Abdominal wall hernias are relatively common, with a 1.7% prevalence rate for patients of all ages and 4% among those 45 years or older.
Inguinal hernias account for 75% of abdominal wall hernias.
When detected, it’s important that patients stick to a proper hernia diet. (1)
Diet can play a key role in how severe the hernia symptoms are.
That includes abdominal discomfort, constipation, and belching.
If you manage your food intake, you can curb the symptoms like acid digestion and heartburn.
Here is a quick look at a suitable diet for inguinal hernia patients, including foods to avoid and foods you should eat.
What is an inguinal hernia?
Inguinal hernia (groin hernia) develops in the inguinal canal. People with a family history of hernia have at least 4 times bigger odds of having inguinal hernia than those without a family history.
It happens when abdominal tissue, like a loop of intestines or belly fat, pokes through into the groin at the top of the inner thigh. (2)
When the hernia obstructs the bowel, it can cause vomiting, nausea, pain, and trouble passing gas or bowels. If you try to cough or stand up with inguinal hernia and constipation, the bulge along the groin or pubic area can appear bigger. It can be sensitive or painful to touch.
The symptoms of an inguinal hernia include:
- Sharp pain
- Pain when bending, doing physical activity, or coughing
- Feeling full or heavy-like sensations in the groin
- Scrotum swelling
- Burning sensations
Hernias and bloating are common. It can make you feel like you had a huge meal when you didn’t. This inguinal hernia and gas affect more men rather than women.
Other types of hernias
Other hernia types exist, which do require making healthier diet choices.
There is a femoral hernia that impacts the outer groin. It is mostly present in women, predominantly those who are obese or pregnant.
An incisional hernia happens from an incision after abdominal surgery. It typically occurs in overweight or elderly patients who don’t do any physical activity after abdominal surgery.
Hiatal hernia impacts the upper stomach. In comparison, an umbilical hernia containing fat pushes through a weakened area in the abdominal wall close to the navel. The belly button getting bigger is a classic sign of an umbilical hernia. It causes an abnormal bulge that you can see and feel at the umbilicus.
What is the worst type of hernia to have?
A hernia can appear in different places. It’s not the type of hernia that is important, but its impact.
Sometimes, the blood flow is cut off to a tissue or a section of an organ stuck in the hernia. This can be painful and dangerous, and surgery can be necessary. The hernia can also increase in size, causing a cosmetic problem.
What causes an inguinal hernia to flare up?
Hernia and constipation can be real problems, especially when the constipation is accompanied by inguinal hernia bloating.
Sometimes, an inguinal hernia can emerge suddenly after you put pressure on the abdomen. For example, straining when pushing or lifting heavy loads. Or straining on the toilet when you struggle with constipation.
Having a heavy and persistent cough can put a strain on the body as well.
32 foods to avoid with inguinal hernia
There are many foods to avoid with inguinal hernia. That way, you can manage constipation, bloating, and heartburn.
With an inguinal hernia, it’s best to steer clear of:
- Fatty foods (such as sausage, bacon, stick margarine, fried foods, pastries, etc.)
- Acidic foods (i.e., lemons, plums, limes, and other citrus fruits)
- Starch foods (i.e., rice, white bread, pasta, potatoes, etc.)
- Sugary foods (like desserts, candy, sweet rolls, cookies, cobblers, soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, orange juice, etc.)
- Dairy products (such as creamed food, ice cream, whole milk, milkshakes, etc.)
- Alcoholic beverages
Trans or saturated fat foods like red meat, processed goodies, vegetable oil, and high-fat products could cause inflammation. They could also lead to an increase in weight, which could pose a problem for a hernia.
Even though acidic foods are often recommended for a healthy diet, for hernia patients, they can increase irritation. That’s why it is best to skip the orange juice and caffeine, at least while you heal.
