Hiatus hernias, although sometimes asymptomatic, can often give rise to a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including acid reflux. Here our Digestive expert Ali Cullen explains why some of your symptoms might be cropping up and how some home, herbal and conventional remedies could be the answer.
Alison Cullen Nutritional Practitioner, BA (Hons), DN, DNT (Distinction) @AVogelUK Ask Ali
An introduction to hiatus hernia as a cause of acid reflux
A hiatus hernia is where a small section of the stomach squeezes through an opening (‘hiatus’) in the diaphragm. This results in a smaller pouch of stomach which is more likely to give rise to problems such as heartburn or acid reflux.
Although it is not always clear exactly what causes a hiatus hernia in the first place, a change of pressure in the abdomen is often thought to be a contributing factor. Treating the hiatus hernia itself may be a good place to start to help keep associated symptoms, such as acid reflux, under control.
Why does hiatus hernia cause acid reflux?
Hiatus hernia is where a small section of the stomach squeezes through an opening (‘hiatus’) in the diaphragm – a large, thin sheet of muscle that separates our chest from our abdomen. This results in a smaller section of stomach which sits higher up in the chest, instead of lower down in the abdomen where it should be.
Although hiatus hernias may not necessarily always give rise to any symptoms, they are often associated with indigestion and acid reflux. The hiatus hernia can cause a change of pressure in the stomach, and in some cases, can affect the functioning of the lower oesophageal sphincter as a result of this. This is a ring of muscle responsible for separating the contents of the stomach from the oesophagus – and if it doesn’t work properly, the oesophagus can become subject to damage as the acidic contents of the stomach aren’t contained. This can cause pain and discomfort as a result.
What can I try at home for hiatus hernia?
There are some steps at home which can help to keep the symptoms associated with hiatus hernia under control:
Rethink your eating habits. Essentially a section of your stomach is restricted and in an awkward position so you need to think about eating more consciously. Don’t eat too quickly as this could result in you feeling very bloated and full much quicker than usual. It’s also important to chew your food properly so that the digestion processes in the next stop – the stomach – can work as efficiently as possible. Finally, ensure you sit up straight at meal times – if you eat hunched over you risk crushing your stomach further so show off some good posture in order to give your stomach some extra room
Manage your weight. Try to avoid carrying any extra body weight – obviously being pregnant is the exception, but if you are overweight or obese, you could be putting extra pressure on your stomach, quite literally. Losing weight could help alleviate some of those symptoms
There are some natural remedies which can help to manage hiatus hernias and their associated symptoms:
Bitter herbs.Bitter herb complexes such as Digestisan can help support the secretions and functions of your stomach and help relieve uncomfortable symptoms associated with hiatus hernia such as indigestion and acid reflux
Silicol gel.Silicol gel contains silicic acid which can help soothe some of the symptoms of hiatus hernia including acid reflux, heartburn, nausea and discomfort.
How can my doctor help?
A doctor won’t necessarily treat hiatus hernia if there are no noticeable problems. If acid reflux is an issue they may prescribe anti-acid medication to treat this as a symptom of the hernia.
Want to improve your digestion? Get involved as our Digestion Advisor Ali Cullen takes you through her 5 step plan to improve your digestion and get problem symptoms, from bloating to acid reflux, under control.