About 50% of all people with hiatal hernias do not have any symptoms. For the other approximate 50% of individuals with hiatal hernias who do have symptoms, heartburn is the most common symptom. Knowing how to control the heartburn through diet is important.
Studies have shown that the opening in the diaphragm, where the esophagus connects with the stomach, acts as an additional sphincter around the lower part of the esophagus. 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. The 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.
A few quick tips about eating with a hiatal hernia:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals, instead of larger meals
- Don't eat for at least two hours before bedtime
- Sit up for at least one hour after eating
- Don't bend over right after eating
- Avoid foods that can trigger heartburn (acid reflux) symptoms
- Avoid alcohol
When looking at these lists, you may find in your personal situation you can eat some of the foods on the "Avoid" list with no problem and have problems with some of foods on the "Safe" list. It is a good idea to keep a Food Diary. For approximately two weeks, write down what you eat, when you eat and any symptoms you may experience. This will help you and your doctor plan your diet and decide on any change in eating habits you may need.
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