There are many facets to nutrition. Your diet is personal. It speaks volumes about what you enjoy eating, what foods work well for you, and what foods work well for your family. Therefore, the approach of recommending meal plans or nutrition support should always be based on the individual and his or her needs.
Although typical nutrition topics, such as weight loss, diabetes, and heart-healthy diets are extremely important, very rarely are other special needs diets addressed.
One particularly overlooked diet (than can be beneficial for a variety of conditions) is the Hiatal Hernia Diet that focuses on eliminating foods that exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a typical disorder that goes along with the primary root cause. A hiatal hernia is an abnormality in the normal anatomy of the diaphragm and stomach, part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm and up into the chest. In a normal setting the esophagus would pass down through the chest, cross the diaphragm, and enter the abdomen through a hole in the diaphragm known as the esophageal hiatus.
The esophagus joins the stomach right below the diaphragm. In individuals with hiatal hernias, the opening of the esophageal hiatus is larger; therefore, the upper stomach pushes (herniates) through the hiatus and into the chest. Some common symptoms of a hiatal hernia include: dehydration, dysphagia, aspiration, heartburn, belching, nausea, and vomiting.
Part of the nutrition therapy for individuals with hiatal hernias is to adopt a healthy lifestyle including:
- Achieving a healthy weight
- Quitting cigarette smoking
- Eating foods that are nutrient-dense and appropriate for your diet
- Exercising at least 30 minutes a day
- Waiting 3 hours before lying down after eating
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day
- Eat in a calm, relaxed place and sit down while you eat
In addition, your diet will play a major role in feeling better and managing your hiatal hernia. Foods not recommended for GERD include:
- Peppermint and spearmint
- Caffeinated beverages (regular tea, coffee, colas, energy drinks, other caffeinated soft drinks)
- Spicy foods
- High-fat foods including:
- Reduced-fat milk, whole milk, high-fat cheeses, high-fat yogurt
- Fried meats, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, etc.
- Other fried foods: doughnuts, French fries, deep-fried vegetables
- Pastries and other high-fat desserts
- High acidic foods such as oranges, lemons, and, tomatoes, and grapefruit
- Avoid Alcohol
Your dietary goal should include establishing a diet that avoids foods mentioned above, in addition to incorporating foods that primarily consist of:
- Lean meats and fish, such as turkey, chicken, salmon, etc.
- Protein-rich foods such as eggs, legumes, etc.
- Whole grains appropriate for your diet (if you are gluten-free, substitute with grains appropriate for your diet)
- Variety of vegetables and fruits
- Healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, walnuts, ghee, coconut oil
- Beverages such as caffeine-free herbal teas (except those made with peppermint or spearmint), kombucha, etc.
Some helpful acid-neutralizing herbs as well as herbs that support the integrity of the stomach/esophagus include licorice root, slippery elm, goldenseal and marshmallow root. Additionally, aloe vera juice has been shown to have a soothing effect on the lining of the esophagus/stomach and also aids in the reduction of stomach acid.
Remember, your diet should always reflect how certain foods make you feel, so pay close attention to the foods that work well for you. Document the foods you eat in a food journal, listing the foods you eat, the amount you eat, and the immediate effects.
***Speak with a healthcare professional before beginning any new diet regimen or supplement.***
By: Juanita Escamilla, MS, Dietetic Intern