Do you deal with constant acid reflux? Is heartburn commonplace? Do you feel full quickly after eating? If so, these could all be signs of a condition known as a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia happens when part of the stomach pushes through the opening in the diaphragm (the hiatus), which connects to the stomach. While some people may never even know that they have a hiatal hernia, sometimes it can cause digestive issues for others. That’s when you should turn to a gastroenterologist for answers.
What causes a hiatal hernia?
Any kind of intense or increased pressure in this area of the abdomen can lead to a hiatal hernia. Pressure in this area of the digestive tract can occur as a result of,
- Heavy lifting or intense physical exertion
What are the signs and symptoms of a hiatal hernia?
You could have a hiatal hernia and not even know it. Most people don’t even realize that they have one; however, others may deal with certain digestive issues such as,
- Regurgitation of food
- Stomach discomfort
Sometimes symptoms of a hiatal hernia can be confused with gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Your gastroenterologist will be able to determine which problem is causing your symptoms and provide you with the appropriate treatment options.
Does a hiatal hernia require treatment?
If your hiatal hernia isn’t causing you any issues then you may never need to have it treated; however, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms above you’ll want to see your gastroenterologist for an evaluation. Simple lifestyle changes may be all you need to get your symptoms under control. These changes include,
- Maintaining a healthy weight (or losing weight if overweight or obese)
- Eating smaller portions
- Avoiding belts or tight pants that put pressure around the middle
- Avoiding acidic, spicy, fatty, greasy, and fried foods
- Avoiding carbonated beverages as well as caffeine and alcohol
- Not eating 3-4 hours before bedtime
- Quitting smoking
- Elevating your head while you sleep
- Not lying down immediately after eating
Taking an over-the-counter antacid can also help manage mild or occasional heartburn symptoms but should not be used regularly for more than two weeks. If you find that your symptoms persist for several weeks, it’s time to see your gastroenterologist.
A gastroenterologist is the ideal medical specialist to turn to when heartburn, regurgitation, acid reflux, and other digestive issues plague you. If a hiatal hernia is a culprit, we can help you find effective solutions to manage your symptoms.