Hiatal Hernia Diet Tips to Relieve Symptoms

Learn what and how to eat to prevent acid reflux with hiatal hernia

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About half of all people with hiatal hernias do not have any symptoms. For the other half, heartburn is the most common symptom. You may be able to relieve this discomfort through managing your diet. This includes learning which foods trigger your heartburn and learning helpful eating behaviors.

Quick Tips for Eating With a Hiatal Hernia

It's not just what you eat.

It's how you eat it and what you do before and after meals that can trigger acid reflux. Here are six key tips for good eating habits when you have a hiatal hernia.

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals, instead of larger meals.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food well.
  • Don't eat for at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Sit up for at least one hour after eating.
  • Don't bend over right after eating.
  • Avoid foods that can trigger heartburn (acid reflux) symptoms.
  • Avoid alcohol.

Foods for a Hiatal Hernia Diet

Certain foods can aggravate your heartburn symptoms and should be limited or avoided completely. Knowing what these foods are is important.

  • Safe foods: Foods that don't trigger acid reflux for most people include non-citrus juices, vegetables, lean meat, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Foods to avoid: Common trigger foods for acid reflux include chocolate, coffee, peppermint, greasy food, spicy food, tomatoes, tomato products, and alcoholic drinks.
  • Being overweight can contribute to acid reflux. You may want to consider a nutritious weight-loss diet.

Finding Which Foods and Habits Trigger Your Symptoms

You may find in your situation you can eat some of the foods on the "avoid" list with no problem and have problems with some foods on the "safe" list.

It is a good idea to keep a food diary. For approximately two weeks, write down what you eat, when you eat, and any symptoms you may experience. This will help you and your doctor plans your diet and decide on any change in eating habits you may need.

What Causes Heartburn With Hiatal Hernia?

The hiatus is the opening in the diaphragm where the esophagus (your food pipe) connects with the stomach. It acts as an additional sphincter around the lower part of the esophagus. Normally the hiatus and the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)—the muscle connecting the esophagus with the stomach—line up with each other to keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. It is believed that a hiatal hernia can weaken the LES and cause reflux. A hiatal hernia results in the retention of acid and other stomach contents above the hiatus opening and can result in this being easily refluxed into the esophagus. The acid in the stomach contents produces the burning sensation of heartburn.

A Word From Verywell

You may be distressed that your favorite foods trigger your acid reflux symptoms. But you can use this as an opportunity to tune your diet for better health. You can ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian who can help you develop meal plans that will suit your palate as well as provide symptom relief.


GERD Lifestyle and Home Remedies. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20025201.

Heartburn and GERD: Treatment options for GERD. National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072436/.

Hiatal Hernia. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001137.htm.

Treatment for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/treatment.