Hiatal hernia surgery is a procedure to correct a condition characterized by the stomach rising into the diaphragm – the muscle that divides the chest and abdomen. To ensure successful healing, it’s important to obey your physician’s advice in terms of both diet and lifestyle habits. Chocolate is particularly discouraged as being detrimental to recuperation. There are several reasons why it should be avoided after hiatal hernia surgery.
If you’re a chocolate fan who’s gone through hiatal hernia surgery, we have an unfortunate update. Numerous flavorsome dishes are available to enjoy post-procedure, but sadly, cocoa isn’t one of them. But before you start expressing your dismay about being deprived of the sweet experience, hear us out why abstaining from it can actually help your recuperation and end up benefitting your overall well-being.
What is Hiatal Hernia?
A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper portion of the stomach moves through an opening in the diaphragm — the wall of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen. There is usually a tiny gap in this muscular wall, permitting the esophagus (the conduit that carries food from your mouth to your stomach) to pass through.
A hiatal hernia enlarges the opening in the diaphragm, resulting in part of the stomach shifting into the chest. Generally, it’s not associated with any particular effects, but it can lead to heartburn or other issues in some cases.
Surgery is typically only recommended for those who have extreme symptoms which do not improve with other forms of treatment. To treat a hiatal hernia, a procedure called Nissen fundoplication is often used. This technique involves taking part of the stomach and wrapping it around the lower esophagus, reinforcing the connection between them in order to stop any stomach content from flowing into the chest.
Causes of a Hiatal Hernia
A hiatal hernia affects both the stomach and esophagus. The stomach is a muscular sac that stores food and liquid while the esophagus is a thin tube transporting items from the mouth to the stomach.
The exact cause of a hiatal hernia is not known, but it is thought to be due to multiple factors. These could include:
- Some individuals are born with an abnormal diaphragm, which is a large gap between the chest and abdominal cavities. This can lead to part of the stomach intruding into the chest cavity.
- The pressure on the stomach may rise due to pregnancy, being overweight, or persistent coughing. These conditions can cause it to rise up into the chest cavity.
- Damage to the vicinity around the diaphragm or esophagus can lead to a hiatal hernia.
Treatment and Prevention of Hiatal Hernias
If you suffer from a hiatal hernia, your physician may suggest undergoing a surgery to fix it. Known as a hiatal hernia repair or fundoplication, the procedure seeks to fortify the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which acts as a wall between the stomach and the esophagus.
Your doctor will decide which type of hiatal hernia surgery is ideal for you, based on the size and location of your hernia. The laparoscopic approach to surgery is most common and is less invasive than open surgery. As such, it usually leads to a quicker hospital stay and recuperation period.
It is important to take certain precautions after hiatal hernia surgery, and one of these is to avoid triggering reflux. Chocolate is a known aggravator, because it contains cacao butter which can weaken the LES muscle and lead to heartburn. Additionally, other foods such as caffeine, spicy items, fatty dishes and citrus fruits should be avoided.
Post-operative Diet Requirements
Following hiatal hernia surgery, a special diet should be adhered to in order to facilitate quicker healing. This diet reduces strain on the incision area and encourages recovery.
For the first couple of days following surgery, patients should stick to a liquid diet that comprises clear liquids such as water, broth, and decaffeinated tea or coffee. Treats such as sugar-free Popsicles, Jell-O, or ice chips are also permitted. As the patient begins to feel better, they can progress to thicker liquids like apple juice, Ensure, or Carnation Instant Breakfast.
It’s essential to introduce solid foods back into your diet after several days of liquid-only. To begin, you should nibble small portions of food like scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, oatmeal, soup, pudding and yogurt that are soft and easy to digest. Keep away from zesty or greasy foods, and steer clear of carbonated beverages for the time being. After you feel comfortable with these options, broaden your horizons by adding meats and raw fruits and vegetables to your meals.
It’s essential to pay attention to what your body is telling you and not to overexert yourself. If you feel any discomfort or pain after eating, take a break and try again later. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day and be gentle with yourself the first few weeks following surgery.
