Hiatal hernia or hiatus hernia is a condition in which a part of the stomach squeezes and comes up into the chest through the hiatus, an opening in the diaphragm. It is an opening in the diaphragm that gives way or passage for this part of the stomach to squeeze into the chest. Since the diaphragm is a thin sheet of muscle, it is easy for the stomach to push it further and pass into the chest through the oesophagus.
In people, who have crossed their age of 50 years and are above 50, are seen to have this disease most often. What causes this condition is not clearly known, but a weak supportive tissue can strongly contribute into this condition.
Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia:
Unless and until a large part of the stomach protrudes through the hiatus, there are no significant symptoms of the hernia. Most of the time, the small hernias do not have any symptoms at all. It can be diagnosed only when you go for a medical test or diagnosis of some other condition or disease that is absolutely unrelated to this. However, when the hernias are large, it can cause stomach acids and undigested food to reflux into your oesophagus. In this condition the associated symptoms and signs of this medical condition will include-
- Chest pain that will persist and intensify as you bend down
- Severe heartburn
- Abdominal pain
- Frequent burping
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Throat soreness
- Passing black coloured stools
- Vomiting blood.
The discoloured stool and blood vomits will indicate that gastrointestinal bleeding has occurred.
Diet for Hiatal Hernia: Food That Help Relieve Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia:
Diet plays a significant role in dealing with hiatal hernia. Indulging yourself in a diet that is not suitable for hiatal hernia will lead to more difficult problems and make the symptoms of hiatal hernia even more severe. When you consume foods that are highly acidic and will weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter, it will increase the heartburn. Hence, it is important to make sure that you eat only those foods that do not aggravate this condition, you must follow a diet plan that includes only low-acid-producing or no-acid-producing foods.
Foods to Avoid in Hiatal Hernia:
The foods that trigger the worsening of the symptoms of Hiatal Hernia include –
- High fat dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, ice cream or other creamy food
- Tea, coffee, other caffeinated beverages, colas and soft drinks
- Garlic and onions
- Oil and butter
- Pastries and other high fat and high sugar desserts
- Fried meats, hotdogs, sausages, bacons
- Peppermint and spearmint
- Highly acidic fruits like lemons, oranges, tomatoes and grapefruit and fruit juices like cranberry juice and lemonade
- Pizza sauce, salsa, spaghetti sauce and tomato juice
- Fried foods like French fries, doughnuts etc.
Your regular diet for Hiatal Hernia must avoid any of these foods as they will trigger the problem of indigestion and heartburn.
Foods to Include in Your Diet for Hiatal Hernia:
On the other hand, the diet plan for Hiatal Hernia must include –
- A protein rich diet, but only lean meat is recommended for Hiatal Hernia. It can include turkey, fish like salmon, chicken, eggs or legumes.
- Variety of fruits and vegetables must be included in the for Hiatal Hernia diet. An all-fruit diet is quite useful for two to three days in a stretch.
- Vegetables must include peas, green beans, broccoli and carrots. Fruits like bananas and apples are very useful to be included in the diet for Hiatal Hernia. But citrus fruits are not at all good for Hiatal Hernia diet.
- Healthy fats like olive oil, walnuts, avocados, coconut oil and clarified butter are very useful for a hiatal hernia diet.
- Gluten free whole grains must be incorporated in every meal.
- Snacks should be baked and not fried and can include baked potato chips, graham crackers and pretzels. Rice cake is a good alternative to other desserts.
Diet Post Hiatal Hernia Repair Surgery:
Once you go through a surgical treatment to get rid of the hiatal hernia, it is very important that you have a post-surgery repairing and recovering diet. This will help you to heal the surgical difficulties. Since swallowing is the most important problem that needs to be catered to after a surgery for Hiatal Hernia, it is crucial that you have a diet that will give you relief while eating. This is because the swelling around the oesophagus or the food pipe after the surgery for hiatal hernia takes months to heal and recover. You must start with –
- Having frequent smaller meals rather than large meals at a time
- Chew your food well to let the food get disintegrated well
- Having moist food as much as possible is helpful
- If the food gets stuck into the food pipe, relaxing and letting the food pass properly is a good idea.
Stage 1 – The First Week Diet Post Hiatal Hernia Repair Surgery:
For the first few days following the surgery for hiatal hernia, the patient must be given only liquid and semi-liquid diets such as water, low fat and unflavoured milk, fruit juice, pureed and finely strained soups, ice cream, jelly, custard, tea or coffee that is not too hot. Finely mashed potato or pumpkin, white sauce or gravy or yoghurt can also be given.
Stage 2 – Week 1 to 2 Diet Post Hiatal Hernia Repair Surgery:
At this stage, very soft foods with minimal lumps that can be broken or mashed with fork can be given. The foods that you can include into the diet following the surgery for hiatal hernia are porridge, soft fresh fruits in puree form, pureed chicken and soft fish that is carefully deboned, pasta, soft boiled eggs, poaches and scrambled eggs along with pureed and boiled vegetables will be a good diet.
Stage 3 Diet Following Hiatal Hernia Repair Surgery:
Light food that can be chewed well should be given at this stage. Salads, toasts, chicken mince, stews, tender meats, biscuits and breakfast cereals can be given at this stage.
Stage 4 Diet Following Hiatal Hernia Repair Surgery:
At this stage, the patient is ready to return to a normal diet and lifestyle. However, it is important to make sure that the food is still chewed well and the meal is taken on frequent gaps with smaller portions and not with large portions.
What to Avoid Eating Following Surgery for Hiatal Hernia Repair:
After a hiatal hernia surgery, when you are going for a recovery diet, it is crucial that you avoid some of the food items that are difficult to swallow, digest and would not contribute in repairing the damage. These are –
- Peanut butter
- Breads and crackers
- Dry meats
- Hard biscuits
- Spicy food
Lifestyle Changes for Hiatal Hernia:
Making adjustments only with what you eat is not a good idea. You must also bring changes to your lifestyle, in order to lessen heartburn symptoms. These can be –
- Not over eating. Instead, eating in small portions and frequently.
- Smoking and alcohol consumption should be avoided completely.
- You must not eat food just before going to bed; rather the meal and food should be given enough time to get digested.
- Bending right after you have had your meal is strictly a no.
- Make sure that there is no extra pressure put to your stomach and hence, wearing loose-fitting clothes is a must.
- No activities should be done that aggravate indigestion and heartburn, by putting pain and strain on the abdomen and stomach.
- Antacids can be added to the diet to assist the heartburn from not occurring.
- Water should be consumed only after 30 minutes of the meal.
Hiatal hernia is a condition that is too difficult to understand through symptoms. Regular checkups alone can diagnose the condition before it gets too difficult. Hence, it is very important that you consult a doctor regularly. The doctor will assist you with expert advice and what dietary choice should be made. Yet, it must also be made assured that along with the diets, the lifestyle changes are also brought. Without changing the lifestyle, it will not be useful to get rid of hiatal hernia only through diet.