What Can I Eat if I Have a Hiatal Hernia?

Many people who have a hiatal hernia do not experience. any symptoms. If you, however, are one of the hiatal hernia sufferers who do have symptoms, odds are that one of the symptoms is heartburn. Heartburn is the most common symptom of a hiatal hernia. Knowing how to control the heartburn through diet is important.

Studies have shown that the opening in the diaphragm, where the esophagus connects with the stomach, 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. The hiatal hernia results in the retention of acid and other stomach contents above the opening (hiatus) and can result in this being easily refluxed into the esophagus.

Even without a hiatal hernia, almost everyone will experienc heartburn at least once. Maybe it has been after a spicy meal or overindulgence at a family get together. Millions of people have an episode of heartburn at least once a month. In these cases, many pop a couple antacids and they feel fine.

There are other people who suffer from frequent heartburn. This is heartburn that occurs two or more times a week. For them, this could be a sign of something more than "just heartburn." It could be a symptom of a more serious disorder, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease or a hiatal hernia.


There is a significant amount of research and debate going on about the role of diet in heartburn. Many people who suffer from chronic heartburn say they can trace some of their heartburn triggers to certain foods they eat.

Since we all have to eat, we need ways to prevent food from triggering our heartburn.

The resources below will help guide you through the process of creating a diet plan that will help keep you heartburn free.

Learn Which Foods Trigger Your Heartburn

Whenever you suffer from frequent heartburn (two or more times a week), it is a good idea to keep a heartburn diary for a week or two to track the foods that may be causing problems.


Knowing Why Some Foods May Be Bad for You

There are a couple reasons why some foods cause heartburn: 1) When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) - the valve between your esophagus and your stomach - relaxes when it shouldn't; or (2) when the stomach produces too much acid.

When the LES is the culprit, food and stomach acid come back up into your esophagus. Some of the foods that can relax the LES include:

  • Fried (greasy) foods
  • High-fat meats
  • Butter and margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Creamy sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Whole-milk dairy products
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Caffeinated beverages (e.g., soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa)

Foods that may stimulate acid production and increase heartburn include:

  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus fruit and juices (e.g., orange, grapefruit)
  • Tomato-based products

Other possible connections between heartburn and food are when you eat and how much you eat.

Eating too close to bedtime or eating too large of a meal later at night can contribute to nighttime heartburn. For more information, read about preventing nighttime heartburn.

It is important to remember that everyone is different, so keeping a heartburn diary will be helpful in determining which specific foods are problems for you.


Learning Which Foods Are Better

As mentioned above, everyone is different. What may be a problematic food for others may not cause you any distress, and what may be a safe food for others may cause you heartburn every time you eat it. Again, this is why keeping a heartburn diary is important.

There is a list of foods least likely to cause heartburn and a list of foods that can be eaten only in moderation. These are by no means complete lists, but they are good starting points to use with a heartburn diary to create your acid reflux diet.

Some "safe" foods include:

  • Fresh juice and fruit juices (not citrus)
  • Vegetables (e.g., baked potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas)
  • Lean meat, chicken breast, fish
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products


No-Burn Recipes

To aid in good digestion, heartburn sufferers need to know how to prepare their food. It isn't just the foods you select that help you with heartburn. It is also important how foods are prepared. These recipes are sorted into categories:

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