Reasons Why Chocolate Is Not Recommended After Surgery
Chocolate should not be consumed following a hiatal hernia operation for various reasons. Caffeine, present in this treat, can result in stomach discomfort and increased acid production. Its high sugar content can cause weight gain and make one more prone to infection, while diarrhea may be a problem for those who have gone through surgery. It can furthermore interact with postoperative medications prescribed for pain relief.
Alternatives to Eating Chocolate After Surgery
Your doctor may advise that chocolate be avoided after hiatal hernia surgery, since it may lead to heartburn and indigestion, potentially causing unease and straining your body’s recovery. Though chocolate might be off the menu, there are still numerous delicious treats to indulge in without aggravating your heartburn. Try alternate varieties of sugary snacks to enjoy your sweet tooth while still taking care to avoid any further flare ups.
Here are some ideas for alternative sweets to eat after hiatal hernia surgery:
- Fruit popsicles or ice cream offer a refreshing and tasty break from the usual chocolatey desserts – why not try making your own with fresh fruit juice or purée? If you don’t have time for that, check out the fruit-based ice creams at your local grocery store.
- Angel food cake is an excellent choice for post-surgery, with its light and airy texture. It can be enhanced with fresh berries or a dash of powdered sugar for a special treat.
- Rich and creamy rice pudding is an ideal post-surgery treat. You can opt to make it yourself with cooked rice, milk, and flavors like vanilla extract or cinnamon, or you can find some premade versions at the store. Enjoy it either heated up or chilled – whichever you prefer.
- Honeycomb cereal: This classic breakfast staple can make a great post-surgery dessert. It can be enjoyed with almond milk or mixed with fresh fruit for additional sweetness.
- Smoothies offer a scrumptious and nutritious way to satisfy your cravings for something sweet after your surgery. To make a velvety beverage, combine low-fat yogurt, frozen fruit, and a generous amount of ice. Enjoy sipping this cool concoction throughout the day.
- Temptingly tender baked apples make for a delightful dessert, topped with cinnamon or nutmeg and served warm. To take it up a notch, adding a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream is sure to be an indulgence that will satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth – just remember to keep the portions small.
- Banana splits are an excellent way to enjoy ice cream without compromising your health after surgery. This indulgent yet healthy treat can be made with sugar-free versions of both the ice cream and topping, giving you a guilt-free treat.
Mindful consumption of food is vital following a hiatal hernia procedure, as the wrong meal can set back recovery by aggravating existing digestive issues. It’s prudent to avoid high-fat foods, such as chocolate, to safeguard from heartburn and other abdominal distress. Incorporate healthier snacks into your postoperative diet to ensure maximum healing and support natural restoration. With close attention to nutrition during this period, complete recovery may be achieved sooner than anticipated.
1. What is a hiatal hernia?
A hiatal hernia develops when part of the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm, the muscle that acts as a barrier between the chest and abdominal regions.
2. What are the symptoms of a hiatal hernia?
The signs of a hiatal hernia may be heartburn, belching, or chest ache, though many people with this condition don’t have any manifestations.
3. How is a hiatal hernia diagnosed?
A hiatal hernia can usually be identified by means of upper endoscopy or barium swallow radiography. To do an upper endoscopy, a thin, flexible tube with a camera is passed through the mouth into the stomach. With barium swallow radiography, X-ray images are taken after the person drinks barium which coats the gastrointestinal area and makes it visible on X-ray.
4. What are the treatments for a hiatal hernia?
Surgical repair is generally the primary approach to treating a hiatal hernia, closing the gap in the diaphragm and resetting the stomach in its standard location. In certain instances, medications such as antacids or PPIs might help manage symptoms, but surgery is often needed to correct it.
5. Are there any risks associated with a hiatal hernia?
Hiatal hernias can be associated with GERD, the inflammation or narrowing of the esophagus, food sensitivities, and problems with swallowing. If left untreated, it could have serious consequences such as ulcers, inadequate nourishment or even cancer.