Hiatal hernia is a condition in which the stomach pushes, or herniates, upward through an opening in the diaphragm into the thorax. Usually a result of a congenital abnormality or trauma, this condition is associated with gastroesophageal reflux, in which the muscles that encircles the juncture of the stomach and the esophagus fails to keep food and acid from coming back up from the stomach into the esophagus as it should. If that happens, the tissues in the esophagus become irritated, causing heartburn and, sometimes, a coughing up of bloody mucus.
Common symptoms of hiatal hernia include heartburn and belching. If stomach acid comes up into the throat, it can cause a burning sensation and great discomfort behind the breastbone.
An estimated 50 percent of people over forty years of age have hiatal hernias. However, many people are unaware of the condition. Small hernias rarely cause any real trouble. It is the larger hernias that are most often linked to reflux problems. Ulcers often accompany a hiatal hernia. The acid reflux may lead to ulceration of the esophagus. Ulcers can also occur in the duodenum (the top of the small intestine) or the stomach.
At the first sign of heartburn, drink one or two large glasses of water. This often relieves heartburn by washing the acid out of the esophagus.
Even if you are not thirsty, drink a large glass of water every three hours during the daytime.
Eat several small meals daily.
Include extra fiber in the diet.
Do not consume spicy foods, and do not take enzyme supplements that contain hydrochloric acid (HCI).
Avoid fats and fried foods. They delay digestion and prolong the stomach’s emptying time. Also avoid coffee, tea alcohol, coals, and smoking.
Avoid heavy lifting and bending. Give the stomach at least two hours to empty before lifting or other exertion. Bend from the knees, not the waist, to avoid abdominal pressure.
Do not wear clothing that is tight around the waist.
Avoid becoming constipated and straining during bowel movements.
Do not eat within three hours of bedtime. If your are regularly bothered by indigestion during the night, try raising the head of your bed six to ten inches.
Do not lie down during the day if you are bothered by heartburn. Sitting or standing helps to keep the stomach acids in the stomach.
Because heartburn causes symptoms similar to those of heart disease, see a physician if you have more than occasional bouts to rule out the possibility of heart problems.