Alternative options to acidic foods are tomato sauce, pineapple, tart apples, and pickles. When dealing with constipation or hernia, limit sugar and calorie intake, as it can lead to weight gain. Plus, desserts, like pastries, can be difficult to digest and might lead to cramps and bloating for some people.
Acidic and very spicy meals can cause heartburn and lead to hernia pain after eating. To avoid hernia constipation, stay away from anything that would add pungency to a meal. This includes chili powder, garam masala, or hot spices.
29 foods to eat with inguinal hernia
A good food lifestyle is necessary to get the body back on track. When healing, it’s best to incorporate a high-fiber diet with many fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains. This way, you can manage constipation.
You can consume:
- Whole grains (i.e., whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, and other whole wheat products)
- High-fiber choices (such as broccoli, beans, avocados, dried fruits, etc.)
- Vegetables (like sweet potatoes, carrots and carrot juice, green vegetables, squash, leafy greens, peas, etc.)
- Non-citrus fruits (like bananas, melons, pears, apples, etc.)
- HDL-rich foods (such as flaxseeds, oats, walnuts, and almonds)
- Fatty acids (i.e., salmon fish, mackerel, sardine, and tuna)
- Plant-based milk products (i.e., almond milk or soy milk)
Post-hernia surgery diet
A post-hernia surgery diet is divided into four stages. During the first 5 days (stage 1) after surgery, you can consume fluids and semi-fluids. Anything that is smooth and doesn’t have lumps. When swallowing feels normal, you can move into the second stage.
For 1 to 2 weeks (stage 2), you can eat very soft and mashed food, like a vegetable puree or porridge. When you can easily swallow mashed and soft food, you can start slowly incorporating foods with more texture (stage 3), like salads and minced chicken.
In 1 to 2 weeks (stage 4), you can gradually return to firmer foods. But, you will need to chew them well and eat smaller portions.
To avoid inguinal hernia weight loss, talk to a specialist. Regardless of the type of hernia you are dealing with, you should speak with your doctor to avoid losing too much weight after surgery.
When can I drink coffee after hernia surgery?
Give your body time to heal. After around 4 weeks, you should be able to consume a full range of foods. That includes caffeinated products, like coffee or green tea. You will need to avoid highly spiced foods for 6 weeks.
Can a hernia affect pregnancy?
An umbilical (belly button) hernia shouldn’t harm the baby. But it could make the mother very sick.
Mild hernias may not require treatment. However, if the hernia is big enough to cause problems, like damage to the organs or intestines, your doctor might recommend surgery.
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Other things to avoid if you have an inguinal hernia
Your doctor will suggest the best hernia treatment strategy that works for your health problem. Don’t take over-the-counter medications while on prescription pain medication without consulting your doctor first. It’s important to avoid interaction and give the body time to heal.
Here are other things to avoid with an inguinal hernia:
- Avoid overeating.
- Avoid bending right after eating.
- Don’t smoke.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes that put pressure on the affected area.
Tips to manage an inguinal hernia
To set your recovery on the right track, here are a couple of cooking tips:
- Cook with healthy oils. These include coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, canola oil, and grapeseed oil.
- Include probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kombucha, and kefir. Feel free to experiment with oatmeal yogurt foods.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of plain water daily.
Everyone’s body reacts differently to various foods. For many, consuming fatty foods, acidic products, and sugary treats poses a real problem with inguinal hernia, so they may need to avoid them. Eating them causes stomach discomfort, which can worsen constipation and heartburn.
That’s where other foods can help, especially whole grains, high-fiber choices, and non-acidic alternatives.
But, remember that what affects others doesn’t necessarily mean that it will cause problems for you.
It’s a good idea to keep a food journal for a couple of days after discovering the problem and consult your GP. They can suggest you avoid any foods that cause your hernia symptoms to worsen.
If you do get surgery, then you may need to stick to a stricter regimen until the body heals. After a full recovery, you can gradually start incorporating different foods into your diet.