A hiatus hernia is the upward protrusion of the stomach into the opening of the diaphragm where the oesophagus meets the upper part of the stomach. The stomach is normally located in the abdomen below the diaphragm, but in the case of a hiatus hernia, part of the stomach shifts upward and out of place above the diaphragm. Surgery is usually not necessary to correct this condition unless it is severe, and natural cures such as an adjustment in diet are the most common remedies.
Causes, Symptoms, Diagnoses
Hiatus hernias are caused by a weakness in the muscle tissue at the diaphragm opening where the oesophagus meets the stomach. This weakness can be the result of abdominal strain caused by heavy lifting, constipation, vomiting, coughing, pregnancy, or congenital weakness. Symptoms include gastro-oseophageal reflux, heartburn, frequent belching and chest pain.
The condition is typically diagnosed by a barium swallow in which the patient swallows a concentration of barium sulphate that causes the upper gastrointestinal tract to become visible on an X-ray or by an endoscopy, which is when a narrow viewing tube in inserted into the mouth and down to the stomach.
The most effective way to treat a hiatus hernia is by natural means that include changes in diet and reduction in meal size.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends eating smaller meals more frequently rather than consuming large meals that fill the stomach. The NIH also recommends not bending over or lying down after consuming a meal to avoid gastrointestinal reflux (which occurs when the contents of the stomach flow back into the oesophagus). Weight loss is also recommended, as is not smoking, since coughing can aggravate the condition.
The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine at Penn State University suggests reducing the consumption of acidic and spicy foods, as well as chocolate and beverages that contain caffeine. It also suggests easting a high-fibre diet and drinking plenty of fluids to avoid constipation, which is one of the potential causes of the condition.
Dr. Ben Kim, a Canadian doctor who manages a website (www.drbenkim.com) that sells health products, suggests gently massaging the upper abdomen twice a day. He also suggests a technique in which the patient lies down for five minutes and then drinks a full glass of water. After finishing the water, the patient should jump from a small height of a few inches (a stair step or a couch cushion). The theory behind this method is that it will help the part of the stomach that has become herniated to slide back down from the opening of the oesophagus to its correct position below the diaphragm. Dr. Kim also says that stressful situations should be avoided, as should alcohol. Wearing loose clothes might help as well.