What is hiatal hernia?
A hiatal or hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach protrudes through an opening in the diaphragm, called a hiatus. This opening is the hole through which the esophagus enters to become the stomach.
In many cases, this can be corrected in the initial phases with changes in lifestyle, medication or some other type of conservative treatment, while in the event that it is too large or causes serious symptoms that we will mention later, the best option is carry out hiatal hernia operation laparoscopically.
One of the main problems of hiatal hernia is gastroesophageal reflux, considering in many cases hiatal hernia surgery as anti-reflux surgery. Gastroesophageal reflux is a chronic problem if left untreated that can cause very serious problems.
Difference between hiatal hernia and gastroesophageal reflux (GER)
It must be clear that hiatal hernia and gastroesophageal reflux are not the same condition, hiatal hernia can favor gastroesophageal reflux and in a large number of cases it is related but it can occur even if there is no hernia. Gastric reflux can appear with pregnancy or obesity, given the pressure exerted on the abdomen and stomach causing the appearance of reflux, but without the need to present a hiatal hernia.
The symptoms of this situation will be very similar, the most common being heartburn, dry cough and abdominal discomfort. The guidelines that we explain below can be valid for both cases, both for patients after hiatus hernia and for those who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux.
General recommendations to keep in mind
In order to avoid the discomfort of the situation and allow it to be relieved, you have to take care of yourself a little more. Below are guidelines that help maintain healthier habits and help retrain the way you eat. The specials normally give the following basic indications:
- Lose weight whenever necessary. This measure is very important as it helps to improve the symptoms, taking pressure off the abdomen.
- Avoid copious meals. Eating large meals makes proper digestion difficult, since food remains in the stomach longer and causes the appearance of reflux. So it is recommended to eat lighter meals, making 5 meals a day. It is also preferable to eat these foods slowly and chew well.
- Try not to eat anything before going to sleep , not even liquids. It is recommended to have dinner at least 2 hours before going to bed.
- Softer and healthier cooking , such as boiled, papillote, steamed or baked. Above all, avoid battered or fried foods. In addition, food cooked on the grill should be monitored, in case the food burns, it can cause irritation in the stomach.
- Another key to avoid stomach irritation is to be careful with very hot or very cold foods, since extreme food temperatures can also affect the stomach after eating the food.
These indications to take into account should be consulted in any case with the doctor who is treating the case. Since they can vary and must be adapted to each patient.
Recommended foods after hiatal hernia surgery
Before showing the foods that can be consumed and are recommended after hiatal hernia surgery, allergies and intolerances must be taken into account, therefore, these nutritional guidelines must be consulted with a specialist.
Among the foods that are advised to consume to relieve or prevent hiatal hernia are the following:
- Lean, low-fat meats: It is recommended to remove all visible fat before cooking.
- Fish: The most recommended is white, because it is more easily digested.
- Dairy: Avoid all those that are fatty, choosing the skimmed or semi-skimmed ranges, such as yogurts not enriched with cream, fresh cheese, creamy cheeses (low fat), cottage cheese, curd, yogurt mousse or kefir. In addition to reducing saturated fat, this dairy consumption promotes weight loss, improves symptoms and improves health.
- Eggs: The most recommended preparations that facilitate digestion are scrambled, in an omelet, poached or soft-boiled.
- Cold cuts: Chicken and turkey cold cuts can be eaten, removing any visible excess fat that may exist.
- Legumes: Consume in small quantities, well cooked and without fatty accompaniments, such as bacon or chorizo.
- Vegetables and vegetables: All can be consumed except the flatulent ones, such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, artichokes, onion, raw pepper,…
- Fruits: When consuming them, make sure they are fresh, very ripe and not acidic. The consumption of apples, pears or pineapple is also recommended as long as they are very ripe, they can be prepared as a smoothie, roasted, in compote or pureed.
- Fats: You can consume fats such as olive oil and seed oil, they are easier to digest, however, it is not convenient to abuse their quantities. It is recommended to consume butter or margarine better raw as they are better tolerated without cooking them. As for the consumption of mayonnaise, it is better that it be light, since it provides less fat than normal.
Foods that should be limited after hiatal hernia surgery
There are other foods that can be consumed but care must be taken when doing so, this is because their nutrients are not always easily digested and can cause heartburn or reflux. Therefore, it is recommended to have a moderate or low consumption of the following foods:
- Dairy: whole milk bearing in mind how it is tolerated by the body, other dairy products such as milk shakes (avoiding chocolate ones), custard, flan and rice pudding.
