More often than not, the diagnosis of a hiatal hernia comes as a surprise. In fact, many people only discover they have a hiatal hernia when their doctor tests them for GERD. Unfortunately, the two conditions are very often tied to each other, with over 90% of patients with GERD also having hiatal hernias.
If you’re one of those people who has been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, as well as GERD, the good news is that, depending on the size of the hernia, you may not even experience any symptoms from it. If you are experiencing symptoms as a result of your hernia and/or your GERD, an improvement in your lifestyle habits can go a long way towards alleviating these symptoms and making your condition a bit more manageable. It’s important to remember, though, that surgery is the only way to fully correct either condition.
Here are some lifestyle tips on how to treat a hiatal hernia.
Shed Some Weight
One of the most common causes of a hiatal hernia is being overweight. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach bulges up above the diaphragm into the chest cavity. Being overweight can certainly cause a shift in organs and cause the upward movement of the stomach into the diaphragm, resulting in a hiatal hernia.
Improve your Posture
Turns out, your mother (or grandmother) was right when she told you to sit/stand up straight. Being hunched over can definitely affect your overall health and impact your back muscles, spine, neck, and shoulders, but it can also hurt your stomach. Sitting hunched over for long periods of time is especially damaging to your stomach and can cause your stomach to push itself up, causing or worsening a hiatal hernia.
Most people who suffer from GERD know that smoking will only exacerbate their symptoms. Smoking worsens acid reflux and causes more regurgitation and heartburn. Smoking also causes further damage to an already weakened LES, as well as a chronic cough, which can aggravate a hiatal hernia
Eat Foods Rich In Fiber
Eating lots of fiber can help improve your bowel movements and keep your stool soft. This is important to do as any straining can cause or intensify a hiatal hernia.
Avoid Acidic Foods
If you have a hiatal hernia and also suffer from GERD, it’s probably a good idea to avoid acidic foods or drinks with caffeine anyway, as they can exacerbate your acid reflux and give you unpleasant symptoms. And, worsened symptoms of GERD also bring damage to your hiatal hernia.
Avoid Heavy Lifting
Excessive straining and/or heavy lifting (beyond what our body can easily manage) is often the cause of many hernias. Although this is often not the main cause of hiatal hernias, it can make you more susceptible to a hiatal hernia if you already suffer from GERD, or it can aggravate your existing hiatal hernia.
Hiatal hernias may be easy to ignore if they are small and asymptomatic, but that does not mean that they should be. Hiatal hernias can grow to become very uncomfortable and painful, and may affect your ability to swallow, eat, sit, or walk comfortably. If you have a hiatal hernia, book an appointment to speak to one of our doctors about how to manage it and how to prevent it from worsening.