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Hiatal Hernia – causes, side effects and treatments at

Thursday, April 19, 2018 by

A hiatal hernia is a condition wherein the upper part of the stomach pushes through an opening in the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. The diaphragm is the thin muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. The opening in the diaphragm is where the esophagus and stomach join. Your diaphragm helps keep acid from coming up into your esophagus.

There are two types of hiatal hernias:

  • Sliding – A part of the stomach and the gastroesophageal junction slip into the chest. Sliding hiatal hernias are common, especially in smokers, overweight people and women older than 50.
  • Paraesophageal – A fold of the stomach slips into the chest, pinched between the gastroesophageal junction and the diaphragm, but the gastroesophageal junction remains in its proper place. Paraesophageal hernias are more likely to cause severe symptoms.

Known symptoms and risk factors for hiatal hernia

When you have hiatal hernia, it’s easier for the stomach acids to come up. This condition is called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD may cause symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Belching
  • Hiccups
  • Chest pain/burning sensation in the chest
  • Heartburn
  • Coughing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, vomiting or retching (dry heaves)
  • Waterbrash, the rapid appearance of a large amount of saliva in the mouth that is stimulated by the refluxing acid

The risk of developing hiatal hernia increases with age, usually in people older than 50, as well as people who are obese and have smoking habits.

Another risk factor is repeated pressure on the muscles around your stomach. This can happen when straining your bowel movements and lifting heavy objects.

Symptoms tend to get worse after meals, and may be made worse when lying flat on your back.

Body systems harmed by hiatal hernia

In some cases of hiatal hernia, blood flow is blocked to your stomach, causing great pain and serious illness. This is called a strangulated hiatal hernia, and it is considered a medical emergency. A strangulated hiatal hernia may cause you to vomit and feel nauseated. In addition, you can’t pass gas or empty your bowels, which can cause serious problems.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent hiatal hernia

It’s recommended to avoid the following food items if you have GERD, as these may produce more acid in your stomach:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Citrus fruits
  • Tomatoes and tomato-based foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Fried foods
  • Foods high in sodium
  • Cocoa and chocolate
  • Peppermint and mint

There are also certain beverages which should be avoided, namely:

  • Alcohol, including wine and beer
  • Coffee
  • Caffeinated tea
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Whole milk

In contrast, there are many good foods that won’t produce as much acid in your stomach. Try eating:

  • Other fruits, such as apples, pears, melons, and berries
  • Green and yellow/orange vegetables, such as artichokes, carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, squash, green beans, leafy greens, and peas
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Lean protein
  • Plant-based milks, like soy or almond milk

Fermented or cultured foods that are rich in probiotics may also reduce the symptoms as they help neutralize stomach acids. Popular fermented foods include:

  • Unsweetened yogurt
  • Pickles
  • Kimchi
  • Kefir
  • Quark
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Cheese
  • Miso
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Buttermilk
  • Natto

Treatments, management plans for hiatal hernia

Hiatal hernia and GERD in general can be treated and prevented with dietary and lifestyle changes. Eating meals in small portions, as well as quitting smoking and drinking alcohol, and losing weight are some ways to avoid hiatal hernia.

For stronger symptoms, you may need to consult with your healthcare provider if you might need a surgery.

Keyhole surgery is usually used for a hiatus hernia – this involves making small cuts in the abdomen.

After surgery it usually takes:

  • 2 to 3 days to go home
  • 3 to 6 weeks to go back to work
  • 6 weeks before you can eat what you want
  • a few months to recover from side effects like bloating, burping, farting and difficulty swallowing

Where to learn more


A hiatal hernia is caused by the upper part of the stomach pushing through an opening in the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. This makes stomach acids to come up the esophagus more often, causing a condition known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Hiatal hernia usually occurs in people older than 50. Other risk factors include obesity and smoking.

Avoid foods that help produce more acids in the stomach such as citrus fruits, fried food and spicy food, and carbonated drinks.

Sources include:


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