increase your calorie consumption in case you got pregnant during ovulation and are now eating for two. (Your body doesn’t get the memo that you’re not pregnant till the start of Week 4.)

And, research shows that heavy meals and fatty foods are major triggers for heartburn symptoms. That’s because large meals put pressure on the stomach, pushing acidy contents up your throat. And high-fat foods relax the lower esophageal sphincter–a ring of muscle between the stomach and esophagus that stops acid from backing up into the throat. Plus, fat-rich foods are slower to digest, which triggers the production of even more irritating stomach acid that can creep up. Not a great combo.

So, what can you do if you get heartburn during your Week 3?

Try noticing if you have food consumption changes on these days that up your risk of heartburn (such as eating larger meals and more fatty foods). And, if so, make dietary tweaks–reducing portion sizes and limiting fat-rich foods–and see if that helps.

FYI: Other common heartburn triggers include chocolate (sorry!), caffeine (yeah, that stinks, too, I know), alcohol (you can see this is not going to be your favorite list), peppermint, tomatoes, onions, garlic, citrus fruits and carbonated beverages.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up these foods and beverage altogether–unless your heartburn just won’t go away or your doctor tells you these are definite no-nos. But, cutting back and not having a lot of these heartburn triggers all at once–for instance, a garlicky pasta dish with lots of tomato sauce along with wine followed by coffee and chocolate ice cream–would probably be a good idea.

Also, avoid eating large meals too close to bedtime since it gives the body time to digest the food and help it pass through your stomach so acid doesn’t seep back up when you lie down.

Hope this helps you understand why you might be getting heartburn during your Week 3–and how you can prevent it!

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