The literary meaning of hiatus is an opening, a gap or a space. Hiatal hernia is a common condition found most frequently in middle aged and elderly patients, though it can be found at any age. Esophageal hiatus is the most important opening in the diaphragm, through which the esophagus passes and connects the upper part of stomach.
Hiatus hernia occurs when the diaphragmatic opening of esophagus becomes weak, also the valvular junction between the stomach and esophagus become weak. This allows the upward protrusion of abdominal part of esophagus and the adjacent stomach, giving rise to reflux of gastric content into the esophagus causing heart burn.
Life style factors such as smoking, lifting heavy objects, persistent coughing for prolonged period as in chronic bronchitis, straining very hard due to constipation, obesity, stress, pregnancy are some of the predisposing causes in development of hiatal hernia. Hiatal hernia is more common in women than men. The incidence of hiatal hernia tends to increase with age, probably due to weakening of diaphragmatic muscles.
Most of the time, small hiatus hernia remains undetected and asymptomatic. A large sized hiatus hernia can cause heartburn and chest pain. Lifestyle modification, medication and natural remedies mostly alleviate the symptoms of hiatal hernia. In rare cases surgical repair may be necessary if the hernia is too large.
Symptoms Of Hiatal Hernia
Heartburn: deeply placed ‘burning’ pain beneath the breast bone brought on by bending, stopping or by the exertion of lifting or straining is characteristic symptom of hiatus hernia. It may also occur on lying down at night. It wakes the patient at night, and he feels better by sitting or by taking food. When the condition is severe, some patients may feel more comfortable to spend the night in an easy chair. No other pain of digestive system is so closely linked to change of posture as that of hiatus hernia and reflux esophagitis.
The other symptoms include belching, difficulty in swallowing, hiccups etc.
In rare cases when the hernia becomes strangulated it gives rise to severe pain. It is considered to be a medical emergency.
Diet PlanFor Hiatal Hernia
As heartburn is the most common symptom of hiatus hernia, it is good to know about diet and food that is suitable for alleviating heartburn.
Before knowing what to eat and what not to eat, few important tips about eating habits should be considered when suffering from hiatus hernia.
- Eat smaller and frequent meals. Do not over eat.
- Eat two hours before you sleep.
- Do not lie down soon after eating, instead sit for some time.
- Do not consume alcohol at night. And stop cigarette smoking.
- Lastly avoid eating food that triggers heartburn.
Avoid foods which cause acid reflux as a result of hiatal hernia such as; lemon, citric juices, French fries, too much spicy and oily food, butter, sauces, wine, caffeinated drinks, excess of tea, etc.
Foods that are safe: banana, apple, baked potato, peas and beans, cabbage, cauliflower, egg white, steak, corn bread, wheat bread, pretzels, red licorice etc.
Natural Remedies For Hiatal Hernia
- Patients should reduce the weight if obese.
- Women should avoid wearing corsets and tight garments.
- The head of the bed should be elevated on blocks and the patient should be taught to sleep in a semi upright position.
- During daytime, avoid stooping and bending from the waist.
To alleviate the symptoms of acid reflux which causes heartburn and chest pain;
- Sip slowly apple cider vinegar mixed in a glass of water while eating meals.
- Consume buttermilk and eat yogurt liberally.
- Drink a cup of calendula tea to soothe the inflamed lower end of esophagus.
- Chamomile tea is another digestive tract anti inflammatory remedy that is found effective in reducing the symptoms of hiatus hernia.