Hiatal Hernia Causes and Nondrug, NonSurgical Treatment

by | Oct 20, 2015 | Articles, Digestive Health | 7 comments

Hiatal hernias are really common and standard medical treatments are a bummer.  I want to let you know some safe, effective and healthy ways to treat a hiatal hernia.

A Hiatal hernia is a condition where the top of stomach squeezes through the diaphragm.  Normally the the stomach is below the diaphragm.  This video does a good job showing how the hiatal hernia forms, and the narrator sounds cool!

Hiatal hernias are a big deal, not just because they can cause acid reflux,  but because if not treated properly they can lead to esophageal cancer.  So if you or a loved one is has a hiatal hernia, it’s important to know how to treat them.

There are two definitive ways to diagnose a hiatal hernia.  The first is called a barium swallow x-ray.  The second way is putting a camera down the esophagus and actually visualizing the hernia. Often, though, hiatal hernias are diagnosed by symptoms alone.

Symptoms of hiatal hernias vary from none to heartburn or abdominal discomfort.

Standard medical treatments for this hiatal hernias are a real bummer!  

The first medical treatment is to prescribe something to get rid of the acid in the stomach.  Over the counter Antacids like like Maalox, Mylanta, Tums and Alka-Seltzer or prescription drugs like Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, Nexium, Prevacid or Prilosec are examples of these acid neutralizing, or preventing, medical treatments.  The idea is that since a hiatal hernia can make it easier for the stomach acid to get out of the stomach and into the esophagus, just get rid of the acid and then the esophagus won’t get hurt.  That is true, and it’s a great treatment if you want to possibly develop all kinds really bad conditions like heart disease, fatigue, candida, irritable bowel syndrome, increased risk of cancer, poor vision, brittle nails, hair loss, hearing loss, tooth decay and a higher risk of developing gluten sensitivity. [1]  A normal person would look at that last sentence and think, “Why would anyone take anything that could lead to that many awful diseases?”  I agree!  The reason these drugs can lead to so many diseases is that when you get rid of stomach acid, you stop getting the nutrition out of foods and supplements, and you allow pathogens into the body that should be destroyed by the acid that is designed to be in the stomach.  Basically, a person taking these drugs is starving their body of needed nutrients and dropping the first line of defense against all harmful bugs.

The second medical treatment for hiatal hernias is surgery.  Obviously, if the hernia is severe enough there is no choice but surgery to fix it.  However, the vast majority of hiatal hernias are minor and should not be operated on.

See? I told you standard medical treatments are a real bummer.  Lucky for you I have had great success treating hiatal hernias with things that won’t make you come down with some other disease.

Here are some great things to do for a hiatal hernia

The first thing to do for a hiatal hernia is to get it manually treated.  In some cases it’s possible to pull the stomach down and out of the diaphragm.  This technique is something most chiropractors have been trained to do.  The treatment is safe, just a little uncomfortable and certainly should be one of the first things done for a hiatal hernia, because if it works that’s the end of it.  Sometimes the hernia comes back and the treatment can be done again to fix it if that happens.

There are a couple of practical things that are important to do with a hiatal hernia.  The first is don’t drink anything with meals.  Yup, you read that right.  What happens when you add liquid to the stomach is you dilute the stomach acid and kill good healthy digestion.  This does two bad things.  First, it adds liquid volume to the stomach. making it easier for the contents of the stomach to slosh up and into the esophagus.  Second, because the food is poorly digested it begins to rot.  Rotting food creates fumaric acid, which the stomach is not protected against.  As a result the stomach and the esophagus are damaged from drinking beverages with food.

The second thing to do with a hiatal hernia is not eat 2 hours or drink 30 minutes before going to bed.  If the stomach has stuff in it and a person with a hiatal hernia lies down the contents could leak up into the esophagus causing pain and damage.

Sometimes the manual treatment doesn’t work very well.  

For those patients several things are possible.  The first is that the patient doesn’t have a hernia, but has a bad case of acid reflux.  Often the diagnosis of a hiatal hernia is made by symptoms alone.  The symptoms for most hiatal hernias and acid reflux are exactly the same.  I wrote about acid reflux here.

In many cases of hiatal hernias the esophagus has been damaged from the stomach acid.  It’s pretty easy to tell if the esophagus has been damaged because it hurts.  For this reason I like to include nutrients that will help heal the esophagus as part of my treatment.  Nutrients like S methylmethionine, Zinc-L-Carnosine, Mastic Gum and Slippery Elm are some of the things I use to help heal the esophagus.

Sometimes an infection of Helicobacter pylori can cause symptoms like a hiatal hernia.  This infection is best diagnosed through a biopsy or stool testing.  Treatment for H. Pylori can be treated with pharmaceutical or herbal antibiotics.

I’ve had patients who were told they had a hiatal hernia and it turned out that what was causing their symptoms was a condition called SIBO (small intestinal bowel overgrowth).  I wrote all about SIBO here.

Sometimes food allergies or sensitivities can cause symptoms like a hiatal hernia.  Testing for allergies is different from sensitivities.  Allergic reactions are pretty immediate while sensitivity reactions can be delayed as much as 48 hours and can last up to 3 months.  Once the testing is done, the fix is simply to avoid the foods that are causing the harmful reactions.

Often I find that people with hiatal hernias develop two gastrointestinal conditions.  

The first is called Leaky Gut Syndrome.  I wrote all about Leaky Gut Syndrome here.  The second condition is called dysbiosis.  Simply put it means that there are a lot of bad bacteria in the colon.  Dysbiosis is diagnosed by a stool analysis.  These conditions are not caused by the hiatal hernia itself, but by the drugs prescribed to treat it.  When you turn off acid production in the stomach, these bad bugs sail right through the stomach and into the intestine where they find a home and have lots of babies.

Most patients have a combination of issues.

It’s interesting that most patients I see for hiatal hernias have a combination of the things I have written about.  I have a hunch that in some cases, one of these conditions is the cause of the hiatal hernia.  In any case, in order to get yourself feeling good, it’s important to figure out everything that’s going on and fix the whole problem.

1. Cohen, Suzy, Drug Muggers: which medications are robbing your body of essential nutrients-and natural ways to restore them, New York, Rodale, 2011, Print

Darrell Kilcup, DC, CFMP

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