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Hiatus hernia diet tips

One of the key treatments for a hiatus hernia is changes to a person's diet to help relieve heartburn symptoms.

Diet changes include having smaller meals more often and avoiding food known to trigger symptoms.

It can also help to finish meals several hours before going to bed or lying down for a daytime nap.

Hiatus hernia: Foods more likely to trigger symptoms

The following foods are highly acidic and/or may weaken the lower oesophageal sphincter, making it easier for stomach acids to move up into your oesophagus. If any of these trigger symptoms it may be best to cut back or avoid them:

  • Citrus foods, such as oranges, grapefruits and lemons or orange juice, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and lemonade
  • Chocolate
  • Fatty and fried foods, such as fried chicken and fatty cuts of meat
  • Garlic and onions
  • Spicy food
  • Peppermint and spearmint
  • Tomato-based foods such as spaghetti sauce, pizza, chilli con carne, salsa, and tomato juice
  • Coffee, tea (including decaffeinated versions), and alcohol
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Dairy products, such as whole milk, ice cream, and creamy food.
  • Oil and butter

Hiatus hernia: Cooking tips

A good way to enjoy the foods listed above is to cook them in a healthy way. Here are some heartburn-friendly cooking tips:

  • Choose lean meats, such as fish, skinless chicken, meat with little visible fat, minced turkey instead of minced beef. Lean beef cuts include sirloin or loin. Lean pork cuts include tenderloin or loin chop.
  • Bake or grill foods instead of frying.
  • Skim off fat from meat during cooking.
  • Go easy on seasoning. Most seasonings are OK as long as they are not spicy, but should be used in moderation.
  • Substitute low-fat dairy products, such as low-fat yoghurt, for ice cream.
  • Steam your vegetables using water only.
  • Limit butter, oils and cream sauces. Use cooking spray instead of cooking oil when sautéing.
  • Choose low-fat or non-fat ingredients over full-fat products.
  • Be creative. There are all kinds of ways to modify recipes. Don't be afraid to try new things.

Hiatus hernia: Lifestyle tips

In addition to making adjustments to what you eat and how you cook, modifying certain habits can lessen heartburn symptoms too, including:

  • Do not overeat. Instead, eat small, frequent meals. And take your time. Eating fast can worsen heartburn symptoms.
  • Avoid lying down or going to sleep for at least three hours after a meal.
  • Do not bend over right after eating.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Lose weight, if necessary.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes so as to not add extra pressure on your stomach.
  • Raise the head of your bed six to eight inches with wood blocks or some other sturdy objects. Propping your head up with pillows usually won't give you the relief you need.

If these diet and lifestyle tips don't help, or you need additional relief, over-the-counter antacids and acid-reducing or blocking medicine may help control your heartburn symptoms. Talk to your doctor to learn more about over-the-counter or prescription medicine to treat your symptoms. Surgery may be needed in some cases.

Hiatus hernia symptoms can be troubling, but most people feel better after they adjust their diet and lifestyle.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on January 13, 2014

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