Our Clermont Chiropractor Answers Your Questions on Hiatal Hernia
Your diaphragm is supposed to have a small opening (a hiatus) where the food tube (esophagus) can pass through to connect to your stomach. When a hiatal hernia occurs, the stomach pushes up through that opening in your diaphragm. Most people don’t even realize anything has happened unless their doctor discovers it while looking for a different condition. In more severe cases, a patient might experience heartburn due to food and acid being allowed to back up into the esophagus from the stomach.
What are the Symptoms of a Hiatal Hernia?
The majority of hiatal hernias are small and result in no signs or symptoms noticeable to the patient. Larger hiatal hernias may cause:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
What Cuases a Hiatal Hernia to Occur?
This condition occurs when your stomach muscles bulge through weakened diaphragm muscles. Though the reason for a hiatal hernia is not always known, common causes include:
- Injury to the area
- A larger hiatus than typical at birth
- Intense or persistent pressure that might result from lifting heavy objects, coughing, vomiting or straining during a bowel movement.
Are there Common Risk Factors for a Hiatal Hernia?
Hiatal hernias are most common for those over the age of 50. Overweight adults are also more likely to suffer from a hiatal hernia.
What Can Heal a Hiatal Hernia?
If you are experiencing heartburn or acid reflux from your hiatal hernia, your doctor may proscribe medications to neutralize your stomach acid, reduce acid production or block acid production. By reducing the stomach acid able to affect the esophagus, your esophagus will have a chance to heal and irritation will be lessened.
Rarely, a hiatal hernia might be so bad it requires surgery. Typically, surgery for a hiatal hernia is only used in an emergency situation when medications aren’t working to relieve the heartburn or acid reflux.
Natural home remedies for reducing the symptoms of a hiatal hernia include:
- Smaller meals spread throughout the day to reduce pressure in the stomach
- Reducing heartburn-triggering foods, like chocolate, onions, spicy foods, tomato-based sauces and citrus
- Avoiding alcohol and smoking
- Losing weight for those who are at an increased risk for hiatal hernia due to obesity
- Sleeping with your head at a slight elevation instead of flat
- Eating all snacks and meals at least 2 hours before going to bed
How is a Hiatal Hernia Diagnosed?
Your doctor may discover your hiatal hernia while performing a test for another concern. An x-ray or scope are the most common ways hiatal hernias are found. If you need an x-ray taken of your digestive tract, you will need to drink a chalky liquid containing barium that coats your upper digestive tract and shows the hiatal hernia.
If a scope is used during an endoscopy exam, your esophagus and stomach will be visible to the doctor. The thin, flexible tube carrying a light and camera will go down your throat, in to your esophagus and will be able to see the hiatal hernia (if it exists).