A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach enters the chest cavity through a hole in the diaphragm. Usually, a hiatal hernia does not cause noticeable symptoms.
Researchers are not sure why they develop, but hiatal hernias are very common, estimated to impact up to 60 percent of people by the age of 60.
The primary symptom of a hiatal hernia is indigestion; certain foods and lifestyle habits can increase a person’s chances of experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
Unless a person has an unusually severe and problematic hiatal hernia, the best way for them to reduce or prevent symptoms is to make dietary and lifestyle adjustments.
Foods to Eat
Non or low-acidic foods will reduce the likelihood and severity of hiatal hernia symptoms. The best food choices for people with hiatal hernias are non-acidic, minimally processed, and contain dietary fiber.
There are some exceptions for those who have food intolerances. Elimination diets may be helpful for optimal improvement in symptoms.
Safe foods to eat may include:
- leafy greens
- beans and peas
- whole grains
- lean proteins, including tofu and fish
- whole nuts and seeds
- non-citrus fruits and juices
- artichoke and asparagus
- low-fat, non-sweetened dairy products
- apple cider vinegar
- non-caffeinated teas, especially green teas
Fermented or cultured foods that are rich in probiotics (acid-neutralizing stomach bacteria) may also help reduce hiatal hernia symptoms.
It is important to note that consuming processed sugar alongside probiotics may be counterproductive. Sugar supports the growth of stomach microbes that destroy and consume probiotics.
This means that probiotic ice creams, juices, yogurts, sweetened protein powders, and gummies are typically not a good source of probiotics.
Foods to Avoid
Avoiding certain foods might help reduce and prevent symptoms of indigestion, including heartburn, bloating, gas, and regurgitation.
It is best for people with a hiatal hernia to stay away from foods that are acidic, rich, oily, or contain preservatives.
Foods to avoid may include:
- fried or oily foods
- fatty foods
- red meat
- cocoa and chocolate
- tomatoes and tomato sauces
- soft drinks and carbonated drinks
- most types of mint, such as peppermint and spearmint
- high amounts of cooking oils
- garlic, onions, green onions, shallots, scallions, leeks, and chives
- high-fat dairy products
- salty foods
- deli meats
- pre-prepared or fast foods
- bread and cereals
- sweetened juices or teas