Eat Slowly if You Have a Hiatal Hernia!
I’ve written about coping with a hiatal hernia before on Self Help Daily (I’ll link to each of the articles below this one) and as I find new things that help me with my own hiatal hernia, I’m sure I’ll be writing more.
As I often say with anything that involves health issues, the tips and advice are only for those who know for certain that their problem is a hiatal hernia. If you do not know for sure, please check with your doctor. Asking a professional if you could have a hernia frees you to know that it isn’t something else (which could be worse OR better than having a hiatal hernia) and it gives you a clear path to take to help yourself.
Something else to keep in mind is that everyone’s experience with their hiatal hernia can be very different. Many suffer from a lot of heartburn with their hiatal hernia. I, however, seldom have heartburn. I do have the frequent feeling that I’m full sooner than I should be, hiccups (usually from eating too fast or not chewing well enough), and… the worst thing, a feeling that food is stuck in my esophagus which leads to pain and, usually, having to “expel” it – and we’ll just leave it at that! No one enjoys talking about upchucking or hearing about it either for that matter.
My hernia also causes me to have more indigestion and to suffer from acid reflux at night. REALLY hate that one!
Most people’s symptoms and experiences with their hiatal hernia aren’t as bad as mine. Heck, a lot of people don’t even know they have one! It all depends on the size, apparently. If you’re one of the ones who has similar symptoms, a few tips for coping that I’ve learned are:
- don’t lift heavy objects – doing so is asking for a flare up
- don’t do any activity where you hang upside down
- don’t eat dense meat, such as steak or chicken
- bread (all types of bread) often spells trouble
- eat small meals, frequently, instead of a few large meals
Another simple (and we’re talking painfully simple) trick I’ve learned that has helped me a great deal is this: I chew to the count of 33 with each and every bite. Depending on the size of the bite, sometimes I have to go back to one and start counting again. When this happens, I always remind myself to take smaller bites!
Counting reminds you to slow down and chew. Since I began implementing the tips above along with the “Chew to the Count of 33” trick, I have had incredibly few issues. A while back I had a case of the hiccups and it was entirely my fault. I had forgotten to count to 33 and, basically, must have inhaled the entire waffle fry! The pain and hiccups reminded me to never, ever… under any circumstances forget to count and chew.
It will help you slow down and enjoy your meal if you think of it as an experience to be enjoyed rather than something that has to be done. Sometimes I see people inhaling their food like it’s a chore – “Gotta fill the tank and keep going!” This isn’t a healthy habit for anyone – whether they have a hernia or not. We should look for more times in our day when we can relax and enjoy the moment… I can’t think of a better time than when we’re enjoying a meal, especially if we’re in the company of someone we love.
A quick word about taking longer to eat than everyone else… so what?! It’s much better than having pain or getting hiccups. My family never complains, I think they just take it as a cue to eat slower, themselves.
A Few Other Hiatal Hernia Coping Tips
- I am not even remotely a doctor, so I can’t explain the whys of it, but drinking incredibly cold drinks often aggravates the problem. Less ice or even drinking room temperature drinks leads to less issues for me.
- Frequently drinking warm drinks seems to also help the issue.
- Anything you can do to lessen inflammation will help you. Because of this, cutting back as much as you possibly can on sugar will do you a world of good. Also, researching foods and drinks that naturally reduce inflammation will serve you very well.
- Anything you add to your diet that aids in digestion will help you. Healthline has an excellent article on foods that improve digestion and, after you’re finished here, I hope you’ll read it. A few of my favorite digestion-helpers (some are on their list) are pickled ginger, crushed pineapple, applesauce, and chia seeds. Again, when choosing foods, keep in mind that harder foods (apples, grapes..) can be problematic for you… find softer alternatives when possible.
- Keep a food journal (Amazon link to the best one I’ve ever seen)! Whether it’s to keep track of food that causes symptoms or keep track of how well you’re doing cutting back on sugar, a food journal will help you so much. It was journaling my food/symptoms that helped me find the foods that caused problems AND pinpoint the meals that gave me zero issues (such as bacon and eggs, chili, soup, flat burgers…). Food journals have also helped people discover food allergies and intolerances they didn’t know they had. Trust me, food journals are one of the smartest things you can do for your health, you just have to be diligent about keeping up with it!
- Don’t put too much into a bite at once! A few days ago, my husband took a bite of a big beautiful burger and all I could think was, “I’d be in pain for three hours and in the bathroom for two of them!” When you have a hiatal hernia, overloading it at once is begging for trouble. You’re simply better eating your meat off of bread, your tossed salads one vegetable at a time, etc. Once you begin eating this way, it becomes second nature quickly and the payoff will make you never fall off the bandwagon again.
Finally, I have notice such a huge improvement in my hiatal hernia in the past year and one of the biggest reasons is I lost a little weight. I weigh less now than I have in many, many years and it has helped my hiatal hernia greatly. Carrying less weight around the middle is one of the best things you can do for your hiatal hernia health as well as your overall health.
I’m not trying to be preachy, just trying to help anyone who is in the same boat as me. Whether your hiatal hernia causes similar problems or if you’re one of the ones who suffers mostly from heartburn or reflux, if you could stand to lose even as much as 10 pounds, I’m certain you’ll see a difference.
I, personally, have found that intermittent fasting and cutting way back on sugar and carbs (not all the way out, mind you… just back) has helped me tremendously. On top of my other hiatal hernia issues, I used to frequently wake up chocking on reflux – often it would feel like I couldn’t get a breath. Talk about scary!
I stopped eating at least three hours before I knew I’d be lying down and that took care of waking up chocking on a nightmare. My “cut off” for eating ANYTHING and for drinking anything with calories is 5:30 pm. It is absolutely worth it, trust me. I enjoyed snacking while watching tv in the evening as much as anyone but it simply isn’t worth it.
One other “trick” I did to cut back on empty calories AND cut out inflammatory sugar was switch from sweet tea to drinking tea sweetened with Stevia (something that is naturally anti-inflammatory… win/win).
More About Coping with a Hiatal Hernia: