What hernia patient should not eat?

A hernia occurs when an organ or fatty tissue squeezes through a weak spot in a surrounding muscle or connective tissue called fascia. The most common types of hernia are inguinal (inner groin), incisional (resulting from an incision), femoral (outer groin), umbilical (belly button), and hiatal (upper stomach). Hernias can cause pain, discomfort, and other complications if not treated properly. While not all hernias require surgical repair, making dietary adjustments can help relieve symptoms and prevent your hernia from getting worse. Knowing what foods to avoid is an important part of caring for yourself after being diagnosed with a hernia.

Why diet matters for hernia patients

The foods you eat can impact the severity of your hernia symptoms. Certain foods may aggravate your condition by placing pressure on your abdominal muscles or irritating the herniated tissue. Foods that are difficult to digest or cause you to strain during bowel movements can worsen pain and discomfort. Your diet also affects your weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on your abdominal muscles and tissue, which can enlarge the hernia. Eating a diet rich in key nutrients supports healing if you do undergo hernia repair surgery. Following dietary guidelines can help relieve discomfort and prevent your hernia from becoming incarcerated (trapped in the abdominal wall with no blood supply).

Foods to avoid with a hernia

Here are some of the foods hernia patients may want to avoid or limit:

High-fat foods

Fatty foods like red meat, bacon, sausages, dark chicken meat, butter, ice cream, fried foods, fast food, and whole-milk dairy products can aggravate your hernia by placing strain on your digestive system. High-fat foods also tend to be more difficult to digest and may cause or worsen constipation.

Spicy foods

Heavily spiced dishes made with hot peppers or other pungent seasonings can irritate the gastrointestinal tract and abdominal lining. This may increase swelling and discomfort.

Carbonated beverages

Fizzy drinks like soda, beer, and sparkling water contain gas that can put pressure on your abdomen when built up. Carbonation causes bloating and discomfort that can worsen hernia pain.


Coffee, tea, chocolate, and caffeinated sodas contain caffeine, which stimulates the intestines and may exacerbate symptoms. Caffeine can also irritate the bladder leading to urinary urgency and frequency.


Alcohol consumption can slow digestion, leading to constipation and straining. It also increases urination causing you to tense your abdominal muscles. Excessive alcohol intake can lead to weight gain and loss of muscle mass, both of which put more pressure on a hernia.

Dairy products

Milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and other dairy foods are common triggers for gas, bloating and diarrhea in those with gastrointestinal sensitivities. Lactose intolerance is another consideration. Consuming dairy may exacerbate a hernia by increasing abdominal discomfort and pressure.


Beans, lentils, peas and other legumes are notorious for causing flatulence and bloating. They contain complex carbs called oligosaccharides that can ferment in the intestines producing gas. Increased gas and bloating from eating legumes can worsen hernia symptoms.

Cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and other cruciferous veggies contain raffinose, a carbohydrate that may cause bloating and gas pain when eaten in large amounts. These veggies are very healthy but should be consumed in moderation if they irritate your hernia.

Certain fruits and vegetables

While fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet, some types are gas-producing or high in fiber. Fruits like apples, prunes, pears and peaches and vegetables like corn, celery, carrots, cucumbers and onions may need to be limited if they aggravate your symptoms.

Excessive fiber, nuts, seeds and whole grains

Fiber aids healthy digestion but consuming too much can backfire and cause bloating, gas and constipation. This applies to high-fiber foods like whole grains, bran, nuts, seeds and raw fruits and veggies. Be mindful of portions and drink plenty of fluids.


A high-sodium diet causes your body to retain water, which can enlarge a hernia. Limit packaged foods, salty snacks, canned items and restaurant meals containing excessive sodium.

Refined carbs and sugar

Foods made with white flour and added sugars like cookies, cakes, candies, sodas, pasta and white bread digest quickly and can cause sharp rises in blood sugar. This may increase inflammation and interfere with wound healing if you have hernia surgery.

Foods to eat

Focusing on nutritional foods that are easy to digest and gentle on your digestive system can help manage hernia discomfort. Here are some recommended foods:

  • Lean proteins like skinless poultry, fish, eggs, tofu and low-fat dairy
  • Non-gas producing veggies like mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, carrots, zucchini and sweet potatoes
  • Low-sugar fruits like bananas, berries, grapefruit, melons and applesauce
  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa and 100% whole wheat bread
  • Legumes in moderation if tolerated
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters in small portions
  • Herbal tea, water, vegetable juice and bone broth
  • Healthy fats like olive oil, avocados and coconut oil

Focus on getting at least 25-30 grams of fiber daily from food rather than supplements. Stay well hydrated and chew foods thoroughly to aid digestion.

