The overall goal of the hiatal hernia diet is to eliminate foods that increase stomach acid, thus, lessening the symptoms of acid reflux. In addition, there are other several other lifestyle goals thought to improve symptoms of hiatal hernia.
The primary symptom of a hiatal hernia is indigestion; certain foods and lifestyle habits can increase a person’s chances of experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
Unless a person has an unusually severe and problematic hiatal hernia, the best way for them to reduce or prevent symptoms is to make dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
Most of the clinical research on hiatal hernia and diet is associated with the foods that have been found to help hamper symptoms of GERD
One particularly overlooked diet (than can be beneficial for a variety of conditions) is the Hiatal Hernia Diet that focuses on eliminating foods that exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a typical disorder that goes along with the primary root cause. A hiatal hernia is an abnormality in the normal anatomy of the diaphragm and stomach, part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and up into the chest. In a normal setting the esophagus would pass down through the chest, cross the diaphragm, and enter the abdomen through a hole in the diaphragm known as the esophageal hiatus.
Diet is thought to play a significant role in the severity of symptoms, as well as a possible underlying cause of hiatal hernia.
Researchers know that some foods can cause irritation to the lining of the stomach and digestive tract and may cause inflammation. But scientists are not certain if certain foods can cause a hiatal hernia, and if so, it’s not well understood exactly how this may occur.
Most of the clinical research on hiatal hernia and diet involves the link between eating certain foods and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
In an online report by the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, dietary recommendations include avoiding foods that delay the time it takes for the stomach to empty.
The report explains that the more time it takes for foods to be digested and moved through the stomach, the more prolonged the exposure of stomach acid in the esophagus, increasing the likelihood of gastric reflux in those with GERD.
Hiatal Hernia Diet Tips
Foods to Eat
Non- or low-acidic foods will reduce the likelihood and severity of hiatal hernia symptoms. The best food choices for people with hiatal hernias are non-acidic, minimally processed, and contain dietary fiber.
There are some exceptions for those who have food intolerances. Elimination diets may be helpful for optimal improvement in symptoms.
Safe foods to eat may include:
beans and peas
lean proteins, including tofu and fish
whole nuts and seeds
non-citrus fruits and juices
artichoke and asparagus
low-fat, non-sweetened dairy products
apple cider vinegar
non-caffeinated teas, especially green teas
Fermented or cultured foods that are rich in probiotics (acid-neutralizing stomach bacteria) may also help reduce hiatal hernia symptoms.
Popular fermented foods include:
It is important to note that consuming processed sugar alongside probiotics may be counterproductive. Sugar supports the growth of stomach microbes that destroy and consume probiotics.
This means that probiotic ice creams, juices, yogurts, sweetened protein powders, and gummies are typically not a good source of probiotics.
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
- fried or oily foods
- fatty foods
- red meat
- cocoa and chocolate
- tomatoes and tomato sauces
- soft drinks and carbonated drinks
- most types of mint, such as peppermint and spearmint
- sweetened juices or teas
- high amounts of cooking oils
- garlic, onions, green onions, shallots, scallions, leeks, and chives
- high-fat dairy products
- salty foods
- deli meats
- pre-prepared or fast foods
- bread and cereals
Beverages to avoid include:
- alcohol, such as wine, beer, and spirits
- caffeinated teas
- carbonated drinks, such as seltzer water and soda
- whole milk
Aside from diet, a person could try making some lifestyle adjustments to help manage their hiatal hernia symptoms.
Lifestyle tips for treating hiatal hernia symptoms include:
- staying hydrated
- keeping a log of trigger foods and avoiding them
- eating frequent, smaller snacks and meals spread throughout the day
- eating slowly and drinking plenty of fluids with meals
- getting enough dietary fiber
- avoiding non-clear liquids within 3 hours before bed
- avoiding eating before exercise
- avoiding bending over or laying down within 3 hours of eating
- wearing loose-fitting clothing
- maintaining a healthy body weight
- using a wedge pillow to elevate the head 8 to 10 inches while sleeping, making it harder for stomach acid to travel up the esophagus (food pipe)
- quitting smoking
- taking probiotics
- eating whole foods instead of processed or refined foods
- exercising moderately for at least 20 minutes daily
- avoiding fried foods
- using small amounts of healthful cooking oils, such as coconut, rice, and olive oil
- avoiding being too hungry or too full
Drinking a small amount of diluted apple cider vinegar at the beginning of meals may also help reduce symptoms.
Managing stress and practicing stress-reducing strategies, such as walking, being in nature, mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, may help a person feel better.
A person can also take over-the-counter antacids, though long-term use does carry risks.