Are you experiencing symptoms such as acid reflux, a persistent nagging cough, or a painful bulging area around the abdomen or groin? You may be dealing with a hernia. While some hernias do not cause major symptoms, others can be serious—and you may find yourself needing a surgical procedure to repair your hernia.
If you do need to have a hernia repaired, the good news is that the procedure can often make it easier to enjoy your life, especially if you adopt a healthy diet and good lifestyle habits to support your wellness. Here is a look at why some hernias need repair as well as how to eat, exercise and stay well after your hernia is treated.
A relatively common condition, a hernia develops when a piece of the body’s tissue (such as fat) pushes or bulges into another area of the body, most frequently in or near the abdominal wall. If you are experiencing symptoms, your physician will perform necessary tests to see what is happening in your body. You may be diagnosed with one of the following types of hernias:
If a hernia is small and isn’t causing any symptoms, it may not require surgery. Larger, symptomatic hernias are more likely to need treatment, and if the hernia is blocking the flow of blood or the intestines, surgery is required to prevent life-threatening issues from developing.
Should you find yourself in need of hernia surgery, the good news is that once the procedure is done and you have healed, you can engage in many of your normal activities and eating habits. But it is important to know how to handle the recovery process. What can you eat? What can you do? What should you avoid?
No matter what type of hernia you have, the recovery process is similar. Here are some tips.
After your hernia surgery is completed, your doctor will give you a set of instructions, which will include diet restrictions. For example, you will likely be asked to ingest only a liquid diet for the first 12–24 hours after your surgery. It is important to follow these instructions. A short-term liquid diet helps prevent or lessen the effects of nausea and vomiting that can result from the anesthesia. It also is easier on your stomach and intestines. Keeping pressure off your gastrointestinal tract helps the healing process.
Once the doctor has indicated you may move beyond a liquid diet, you can start to enjoy foods that are gentle on your system and easy to digest. Plan to take this approach for the first several days after your hernia repair to give your digestive system time to heal and keep the strain on your abdominal muscles to a minimum.
The term “translucent” simply means that you should select foods and liquids that do not contain a lot of dyes, are not pulpy, and are easier to digest. Some foods that are good to eat during this stage of your recovery include: plain or vanilla yogurt, sorbet and sherbet, vanilla ice cream, pureed foods, creamed vegetables that have been run through a strainer, cream of wheat, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, vanilla pudding, and vanilla nutritional drinks.
As you heal, proteins are important. Look for lean proteins that are friendly to digestion, such as fish, chicken breast, and soft cuts of pork. Eggs are also a good option.
Also, fruits and vegetables that have a high water content are good choices, like watermelon, apples, pears, bananas, green beans, zucchini, and eggplant. Foods that contain fiber are also good for a hernia diet too, as long as they do not make you gassy. Options can include whole-grain bread, whole-grain rice, oatmeal and bran.
To aid in the healing process after your hernia is repaired, you will need to stay hydrated. Water is always a healthy choice for hydration, especially after surgery as it is natural, does not contain additives, and is good for you. If you like, a bit of lemon can be added to your water. Gentle healthy liquids such as carrot juice are also an option.
There are several foods to avoid with a hernia, both before you have treatment as well as after you have the hernia repaired.
As you heal from your hernia surgery, it will be best to say no to foods that are hard to digest (such as red meat), and foods that can cause acid reflux, such as caffeine, chocolate, and spicy foods. Other foods to avoid during your recovery include orange juice and fried foods.
If your hernia has been related to GERD symptoms, you should also avoid any other foods and drinks that in the past have made your symptoms worse. These may include onions, garlic, tomatoes and tomato-based foods, peppermint, and carbonated beverages.
Dairy products should be eaten in moderation—and only if you can tolerate them. Cow’s milk (especially whole milk) can make some people cough and feel congested, and cheese can sometimes cause constipation, which can then cause you to strain in the bathroom, which is not good for your recovery. If you know you have these tendencies, avoid dairy foods until your recovery is complete.
Even after you have fully recovered from hernia surgery, it is a good idea to embrace healthy eating and lifestyle habits that support your ongoing wellness. Here are some ways to do so:
Whole foods and unprocessed foods provide your body with needed nutrients without additives and heavy amounts of substances like salt (which can be detrimental in large amounts). Whole, unprocessed foods tend to include a healthy amount of fiber and may not require as much stomach acid for digestion, which helps lessen the symptoms of acid reflux and GERD.
Good choices in this category include whole grains, nut and seeds, lean proteins, yogurt, plant-based milks, non-citrus fruits, berries, and a wide variety of multicolored vegetables, such as leafy greens, peas, green beans, squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.
One of the most practical ways to support your body’s wellness and limit recurrences of heartburn is to eat at home and to cook for yourself. This allows you to control the amount of spices, sugars, and other ingredients so that you can enjoy meals that support healthy digestion and weight management.
To make healthier home meals, opt for healthy oils such as olive oil, which is great for cooking and as a garnish for salads. Coconut and avocado oils are also healthy options. Use fresh, unprocessed ingredients as much as possible. Shop the fresh vegetable and fruit aisle, and consider getting your lean meats at the meat counter.
Probiotics include foods that support your digestive tract. Since they make your gastrointestinal system balanced, they can also aid in digestion. Yogurt and kefir are among them, as is kombucha. Pickles and other pickled vegetables can fit into this category too.
Your doctor may recommend a program for healthy weight loss. Here is why: When your body carries added fat, it can put pressure on the abdomen. If you have a small hernia, any excess weight can make your symptoms worse. And the extra pressure can also worsen any acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) issues you may have.
Rather than overeating or ingesting one large meal, keep in mind that smaller meals are more friendly to your digestive system. Small meals put less pressure on your abdomen, and can also decrease the odds that your stomach will overproduce acid.
Even before you have hernia surgery, you can exercise while you have a hernia. The key is to avoid workouts that cause you to strain. So, you will want to stay active and move regularly, while also taking care not to lift weights that are too heavy for you.
Talk with your physician about an exercise program that is appropriate for your physical condition, and consider working with a professional trainer to create a plan for exercising. And after your hernia is repaired, continue to work out. It is so good for your body!
Hernia symptoms can often be managed with good guidance from your doctor, but sometimes you may need to take the next step and have your hernia repaired. The best treatment plan for you begins with getting personalized answers from a caring medical team that puts you first. At Midtown Surgical & Skin Institute, we offer compassionate, practical medical plans in Tulsa to address hernias, GERD, and acid reflux. Reach out to set up a consultation to get started on your path to greater wellness.