Sample menu for a hernia-friendly diet

Here is a sample one day menu with foods that are generally well-tolerated by hernia patients:

Meal Foods
Breakfast Oatmeal made with skim milk and blueberries. Hardboiled egg. Tea or coffee without caffeine.
Lunch Tuna salad sandwich on sprouted grain bread with lettuce, tomato. Vegetable soup. Sparkling water.
Snack Small handful of unsalted nuts. Greek yogurt.
Dinner Baked chicken breast. Roasted sweet potato. Steamed broccoli and carrots. Herbal tea.
Dessert Fresh peach. Small square of dark chocolate.

This menu provides lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and dairy. It limits excess fat, salt, sugar and gas-producing foods that may worsen a hernia. Portions are controlled and plenty of water is consumed.

Lifestyle and diet tips for hernia patients

In addition to eating a hernia-friendly diet, the following lifestyle measures can help relieve symptoms:

  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce abdominal pressure
  • Quit smoking, which can impair healing
  • Practice gentle exercise like walking, swimming or yoga
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of fluids daily
  • Improve bowel regularity by eating fiber-rich foods and staying active
  • Avoid heavy lifting, intense exercise and straining
  • Manage chronic coughing or constipation with doctor guidance
  • Consider nutritional supplements if diet is lacking
  • Learn proper body mechanics and posture to minimize abdominal pressure
  • Use non-prescription pain medication as needed for discomfort
  • See a pain management specialist if symptoms persist
  • Discuss concerns with your doctor and report any worsening

Making appropriate dietary changes, along with other lifestyle measures and medical care, can help you successfully manage a hernia. Work with a dietitian to develop a personalized nutrition plan. With the right dietary precautions, you can prevent your hernia from advancing and improve your quality of life.

Potential complications of a hernia

While not all hernias require surgery, it’s important to watch for potential complications that may require medical treatment. Contact your doctor right away if you experience:

  • Increasing pain, swelling or tenderness in the hernia area
  • New bulges, enlargement or progression of the hernia
  • Nausea, vomiting or fever along with hernia pain (may indicate strangulation)
  • Trapped intestine or inability to push hernia contents back into abdomen
  • Skin redness, warmth and extreme tenderness over the hernia
  • Difficulty passing stool or gas
  • Fecal vomiting
  • Coughing up blood

Complications like strangulation (loss of blood supply to intestine) or obstruction can rapidly become life-threatening. Seek emergency care if you have severe, unrelenting belly pain, vomiting, or are unable to pass gas or have bowel movements. Prompt surgery may be required.

When to consider hernia surgery

Surgery to repair a hernia is usually recommended if:

  • Your hernia is very large or advancing quickly
  • Symptoms like pain or digestive problems persist and impact quality of life
  • You develop any signs of strangulation or obstruction
  • Your hernia becomes stuck outside your body (incarcerated)
  • You have a hernia with high risk of complications (femoral or large incisional hernia)
  • Your hernia causes discomfort preventing you from working or exercising
  • You develop complications like skin ulcers or obstruction

There are a few surgical options available depending on the type of hernia, including:

  • Open repair – A single long incision to push back the protruding tissue and strengthen the abdominal wall with stitches or mesh
  • Laparoscopic – Minimally invasive keyhole surgery using small incisions and mesh implantation
  • Robotic surgery – Similar to laparoscopic but uses a robotic surgical system

Discuss the pros and cons of each approach with your surgeon. Recovery time is often faster with keyhole or robotic procedures but they are not always suitable. Lifting restrictions and activity limitations apply for around 4-6 weeks after surgery.

Can a hernia go away on its own?

In some cases, hernias may resolve on their own over time. However, this is relatively uncommon. Some hernias that have potential to go away without treatment include:

  • Newborns or infants with umbilical hernias – These frequently disappear by age 2
  • Small, painless inguinal hernias in adults – May gradually vanish but larger hernias require surgery
  • Incisional hernias shortly after surgery – Rarely self-resolve, require watchful waiting

Most hernias in adults tend to persist and enlarge over time. While watching and waiting is an option for minimally symptomatic hernias, repair is often eventually needed to prevent complications like strangulation. Moreover, surgery becomes more complicated the longer you delay.

Self-care remedies like nutritional supplements, herbal medicines, compresses and exercise cannot make a hernia go away for good. Such therapies may temporarily reduce discomfort and swelling but do not fix underlying muscle weakness.

It is important to have your hernia evaluated by a doctor to determine proper treatment. Getting diagnosed early, before your hernia enlarges, gives you the best surgical outcomes.


Modifying your diet can make a significant difference in managing your hernia symptoms. Avoid foods known to aggravate digestive issues or cause straining, bloating and excess gas. Eat a balanced diet focused on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. Stay well hydrated, control portions of high fiber foods and limit salt, sugar and saturated fat. Make appropriate lifestyle changes in addition to dietary adjustments. While observing a nutritious, hernia-friendly diet, be alert to any worsening symptoms requiring urgent medical care. With proper treatment, most hernias can be resolved allowing you to return to normal activities.

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