Hiatal hernia is a condition where the esophageal hiatus opening is larger than usual, allowing a section of the upper stomach to slip (herniate) through the hiatus and into the chest. The precise reason why this happens has not been pinpointed, but there are some possible causes. One among them is shortening of the esophagus, which consequently pulls the stomach up. The esophagus may shorten after extended exposure to stomach acid that is regurgitation (called reflux), which causes inflammation and scarring. Another likely cause of haital hernia is the attachment of the esophagus to the diaphragm being abnormally loose, which enables the stomach to slip upwards.
In most cases, the discomfort that a hiatal hernia patient experiences stems from the reflux of gastric acid, air or bile. Among the effective ways to ease this discomfort, one is to follow a proper diet plan. These efforts can be supplemented with medications that neutralize stomach acidity, decrease acid production, or strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter (the muscle that prevents acid from backing up into the esophagus).
A hiatal hernia diet plan includes lists of foods to be consumed as well as the ones to be avoided. However, even the best diet for hiatal hernia will be pointless unless patients refrain from consuming large meals. As a hiatal hernia patient, it is best to avoid the foods that trigger reflux in most patients and consume those that are considered safe.
Foods to Eat
- Fruits considered non acidic, such as apples and bananas, should find a prominent place in one's diet.
- Among vegetables, carrots, peas, beans, baked potatoes, cabbage and broccoli are very unlikely to trigger reflux. However, many other vegetables are also considered safe, so check with your doctor to widen your diet plan options.
- The non vegetarian portion of your diet can safely include extra-lean ground beef, skinless chicken breast, London broil steak, egg whites and fish without added fat.
- Most patients are able to consume cream cheese, feta or goat cheese and soy based cheeses without experiencing an acid reflux.
- Since breakfast would be hard to manage without certain breads, you can include multi-grain or white bread, cereal, bran, oatmeal, corn bread and Graham crackers for breakfast.
- Brown or white rice, rice cakes and pretzels can also be included in your diet plan. If you badly need to satisfy a sweet tooth, your options range between a fat-free cookie, red licorice or jelly beans.
Foods to Avoid
- While these might include some of your favorite junk food, it is essential to avoid fried, especially deep-fried foods.
- The beverages that you need to stay off are coffee, tea, liquor and wine. Unfortunately, chocolate and mint are also known triggers, so try to renounce them.
- Citrus fruits are especially bad, so exclude lemons and lemonade, grapefruit, orange and cranberry (and their juices) from your daily diet.
- Vegetables that are to be avoided are tomatoes (and tomato juice) and raw onions. As oily foods are a problem, consequently, fries and mashed potatoes are a no-no.
- Refrain from chicken nuggets, ground chuck, buffalo wings, and marbled sirloin. Cheese is also considered a trigger food product.
Points to Remember
One major problem associated with hiatal hernia is heartburn. About 50% of the people suffer from this problem and it can be eased only with a proper diet. Here are a few guidelines to be followed while planning the diet:
- Take smaller meals every two to three hours a day. Small meals will help in proper digestion while frequent eating will compensate for less eating.
- Take your meal two hours before bedtime and avoid eating within those two hours. Also, try to avoid eating immediately after bedtime.
- Keep away from alcohol consumption.
- Lastly, sit upright for an hour or so after each meal. This is good for digestion.