When a person has a hiatal hernia, the upper part of their stomach pushes through an opening in their diaphragm — the thin muscle wall between the chest cavity and the abdomen. It is called a hiatal hernia because the stomach bulges up into the chest through an opening in the diaphragm called a hiatus.
The symptoms of a hiatal hernia
Small hiatal hernias don’t consistently show any symptoms, and even serious hiatal hernias rarely do. If you believe you have a hiatal hernia, consult a physician about any digestive issues that you are experiencing.
Take note that larger hernias may cause the following:
Severe symptoms of the condition that require immediate medical attention include being unable to pass gas or have a bowel movement, constant nausea, and vomiting.
Individuals older than 50 have a high risk of developing hiatal hernias. The condition may affect at least 60 percent of individuals by the time they are in their 60s.
Other contributing factors of the condition include:
Most cases of hiatal hernias don't require treatment since they eventually resolve themselves. However, some types can stay problematic. Others may even require surgery to correct the hiatus.
Conventional treatment for hiatal hernias usually includes antacids and/or inhibitors to change your stomach acid levels. But while these treatments can address your symptoms, they don't correct the underlying problem. They could even be linked to negative side effects.
The primary symptoms of a hiatal hernia are similar to those caused by reflux, but you can address them by making changes to your diet and lifestyle.
(1) Quit smoking.
Smoking can aggravate your symptoms. Smoking relaxes your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which is meant to keep acid and food out of your esophagus.
(2) Avoid foods that trigger your condition.
Common trigger foods for hiatal hernias are those that also cause reflux, such as:
You can reduce your symptoms by eliminating these trigger foods from your diet for the short term. Observe your condition since you may need to avoid certain foods for the long term. (Related: Use natural remedies for a hiatal hernia.)
(3) Follow a fiber-rich diet.
Fiber can balance glucose and improve the digestive process. Consuming enough fiber also promotes regular bowel movements.
Eat the following fiber-rich foods to ease your condition:
(4) Eat smaller meals.
Eating more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day instead of three big ones will significantly reduce the volume of food that your stomach has to break down. Don't eat two or three hours before going to bed to prevent reflux when you lie down.
(5) Chew your food carefully.
Take the time to chew your food so your stomach doesn't have to work harder to break down food. Eating in a hurry can make gas bubble back up into your esophagus, which can cause unpleasant burping, pain, and acid reflux.
(6) Reduce your fat intake.
There are different kinds of dietary fats. Some are healthy, but other types of fat can be hard to digest. If you have reflux and heartburn, cut out fatty foods and eat leaner meats and low-fat foods until your digestive health improves.
(7) Sit upright while eating.
This simple trick will help the food you're eating reach your stomach quickly. Don't slouch to avoid acid reflux or heartburn.
(8) Take enzymes.
Your digestion can be compromised if your stomach doesn’t have the enzymes and acid required to break down foods. Some cases of acid reflux are caused by too little stomach acid.
Reflux symptoms can be relieved once the contents of your stomach move on to the small intestine. To improve your digestive health, take a combination enzyme supplement with hydrochloric acid and the digestive enzymes amylase, lipase, and protease.
(9) Stay hydrated.
Dehydration may worsen your condition because the body needs water to transfer nutrients from cells. If your cells can’t function properly, it'll be harder to heal or recover from health problems.
Always drink water between meals instead of during meals. Extra water dilutes stomach acid, which makes it harder to fully break down food.
(10) Adjust your movements.
Avoid bending over and twisting your torso. Don’t exercise after eating, especially after dinner. This will prevent food from regurgitating up your throat.
(11) Sleep in an elevated position.
Raise the head of your bed by about six inches. This will help prevent acid build-up in your esophagus.
Follow these tips and make healthy lifestyle changes to relieve the symptoms of a hiatal hernia.