What Can I Eat if I Have a Hiatal Hernia?

Find Which Foods Are Safe and Which Trigger Heartburn with Hiatal Hernia

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Many people who have a hiatal hernia do not experience any symptoms, but for those who do, heartburn is the most common one. What you eat (and don't eat) can help relieve ​heartburn. See how to find the best diet that can reduce this symptom.

What Is a Hiatal Hernia?

The hiatus is the opening in the diaphragm where the esophagus connects with the stomach. 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 opening (hiatus) and can result in this being easily refluxed into the esophagus.

Heartburn, Hiatal Hernia, and Diet

If you experience heartburn two or more times a week, it 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 have chronic heartburn say they can trace some of their heartburn triggers to certain foods they eat. You can explore what food triggers your heartburn and create 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.

Keep a record for a week or two to track the foods that may be causing problems. It is important to remember that everyone is different, and this is a good tool in determining which specific foods are problems for you.

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.

Knowing Why Some Foods May Be Bad for You

There are a couple reasons why some foods cause heartburn. It can happen when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES)— the valve between your esophagus and your stomach—relaxes when it shouldn't. Or, it happens 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 and trigger reflux 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

Learning Which Foods Are Better

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

Enjoy a balanced diet and find which foods work for you and which may produce heartburn symptoms.

Sources:

Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Adults. NIDDK NIH. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults

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