My Hormonology

Kelly, a Hormonology reader, wrote to me saying she gets more heartburn during Week 3 of her cycle–which is the week that 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….

The link between your monthly cycle and heartburn

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 your premenstrual 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 into 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.

All in all, not a great combo if you’re trying to avoid painful heartburn.

Post-ovulation heartburn fixes

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

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). If so, make dietary tweaks–reducing portion sizes and limiting fat-rich foods–and see if that helps.

Also helpful: Avoid common heartburn triggers, which 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 beverages 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 at least two hours before bedtime since this 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.

Handy heartburn-dodging trick

Want to lower your risk of experiencing painful heartburn even more? Chew gum for about an hour after meals!

Chewing gum prompts you to produce more saliva, which neutralizes stomach acid causing heartburn symptoms. In fact, patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD–a digestive disorder that causes frequent heartburn) who tried this easy method in a 2001 study found it helped ease their pain.

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My Hormonology