Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal hernia is a condition caused when the area where the stomach and esophagus (the opening of the diaphragm) is stretched. This causes the upper part of the stomach to push up into the chest cavity. As a consequence, the esophageal sphincter, which normally acts as a one-way valve to allow food to travel down into the stomach, is unable to prevent the contents of the stomach, including gastric acids, from traveling upward.

Although most people with hiatal hernia experience no symptoms, when symptoms do occur, they primarily manifest as chest pain or heartburn, which can be made worse by bending over, especially after eating, or exacerbated at night or when lying down. The people most prone to hiatal hernia are smokers and people who are overweight

What To Consider

Hiatal hernia can sometimes cause material from the stomach to be pushed up into the esophagus. This is called esophageal reflux and can cause the heartburn. The pain of hiatal hernia can also mimic other health problems such as stomach ulcers or heart attacks.

Hiatal hernia is often due to chronic, extreme tension in the psoas and quadratus lumborum, two large muscles that merge with the diaphragm, causing the diaphragm to become chronically stressed. Osteopathic manipulation can help normalize these muscles.

Self-Care Tips

Diet
Avoid overeating and minimize your intake of spicy foods, fried foods, coffee, tea, carbonated drinks, citrus juices, alcohol, whipped cream, milk shakes, peppermint, green and red peppers, and onion, all of which can worsen symptoms. Also avoid eating large meals and then lying down or bending over, and do not drink too much during and after meals. While your condition exists, it is best to eat small meals throughout the day, rather than the typical three-meal plan.

Nutritional Supplementation
The digestive enzymes pancreatin and hydrochloric acid can help relieve symptpms, as can aloe vera juice. Vitamin B complex and a multivitamin/mineral formula can also help.

Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises can help to strengthen the muscles of the diaphragm and expand the lungs. This is important since many people with hiatal hernia have restricted breathing patterns and have a habit of swallowing air more frequently than normal. This causes the excessive air to enter the stomach, stressing the diaphragmatic opening through which the esophagus passes, and exacerbating hiatal hernia symptoms. Conscious, deep breathing exercises can help slow down the rate of swallowing to more normal levels.

Exercise and Lifestyle
Sit in an armchair, inhale, and then and hold your breath as you lift your legs up toward your chest. Lower your legs and then exhale. Repeat this exercise several times per session, and do it several times a day.

If your symptoms include shortness of breath or food becoming lodged in your esophagus, drink 16 ounces of pure filtered water and bounce on your heels for 10-20 times.

When you sleep, be sure that your upper body is in an elevated position so that your chest cavity is above your stomach. This will prevent your stomach from rising into your chest cavity.

Herbs
To reduce the inflammation and symptoms of acid reflux caused by hiatal hernia, make an infusion of equal parts comfrey root, marshmallow root, and meadowsweet and drink throughout the day and before going to sleep.

Homeopathy
Calc carb., Hepar sulph., and Ferrum phos. can help relieve symptoms

Hydrotherapy
Contrast application (hot and cold water packs applied to the abdomen) will help ease the stressed muscles that can cause hiatal hernia.

Caution

If your symptoms persist despite the above measures, seek the help of a qualified health professional.

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