Hiatal hernia is a condition that occurs when a portion of the stomach protrudes upward into the chest cavity through an opening in the diaphragm. The space created makes food and stomach acids flow into the esophagus, causing heartburn and pain in the chest. Here is how to treat a hiatal hernia:
- Know the symptoms of hiatal hernias. These are heartburn, chest pain, belching, difficulty in swallowing, blocked esophagus, vomiting and nausea. Hiatal hernias may not be noticeable especially if they're small, however, larger hernias may not be easy to ignore. This may also get worse when pregnant, in certain positions such as leaning forward and lying down, or doing certain activities such as lifting heavy objects and straining,
- Don't lie down immediately after eating, and don't eat for 3 hours before sleeping. Eat smaller yet more frequent meals. Avoid overeating to prevent the stomach from swelling and rising into the chest cavity. Stay away from acidic foods and burnt foods, because these may cause the acidity of your stomach to rise. Maintain the right weight, because obesity can put strain on the abdomen and aggravate a hiatal hernia. Eat lozenges or chew on gum to increase saliva production and wash away stomach acids that have found their way into your esophagus.
- Avoid smoking because nicotine relaxes the esophageal sphincter and may cause stomach acid to rise into your throat.
- Avoid wearing tight fitting garments that put pressure on the abdomen such as corsets, waistbands, belts and tight pants and skirts.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects. If you are diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, stop lifting heavy objects and ask other people or make use of devices to help you.
- Increase the angle of your headboard to prevent stomach acid from flowing upward into the throat and protect your esophagus. Make the edge of the headboard rise about 6 and a half inches from the rest of the bed. Just make sure that the bed does not bend at the waist because this may worsen the situation.
- Practice relaxation techniques and do alternative methods such as meditation, massage, hypnosis, tai chi, acupuncture and others to alleviate the symptoms of a hiatal hernia.
- You can be treated with medications to relieve symptoms of hiatal hernias. These may be antacids, proton pump inhibitors and H2 blockers that neutralize the acidity of your stomach.
- Talk with your doctor regarding any medication you are currently taking. Certain types of drugs increase acid reflux and cause your symptoms to become worse.
- Have surgery. If other methods do not succeed, surgery may be done to correct a hiatal hernia. This is recommended especially if you experience grave symptoms such as difficulty in breathing or continuous bleeding. The surgery will move the stomach back into its original position or repair the gap in the diaphragm. It can also wrap the upper stomach around the esophagus to compensate for a frail lower esophageal sphincter.
Hiatal hernias can be cured in different ways, but the best way is to live a healthy lifestyle. This way, you will cure your hiatal hernia and have a healthier body as well.