What is a Hiatal Hernia?
A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach gets pushed up into the chest cavity sometimes causing painful bouts of acid reflux. The stomach is held in place by the diaphragm (a sheet of smooth muscle tissue which separates the lungs from the stomach.) There is a small hole in the center of the diaphragm which allows the esophagus to connect to the stomach pouch. This hole is called the hiatus. If the hiatus becomes enlarged it can begin to slip up along the esophagus causing the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) to loosen. When this loosening occurs, acid can splash back up into the esophagus causing it to burn which is called acid reflux, or heartburn.
There are three kinds of hiatal hernias:
•Sliding Hiatal Hernia: When the stomach is allowed to shift up and down, sideways or outward. This is the most common kind and normally has no symptoms.
•Fixed Hiatal Hernia: The stomach gets pushed into the chest and becomes stuck there. This type can cause acid reflux.
•Complicated or Serious Hiatal Hernia: Extremely uncommon, this type involves the stomach pushing deep into the chest cavity and can cause complications such as gastric strangulation.
What Causes a Hiatal (Hiatus) Hernia?
In conventional medicine the presumed causes of an enlarged hiatus or hiatal hernia are excessive strain within the abdomen due to heavy weight lifting or straining during bowel movement. For some it may be hereditary.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the cause is blocked energy.
Is a Hiatal Hernia Dangerous?
In a word, no. A herniated hiatus while painful for some people most will experience no symptoms and need to treatments. Except in complicated cases, even a painful one poses little or no danger especially when treated.
What are the Treatments for a Hiatal Hernia?
In conventional medicine the treatments for hiatal hernia are typical medications for GERD. These would include prescription PPI’s (proton pump inhibitors,) H-2 blockers or antacids. In extreme cases surgery is recommended. I would not recommend either of these treatments for several reasons. For more information on conventional meds for heartburn and GERD, please see my article on conventional meds for heartburn.
In TCM the treatment is acupuncture and specific herbal medications which not only end the acid reflux but will heal the herniated hiatus, bringing it back to its natural position.
Holistic medicine offers the quick and very effective manual manipulation of the stomach. For more information, see "Related Links" below.
To avoid acid reflux flair-ups associated with a hiatal hernia there are many simple things you can do in your daily life. Please see my articles on the causes of acid reflux for more information:
Chemical Causes of Acid Reflux
Acid Reflux – Physical Factors
Dietary Causes of Acid Reflux
*Please know that I am not a medical doctor or a health practitioner. I cannot diagnose your stomach problems nor can I guarantee a cure. I am here to share my knowledge, which applications have worked for me and to offer suggestions of where you may go physically, emotionally and spiritually for healing and self-empowerment. If you choose to explore alternative medicine, do not independently stop taking your prescribed medications. Always consult with your current doctor as well as your new practitioner when changing your medical program. Find a Naturopath near you.