Hiatal Hernia: Causes, Signs, Natural Remedies, & Diet Plan

Written by Shaheen Naser • 
 

An unusual abdominal or chest pain, coupled with upper body bulging, may indicate a hiatal hernia. At times it is coupled with symptoms similar to acidity. Hiatal hernia treatment depends on the severity of the condition. It is often caused by excess strain and lifting weight. Read on to know more about hiatal hernia, its symptoms, and management.

What Is A Hiatal Hernia?

A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of your stomach bulges through the large muscle that is separating your abdomen and chest. This muscle is commonly referred to as the diaphragm.

The diaphragm has a small opening called hiatus through which the food tube (esophagus) passes prior to connecting with the stomach. In an individual affected by a hiatal hernia, the stomach ends up being pushed up through this hiatus. A hiatal hernia is known to cause pain in the chest/abdomen due to its location.

A small hiatal hernia is hardly of any concern as it doesn’t cause many problems. In fact, you may not even realize that you have one until your doctor discovers it by chance while diagnosing another condition. However, if the hiatal hernia is large, it may cause food and acid to enter your esophagus, leading to heartburn.

Hiatal hernias can be categorized into two types.

Types Of Hiatal Hernia

The two types of hiatal hernias include:

  • Sliding Hiatal Hernia: The stomach, along with a section of the esophagus joining the stomach, slide up into the chest via the hiatus. This is one of the most common types of hernia.
  • Paraesophageal Hernia: While this is less common, it is a greater cause for concern. In this type, the esophagus and stomach continue to stay in the normal locations. However, a part of the stomach squeezes into the hiatus and lands next to the esophagus. This type of hiatal hernia may occur without any symptoms in some people. But there is an increased risk of the stomach getting strangled, and its blood supply getting cut off.

Listed below are the signs and symptoms that may surface with this condition.

Signs And Symptoms

The common signs and symptoms associated with a hiatal hernia are:

  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation of consumed food or liquids
  • Acid reflux – backflow of the stomach acid into the esophagus
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Abdominal/chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Puking blood
  • Passing black or blood-stained stools

All these symptoms are most often associated with a large hiatal hernia.

While the exact cause of a hiatal hernia is yet to be determined, the following factors may have a role to play.

Causes And Risk Factors

Weakened muscle tissues that allow your stomach to bulge through the diaphragm could be the main cause of a hiatal hernia. The condition is believed to be triggered by the following factors:

  • Age-related changes to your diaphragm
  • Injury following trauma or surgery
  • Congenital condition – you are born with an unusually large hiatus
  • Persistent and intense pressure on the surrounding muscles due to coughing, vomiting, straining during a bowel movement, exercising, or lifting heavy objects/weights

A few factors may also increase your risk of developing a hiatal hernia. They are:

  • Advancing age
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Weightlifting
  • Straining

If you can relate to the symptoms mentioned here and doubt that you may have developed a hiatal hernia, visit a doctor immediately. They may suggest the following to diagnose a hiatal hernia.

How Is A Hiatal Hernia Diagnosed?

Most often than not, a hiatal hernia is diagnosed during a test/procedure carried out to determine the cause of heartburn. Such tests may include:

  • An X-ray of the upper digestive system
  • Upper endoscopy
  • Esophageal manometry that measures the rhythmic muscle contractions in your esophagus while swallowing

A hiatal hernia can also be diagnosed with a specialized X-ray that uses barium swallow.

If the tests indicate that you have a hiatal hernia, you need to opt for treatment to treat it. Treatment for a hiatal hernia is mainly aimed at relieving its symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be needed if the hernia is at risk of getting strangulated.

Certain natural remedies may also help in managing the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. They are listed below.

Natural Remedies To Manage The Symptoms Of A Hiatal Hernia

1. Massage

Massage for treating hiatal hernia naturally
Image: Shutterstock

Self-massage can also help relieve the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. For this, you should begin by relaxing and lying on your back. Place your fingers right below your breastbone, where you can feel your rib cage. Start applying gentle downward pressure as you slowly move towards your belly button. Repeat this five times and twice daily for best effects.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar for treating hiatal hernia naturally
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1-2 teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add one to two teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
  2. Mix well and drink up.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this once daily.

Why This Works

This remedy is especially beneficial for overweight individuals trying to lose the extra pounds (1). Additionally, The anti-inflammatory nature of apple cider vinegar may also help alleviate symptoms of inflammation within the stomach (2).

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon for treating hiatal hernia naturally
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a glass of warm water.
  2. Mix well and allow it cool down.
  3. Drink the mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

You may drink this mixture 1-2 times daily.

Why This Works

Cinnamaldehyde, one of the major components of cinnamon, can help alleviate the symptoms of gastric inflammation induced by H. Pylori (3). Hence, it may also help in managing the symptoms of acid reflux associated with a hiatal hernia.

4. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea for treating hiatal hernia naturally
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of chamomile tea leaves
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of chamomile tea leaves to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes and strain.
  4. Drink the chamomile tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this tea 2-3 times daily.

Why This Works

Chamomile tea is an effective anti-inflammatory remedy that can help in managing acidity, which is one of the symptoms of hiatal hernia. It is used for numerous gastro-intestinal conditions and was observed to lower gastric acidity as effectively as a commercial antacid. However, it was more effective in inhibiting secondary hyperacidity (4).

5. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera for treating hiatal hernia naturally
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need

1 tablespoon of decolorized and purified aloe vera juice

What You Have To Do

Drink decolorized and purified aloe vera juice.

