Coping With a Hiatal Hernia

Obesity and pregnancy place added pressure on the upper abdomen. During pregnancy, the LES weakens for unknown reasons. CThe esophagus carries food and liquid into the stomach. At the lower end of the esophagus where it enters the stomach, there is a muscular ring called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES should remain tightly closed, except to allow food and liquid to pass into the stomach.

Common signs of GERD include frequent heartburn, coughing, wheezing, chest pain and regurgitation – particularly at night. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm.

The LES relaxes to allow the passage of food into the stomach and then closes once food has passed thereby preventing the reflux of stomach contents. GERD is caused by a prolonged relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and delayed gastric emptying causing irritation of the esophagus by gastric acid, bile, and pepsin. FundoplicationFundoplication is a surgical procedure for treating GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The procedure is to help GERD symptoms including heartburn.

What is the role of hiatal hernia as a cause of reflux?

The advantage of the lifestyle approach is that you might avoid medical or surgical intervention altogether and be able to live with the condition without suffering the symptoms. The disadvantages are that it may not be possible to find a lifestyle that deals with the symptoms and the inconvenience caused may be intolerable.

Conditions & Treatments

Vegetables are a great choice for side dishes and snacks as most won’t aggravate a hiatal hernia. Dark leafy greens, such as broccoli and spinach, provide plenty of calcium and vitamin B, while red bell peppers and carrots are great sources of antioxidants. Other vegetables you can enjoy include kale, sweet potatoes, squash and string beans.

The potential for changes to positively impact on symptoms may be underestimated. Lifestyle advice currently appears to be ineffective.

Over-the-counter remedies may provide short-term symptom relief, but can mask an underlying disease if used long-term. Water is the best beverage choice if you have a hiatal hernia. Avoid fruit juices, coffee and caffeinated beverages because they may cause hiatal hernia symptoms to appear. Alcohol and carbonated sodas may also cause problems. Herbal teas are fine, but stay away from peppermint tea because it may cause heartburn.

The diagnosis can usually be suspected by the physician, simply by taking the medical history. Beyond that, the physician may order an x-ray examination of the esophagus and stomach. For this x-ray, the patient swallows a liquid containing barium. This makes it possible to see the reflux and a hiatal hernia on the x-ray. Endoscopy (EGD) is the most important test for patients with GERD.

Medical Advice

Three had recognized the need to relax after eating before attempting anything active. Ten reported that bending over during strenuous activities, such as housework and gardening caused problems, and two patients reported that waiting after eating did not reduce reflux. None of the patients interviewed here were very overweight, but some perceived that their symptoms improve at a lower body weight.

Experiment to see what works for you. Lean meat. High fat meals and fried foods tend to decrease lower esophageal sphincter (LES) pressure and delay stomach emptying, increasing the risk of reflux. Choose lean meats that are grilled, poached, broiled, or baked. Favor lean meats and avoid fatty meats if you have a hiatal hernia.

Write down what you’ve eaten and how it makes you feel. After a few weeks, you may be able to observe patterns and figure out which foods are causing your symptoms. Eat whole foods whenever possible. The fiber content of these foods should help with your acid reflux. Also, the less processed the food is, the better.

Diet can play an important role in controlling the symptoms of hiatal hernia, namely heartburn and acid indigestion. Most people with a hiatal hernia don’t experience any signs or symptoms and won’t need treatment. If you experience signs and symptoms, such as recurrent heartburn and acid reflux, you may need medication or surgery. Patients with GERD should also avoid food and drink that can increase reflux such as coffee, chocolate, carbonated beverages, alcohol, citrus and acidic foods, onions, mint, fatty foods, spicy foods, and garlic, says Castro. Foods such as yogurt, ginger, and aloe vera can help to soothe the stomach, says Memsic.

Fermented or cultured foods that are rich in probiotics (acid-neutralizing stomach bacteria) may also help reduce hiatal hernia symptoms. The primary symptom of a hiatal hernia is indigestion; certain foods and lifestyle habits can increase a person’s chances of experiencing uncomfortable symptoms. For starch, consider putting crackers or bread into soups or broths to soften them. Cooked cereals that don’t have nuts or seeds are gentle enough for an esophageal soft food diet. Avoid bread crusts, muffins, dinner rolls, rice, and other hard, scratchy grains that can further irritate the esophagus.

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