Eating and avoiding certain foods can be a part of the lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce or prevent symptoms of hiatal hernia. However, severe and problematic cases may require further treatment.

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. However, larger hiatal hernias may require surgery.

Researchers are not sure exactly why they develop, but hiatal hernias are common.

The primary symptom of a hiatal hernia is heartburn. Certain foods and lifestyle habits can increase a person’s chances of experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.

This article explains what foods are best to eat in order to reduce symptoms of hiatal hernia. It also goes over foods to limit or avoid, as well as lifestyle changes that can help manage the condition.

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Hiatal hernias are one of the leading causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This means that the recommended foods to eat are similar to those that help the symptoms of GERD.

Non- or low-acidic foods may reduce the likelihood and severity of hiatal hernia and GERD symptoms. The best food choices for people with hiatal hernias are non-acidic, minimally processed, and high in fiber.

There may be some exceptions for those who have food intolerances. Elimination diets may be helpful for improvement of symptoms and identification of triggering foods.

Examples of foods to eat may include:

Fermented or cultured foods that are rich in probiotics may also help reduce hiatal hernia and GERD symptoms.

Popular fermented foods include:

It is also important to keep in mind that reducing sugar intake may help improve GERD symptoms.

This means that probiotic ice creams, juices, yogurts, sweetened protein powders, and gummies are typically not a good source of probiotics.

Some research has also shown that following specific diets that are high in the intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, such as the Mediterranean diet, can also help to reduce the symptoms of GERD and hiatal hernias.

Learn about hiatal hernias.

Limiting or avoiding certain foods might help reduce and prevent symptoms of indigestion or GERD, including heartburn, bloating, gas, and regurgitation.

It is a good idea for people with a hiatal hernia to limit or avoid foods that are acidic, rich, oily, or contain preservatives.

Foods to limit or avoid may include:

  • fried foods
  • spicy or highly seasoned foods
  • certain vegetables, such as garlic, onion, and peppers
  • smoked or salted fish
  • pickles, vinegar, or mustard
  • strongly flavored meats and sausages
  • strong cheeses
  • dried nuts and fruit
  • strong tea or coffee
  • alcohol
  • chocolate

Mint has also been reported as a trigger for GERD symptoms in some people.

Aside from diet, a person could try making some lifestyle adjustments to help manage hiatal hernia and GERD symptoms.

Lifestyle tips for managing hiatal hernia symptoms include:

  • maintain a moderate weight
  • quit or avoid smoking
  • elevate the head while sleeping
  • eat smaller and more frequent meals
  • do not skip meals
  • drink fluids after a meal instead of during it
  • avoiding eating or drinking late at night
  • eat slowly and chew food well
  • avoid eating foods that are very hot or very cold
  • avoid triggering foods

Managing stress and practicing stress-reducing strategies, such as walking, being in nature, mindfulness, meditation, or yoga, may also help manage symptoms.

A person can also take over-the-counter antacids, though long-term use does carry risks. Individuals should discuss the use of antacids with their healthcare professional.

A person should seek medical attention if symptoms do not go away within 3 weeks or if their symptoms are severe or worsen over time.

A healthcare professional may assess heartburn, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, or regurgitation that does not improve with the use of antacids, dietary changes, and lifestyle adjustments.

A healthcare professional can prescribe medications designed to treat indigestion that can reduce discomfort and improve the overall quality of life for people with hiatal hernias. However, making lifestyle and diet changes is generally the first step.

Sometimes surgery may be necessary.

A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes through to the chest cavity through a hole in the diaphragm.

It may not always cause symptoms. However, if symptoms are present, they are typically the same as those of GERD.

Dietary changes can help manage and prevent symptoms. There are certain foods that a person can add to their eating plan to help with symptoms, these include lean meats, non-citrus fruits, and certain fermented foods. Foods to limit or avoid include, spicy foods, fried foods, and vegetables, like garlic and onions.

Other lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a moderate weight and quitting smoking can also help manage symptoms of a hiatal hernia.