What is Hiatal Hernia?
Hiatal hernia is a condition in which the upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm. The diaphragm muscle has a small opening called the hiatus through which the esophagus passes before connecting the stomach. With hiatal hernia, the stomach bulges through that opening into the chest wall.
There are also two types of hiatal hernias which are called sliding and fixed. A sliding hiatal hernia is usually small and occurs when the stomach and esophagus slide in and out of the chest through the hiatus. It rarely causes symptoms and doesn’t require treatment. A fixed hiatal hernia, also known as paraesophageal hernia, happens when the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and stays there. Most cases are not serious, though there is a risk with a blood flow blockage to the stomach which is considered a medical emergency.
If you’ve been diagnosed with hiatal hernia, you may have been surprised with the news. This condition is actually a common problem. With small hiatal hernias, there may be no symptoms but acid reflux can be one of the first signs. Though not the same, both hiatal hernia and acid reflux symptoms go hand in hand. More than 90 percent of people with hiatal hernia have acid reflux.
What are the Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia?
Small hiatal hernias usually have no signs or symptoms. However, larger hiatal hernias can cause a variety of symptoms – some of which are serious. Following are some symptoms of this condition.
What Causes Hiatal Hernia?
There are several causes of hiatal hernia, but most are not determined unless symptoms arise quickly after its initiation. For the most part, injury or damage weakens the muscle tissue which makes the hiatal hernia possible. Following are some reasons for the condition.
How Can I Find Out if I Have Hiatal Hernia?
Your health practitioner can determine if you have hiatal hernia through a physical exam or tests. However, an evaluation is only necessary if you have symptoms that are bothersome. Following are some tests that your doctor may recommend.
How Can I Reduce Hiatal Hernia Symptoms?
As mentioned earlier, most hiatal hernias are not serious. Conventional medicine will recommend over-the-counter medications to neutralize stomach acid and lower or prevent acid production. This may include antacids, H2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors. If these medications do not work, surgery is usually recommended to rebuild weak esophageal muscles and put the stomach back in place while making the hiatus smaller. Even with surgery, hiatal hernia can unfortunately return.
However, alternative medicine has a different approach and believes that an overproduction of stomach acid is not the problem (see below). Because acid reflux is a symptom of hiatal hernia, and not a disease, there are some natural ways you can fix your hiatal hernia. Below you'll find helpful tips for physical manipulation techniques for the hiatal hernia, as well as diet and dietary supplements to help ease the acid reflux that is often associated with hiatal hernia.
PHYSICAL MANIPULATION TECHNIQUES
Following are two physical manipulation techniques that you can do yourself. If it's too difficult, you may find a myoskeletal practitioner to help teach you how to do the manipulation in the first video with Erik Dalton. The second video with Dr. David Williams is a much easier technique that can help immediately when you feel your stomach bulging through your diaphragm.
LOW ACIDIC DIET
A whole foods, natural diet low in acidic foods will help hiatal hernia and acid reflux symptoms. Meats are naturally low in acid. Opt for certified organic, grass-fed/finished, pasture raised, and wild cuts of meat and eggs. You may also want to try low-acid vegetables and fruits like broccoli, cabbage, green beans, apples, strawberries, and avocados. Feta and goat cheese are low-acidic dairy options. For a full list of low-acidic foods, you may google.
Because the stomach is pushed up through the diaphragm with a hiatal hernia, the stomach acids are also pushed up which cause irritation to the esophagus, throat, and mouth. This "acid reflux" can leave a void or reduction of hydrochloric acid in the stomach which is needed to break down, digest, and absorb nutrients as well as eliminate viruses and bacteria which protect your body from infection. Therefore, certain dietary supplements, such as digestive enzymes and betaine hydrochloric acid, may help with balancing the stomach until your hiatal hernia is resolved.