By: Marlene Affeld ~
Do you avoid spicy foods because they give you indigestion? Do you experience a chronic burning sensation deep in your throat and a pain in your chest? It may be more than simple heartburn. A hiatal hernia, also known as a hiatus or diaphragmatic hernia, is a medical condition that presents when a small portion of the stomach bulges into the diaphragm. An injury to the body or long-term continual pressure on the stomach muscles may cause the stomach to bulge and a hiatal hernia to develop.
If the protrusion or hernia is small, it may not cause any symptoms, go undetected, and will not require any type of treatment. However, when the hiatal hernia is larger, it may cause a host of unpleasant symptoms such as chronic heartburn and chest pain; symptoms that may require medication or surgery to alleviate the painful problem.
The stomach is situated just below your diaphragm in the abdominal cavity. The esophagus, which transports food from the mouth to the stomach, sits directly above your diaphragm in the chest cavity. Within your diaphragm is a hole, known as the esophageal hiatus that allows your esophagus to pass from your chest cavity into the abdominal cavity. In persons suffering from a hiatal hernia, the hiatal openings are somewhat larger than in the average person.
A hiatal hernia develops when the muscles surround the hiatus become weakened, allowing the upper portion of the stomach to protrude through a weakness or tear in the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. The most common type of hiatal hernia, the sliding hiatal hernia, occurs when a portion of the stomach slides in an out of the hiatus. When this happens, the esophageal sphincter cannot close properly.
Columbia University Department of Surgery advises, “In more severe cases of hiatal hernia, the fundus, or upper portion of the stomach, may slide upward into the chest cavity through the hiatus. The condition occurs as an intensifying of a sliding hiatal hernia. In rare cases, the entire stomach and even some of intestines may migrate through the hiatus and rest on top of the diaphragm next to the esophagus, a condition known as giant esophageal hernia.”
This rare type of enlarged hiatal hernia, known as a para-esophageal hiatal hernia, impedes the passage of food from the esophagus to the stomach causing food particles to become stuck in the esophagus. Often ulcers develop as a result of the trauma caused by lodged food of from acid within the stomach.
The symptoms of a hiatal hernia are not something to be ignored. While a hiatal hernia may not cause problems, left untreated, it can have far-reaching implications. Talk to your doctor. WebMD.com reports, “A hiatal hernia can be diagnosed with a specialized X-ray study that allows visualization of the esophagus and stomach (barium swallow) or with endoscopy (a test that allows the doctor to view the hernia directly). An esophageal manometry test (pressure study) may also be performed in which the strength and muscle coordination of the esophagus is measured while swallowing. A pH test can also measure the acid levels in the esophagus.”
If you are diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, work with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan.
What Causes A Hiatal Hernia?
There is a diverse array of causes of hiatal hernias. Basically, a hiatal hernia is caused by weak muscle tissue that allows your stomach to protrude through the diaphragm. Although medical research in not exactly certain why this happens, there are several different factors that can lead to the formation of a hiatal hernia.
Lifestyle has a huge impact on the likelihood of developing a hiatal hernia. Obesity and poor posture, both correctable, are two of the biggest contributors to the development of a hiatal hernia. Smoking cigarettes, excess alcohol consumption, and a poor diet are also associated with hiatal hernia.
Natural Hiatal Hernia Treatment
Stretching can encourage the stomach to move back down the esophageal hiatus. DrBenkim.com advises, “The key is to find a solid, overhanging ledge that allows for you to dangle and stretch out your torso. The hope is that such stretching will encourage any protruded portion of your stomach to slide back down into your abdominal cavity. Deep breathing stretches and strengthens your diaphragm. Practice diaphragmatic breathing several times a day. Lie flat on your back, with your knees slightly bent. Place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Breathe in deeply through your nose using your diaphragm. You should see the hand on your stomach move upward as you inhale, but the hand on your chest should remain still. Exhale deeply, tightening your stomach muscles and keeping the hand on your chest still. Repeat four times.”
To help relieve symptoms and heal a hiatal hernia naturally you should focus on working to improve posture to relieve any pressure on your stomach, chest or esophagus. Until you loose the excess weight that is putting pressure on your torso, try to avoid bending which cause immense pressure on the stomach. Also avoid any type of straining. Making sure your diet includes plenty of fiber can help alleviate constipation.
Sleeping in an elevated position, losing weight, practicing stretching exercises, avoiding spicy foods that trigger indigestion, cutting back on alcohol and stopping smoking may not cure your hiatal hernia, but it will make living with the condition easier. In some cases, chiropractic adjustments may be able to help the stomach move back down the esophageal hiatus.