- Semi- lean meats and oily fish.
- Cold cuts: York ham or Serrano ham can be eaten, making sure that it is not very salty and that all visible fat is removed.
- Cereals: Sugary breakfast cereals such as cereals with honey, whole grains or muesli, always monitoring tolerance.
- Beverages: Non-acidic packaged juices and fruit in syrup without the juice.
- Other products: honey, industrial pastries, gelatin, ice cream or sorbets and dried fruit. They can be consumed, but care must be taken as they can cause discomfort caused by acidity.
Habits and foods to avoid after hiatal hernia surgery
These foods should be consumed sporadically and in very small amounts, and it is better to avoid them as they may not suit the patient. Here’s why.
- Milk and dairy products: condensed milk, strong, fatty, very mature or fermented cheeses and dairy desserts with cream. This is because they slow down digestion, generate the appearance of reflux and can cause other discomforts.
- Fatty, fibrous meats such as rabbit, meat cooked twice or highly seasoned, fatty sausages and offal, hard-boiled eggs, pickled or salted fish, such as cod or herring. As with dairy products, meat or fish of this type are very heavy for the body, therefore, their digestion is slower and the chances of acidity increase.
- Cereals: Freshly baked bread should be avoided since it creates discomfort by fermenting inside the stomach. Cereals with chocolate, filled cookies, with chocolate or dipped in sugar They are also products that cause discomfort when consumed after the intervention or in cases of gastroesophageal reflux.
- Fruits: Unripe and raw fruit, acid fruits, fruit in syrup, dehydrated and candied fruits. They favor acidity, reflux and are difficult to digest.
- Drinks: Liquids such as coffee, including decaffeinated, carbonated drinks, or with coffee extracts, drinks made with chocolate, tea and any alcoholic beverage, these types of liquids irritate the gastric mucosa and increase acidity.
- Fats: cream, butter, bacon and tallow. They are heavy foods and therefore their digestion is slow, in addition to being unhealthy fats.
Other food recommendations to limit or avoid are:
Acidic foods should be limited, especially at dinner time. It is because after being consumed they can feel discomfort in the stomach, some cases present this discomfort after eating products such as: tomato, vinegar, citrus, unripe fruit or yogurt.
It is recommended not to consume this type of food at least until you have fully recovered from the hiatal hernia. Since foods such as garlic, onion or pepper, especially raw, favor discomfort.
Other useful dietary guidelines after hiatal hernia surgery
To find out a little more about the correct diet after hiatal hernia surgery or if you still suffer from it, it is recommended as a general rule to choose cooking with less fat for preparing meals. Highlighting cooking such as: cooked, boiled, steamed, poached, braised, grilled, baked and en papillote.
- Fruits: They are more digestible when they are prepared roasted, in compote, or pureed.
- The most suitable cooking for vegetables is cooked, without adding stir-fries or sauces.
- Legumes: Legumes can be cooked in puree, thus making the texture lighter and easier to digest. You can also add a little cumin or fennel to the cooking, to make them less flatulent.
- Fried: Although these should be avoided as much as possible, if this type of cooking is done, it is recommended to do it with little oil and soft.
There are numerous options to make changes when it comes to flavoring dishes, these possibilities are healthier and help better digestion without losing flavor.
- Apple cider vinegar and lemon dressing can be substituted for wine vinegar, which can be too acidic.
- Aromatic herbs can reduce acidity and flatulence and can replace strong spices. Herbs such as savory, fennel, bay leaf, green anise and oregano.
- Change the ingredients that activate gastric juices such as garlic, onion or shallots, for dressings that strengthen the digestive processes and facilitate digestion such as dill, capers, sage, rosemary, parsley, basil and thyme.
We insist that the recommendations are general, therefore, the diet to be followed after the intervention must be adapted to each case, since the patient may have allergies or intolerances. So the nutritional guidelines must be consulted and adapted to the patient.
So as a last indication, we recommend consultation with a nutrition specialist since for a diet to be successful, it must be adapted to the tastes and needs of each person and never established in a general way.
Request an assessment consultation for laparoscopic hiatal hernia surgery
If you have a hiatal hernia and you are thinking of having surgery with us, remember that you can request a free surgical assessment consultation with our specialist in general and Digestive Surgery, to get to know him, to become familiar with your case and you can decide the best option to eliminate once and for all the symptoms of hiatal hernia.