How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this once daily.

Why This Works

Aloe vera exhibits excellent anti-inflammatory properties. It can help relieve a hiatal hernia by managing its symptoms like acid reflux and GERD (5) (6).

6. Slippery Elm Tea

Slippery elm tea for treating hiatal hernia naturally
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 2 teaspoons of slippery elm powder
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add two teaspoons of slippery elm powder to a glass of hot water.
  2. Mix well and allow the tea to cool down a bit.
  3. Drink the warm mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink this once daily.

Why This Works

Slippery elm possesses gastroprotective effects that help in treating the symptoms of hiatal hernia like acid reflux and GERD (6).

7. Ginger Tea

Ginger tea for treating hiatal hernia naturally
Image: Shutterstock
You Will Need
  • 1 inch of sliced ginger
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add an inch of sliced ginger to a cup of water.
  2. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan.
  3. Simmer for few minutes and strain.
  4. Drink this tea.
How Often You Should Do This

You can drink ginger tea twice daily.

Why This Works

Ginger has been used to manage symptoms of dyspepsia, flatulence, nausea and abdominal pain that may surface with hiatal hernia. However, further studies are required to confirm the therapeutic uses of ginger for hiatal hernia symptoms (7).

While you follow these remedies, you should also remember that your diet plays an equally important role in managing a hiatal hernia. The following are some diet tips that may help in managing this condition.

Healthy Diet For A Hiatal Hernia

What To Avoid

The consumption of certain foods can increase the risk of symptoms in those affected by a large hiatal hernia. They include:

  • Fatty foods
  • Sugary foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Fried edibles
  • Peppermint tea
  • Fruit juices
  • Citrus fruits
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Red meat
  • Processed food that contains saturated fats
  • Dairy products
  • Chocolate

All these foods were noted to increase the risk of symptoms of acid reflux due to the increased production of acid inside the stomach.

What To Eat

Instead, you should try and eat more of the following foods to avoid the recurrence of the symptoms. They are:

  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Grains

It is also important that you eat small and more frequent meals to deal with a hiatal hernia successfully.

Despite treatment, there is a high risk of recurrence of hiatal hernias. Hence, you should consider following these tips to prevent the condition from resurfacing.

Prevention Tips

  • Wear loose clothing.
  • Avoid bending over or lying down for 2-3 hours after a meal – to reduce abdominal pressure and cut the risk of heartburn.
  • Take smaller bites and chew longer to facilitate smooth digestion.
  • Try and avoid eating three hours before bedtime.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Keep your bed elevated while sleeping to avoid the risk of a gastric backflow.
  • Avoid lifting heavy weights.
  • Practice monitored yoga stretching.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Try deep breathing exercises.

A hiatal hernia condition may cause unusual chest or abdominal pain. You may not even realize that you have a hernia in many cases. But people with a severe hernia may experience heartburn, breathing difficulties, and acid reflux. They may also puke blood. In addition, age-related changes to your diaphragm and injury following trauma or surgery may increase the chances of developing this problem. However, there are some natural remedies to manage hiatal hernia symptoms. Using apple cider vinegar, massages, cinnamon, chamomile tea, and aloe vera may help minimize the symptoms associated with this condition. In addition, quit smoking, wear loose clothing, and maintain a healthy weight to prevent hiatal hernia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does drinking water help hiatal hernia?

Possibly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that drinking water early in the morning may ease hiatal hernia symptoms.

Is Omeprazole good for hiatal hernia?

Possibly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, in severe cases, Omeprazole (a proton pump inhibitor) may help ease acidity caused due to hiatal hernia.

Can hiatal hernia make you tired?

Possibly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, in certain cases, you may experience tiredness, shortness of breath, or acid reflux due to a hiatal hernia.

Can hiatal hernia affect the heart?

Yes. A hiatal hernia may mimic symptoms of heart troubles and may lead to cardiac compression.

Key Takeaways

  • A small hiatal hernia is not a cause for concern, while you need to take proper treatment if you have a large hiatal hernia.
  • Heartburn, acid reflux, puking blood, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, and swallowing difficulties are some of the symptoms of a large hiatal hernia.
  • Natural remedies like self-massaging and drinking tea made of diluted apple cider vinegar, cinnamon, and chamomile may help manage these symptoms.

References

  1. Association of obesity with hiatal hernia and esophagitis.” American Journal of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  2. Anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory effects of synthetic acetic acid vinegar and Nipa vinegar on high-fat-diet-induced obese mice” Scientific Reports, US National Library Of Medicine.
  3. Anti-inflammatory effect of cinnamaldehyde in Helicobacter pylori induced gastric inflammation.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, US National Library Of Medicine.
  4. Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future” Molecular Medicine Reports, US National Library Of Medicine.
  5. Efficacy and safety of Aloe vera syrup for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease: a pilot randomized positive-controlled trial.” Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, US National Library Of Medicine.
  6. Natural Product-Derived Drugs for the Treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases” Intestinal Research, US National Library Of Medicine.
  7. Effect of ginger on gastric motility and symptoms of functional dyspepsia” World Journal Of Gastroenterology, US National Library Of Medicine.
  8. Hiatal hernia as a rare cause of cardiac complications – case based review of the literature http://www.aaem.pl/Hiatal-hernia-as-a-rare-cause-of-cardiac-complications-case-based-review-of-the-literature,133583,0,2.html
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