Hiatal hernia and diet changes
A hiatal hernia is a condition where the upper part of your stomach pushes through your diaphragm into your chest.
One of the main symptoms you may experience is acid reflux. This condition can cause pain and discomfort during and after eating certain foods.
By choosing foods that don’t produce much acid, you can lessen this symptom. Here’s some information about what foods you should avoid, what foods you should eat, and other lifestyle tips for dealing with a hiatal hernia.
Foods and beverages to avoid
The foods and beverages 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
- certain citrus fruits such as 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
Foods and beverages to eat
There are still plenty of good foods 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
Eating and cooking tips
Even the way you cook and eat your foods can make a difference. People who experience heartburn should try to prepare their foods in healthy ways. For example, fried foods can trigger heartburn. Also, eating too much at one time may also make your symptoms worse.
- Cook with healthy fats, like avocado, coconut, and olive oils.
- Eat whole foods whenever possible. The fiber content of these foods should help with your acid reflux. Also, the less processed the food is, 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. You should aim to drink eight glasses of water per day. Try adding lemon to your water for additional acid-lowering power. Lemon is a fruit that, although acidic outside the body, is metabolized to have alkaline byproducts.
Other lifestyle tips
Beyond food, there are many things you can do to help prevent and deal with 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 want to elevate the head of your bed about 6 inches in order 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, which 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.
The bottom line
Changing the foods you eat may help with acid reflux caused by a hiatal hernia. If you’re having trouble figuring out your 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. Certain foods that bother one person may not affect someone else. 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 your symptoms.