A hiatal hernia is a condition where the upper part of your stomach pushes through your diaphragm and into your chest.
One of the main symptoms you may experience is acid reflux, which can cause a lot of pain and discomfort during and after eating certain foods.
By choosing foods that don’t produce as much acid, you can lessen this symptom. Here’s some information on what foods you should avoid, what foods you should eat, as well as some other lifestyle tips for dealing with a hiatal hernia.
The foods you should avoid are the same ones you’d want to skip if you had gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
These foods include:
- onions and garlic
- citrus fruits, such as lemons, limes, and oranges
- tomatoes and tomato-based foods, such as salsa and spaghetti sauce
- spicy foods
- fried foods
- foods high in sodium
- cocoa and chocolate
- peppermint and mint
Beverages to avoid include:
- alcohol, such as wine, beer, and spirits
- caffeinated teas
- carbonated drinks, such as seltzer water and soda
- whole milk
There are still plenty of good foods you can eat that won’t produce as much acid in your stomach. Many whole foods, for example, are good options because they aren’t processed. This means they contain more fiber, which can help with acid reflux.
- non-citrus fruits, such as apples, pears, melons, and berries
- vegetables, such as artichokes, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, squash, green beans, leafy greens, and peas
- whole grains
- nuts and seeds, like almonds and chia seeds
- lean protein
- plant-based milks, like soy or almond milk
- certain juices, like aloe vera, carrot, or cabbage juice
Even the way you cook and eat your foods can make a difference. People who experience heartburn — no matter the cause — should try to prepare and enjoy their foods in healthy ways. For example, fried foods can trigger heartburn. And eating too much at one time may also make your symptoms worse.
- Eat and cook with healthy fats, like avocado, coconut, and olive oils.
- Eat whole foods whenever possible. Again, their fiber content should help with your acid reflux, and the less processed the food, the better.
- Eat small meals every few hours instead of three large meals during the day.
- Add probiotic foods to your diet. Cultured vegetables, like pickles, are a tasty option. Yogurt, kefir, and kombucha are other good choices. Taking a probiotic supplement is also an option.
- Drink plain water. It’s the best beverage you can drink on a daily basis. In fact, you should aim to drink eight glasses of water per day. Try adding lemon to your water for additional acid-lowering power.
Beyond food, there are many things you can do to help prevent and deal with the acid reflux from your hiatal hernia:
- Don’t lie down after eating. Try to wait at least two or three hours before going to bed after dinner.
- You may even want to elevate the head of your bed by around six inches to sleep more comfortably.
- Work with your doctor to reach a healthy weight if you’re overweight.
- If you smoke, stop. Visit Smokefree.gov or call 800-QUIT-NOW to create your quit plan.
- Skip tight-fitting clothes — these can make your heartburn worse.
- Ask your doctor about over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications that may reduce the acid in your stomach. Some OTC suggestions include probiotics and digestive enzymes.
- Eat in a calm and relaxing place. Avoid standing up while eating.
Changing the foods you eat may help with the acid reflux caused by a hiatal hernia. If you’re having trouble figuring out your individual triggers, consider keeping a food diary.
Not everyone has the same triggers for acid reflux, so keeping a food journal and noting any symptoms can be helpful. Write down what you’ve eaten and how it makes you feel. After a few weeks, you may be able to observe patterns and figure out which foods are causing you pain.