A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper portion of your stomach is able to slip up through an opening in your diaphragm. Normally this opening is just big enough to let your esophagus through and your stomach sits right underneath it. There is a sphincter muscle at the bottom of your esophagus that keeps the stomach closed off. When the stomach sticks up through the diaphragm, this purse-string muscle is distorted, so that it opens up and the acidic contents of the stomach leak into the esophagus. This is called gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD. The stomach contents have to be acidic, in order for you to be healthy. However, if this acid material burns your esophagus too often you have inflammation, pain, and eventually may develop esophageal cancer. Hiatal hernias are only one of several causes that can result in GERD.
Hiatal hernias are estimated to be present in up to 40% of the adult population. Clues a person may have GERD are feelings like “I can’t take in a full breath”, “I can’t swallow my food all the way down”, “I get a pressure radiating up into my throat and sometimes into chest or diaphragm area”, or “Pills get stuck when I try to swallow them”. It is important to know that only one symptom, like heartburn, or a few, or all, may be present. In severe cases there may be odd symptoms like heart arrhythmias, facial flushing or really startling chest or upper abdominal pain.
A technique called Manual Reduction can pull your stomach down out of the gap in the diaphragm. The technique involves reaching up under the left ribcage and hooking the stomach with you fingers, pulling down and to the side along the margin of lower ribs and then down and toward your center, essentially tracing the usual curvature of the stomach. This is a quick procedure; family members can learn to do it, and it may need to be done repeatedly, while using other treatments to help firm up that opening and otherwise keep the stomach and it’s contents where they belong. The trick is to keep the stomach from sticking up through the diaphragm out of the long enough for the tissue to tighten up so the problem won’t keep happening.
This technique is easier and more effective for younger and thinner people. It’s more difficult but not impossible for those with a long-standing condition, obesity, pregnancy, or ongoing activity that pushes abdominal contents upward. Some people can do this for themselves using a tennis ball to massage their stomach into place.
Another effective self-treatment is called the Heel Drop-
Heel Drops: First thing every morning and as needed, drink 1-2 large glasses of water. Rise up on your toes and drop heavily to your heels, You may want to hold onto a wall of a chair to steady yourself. You may need to drop 10 to even 30 times to jar your stomach down.
Other habits that will help prevent hiatal herniation of the stomach are:
- Eat smaller and perhaps more frequent meals;
- Avoid squatting and other activities that cause abdominal compression;
- Avoid tight restrictive clothing;
- Normalize weight, and;
- In cases where symptoms occur at night, elevate the torso while sleeping by putting blocks under the front legs of the bed.
Supplements that can help:
Low potency homeopathic cell salts Silica and Calc-Flour 3 to 4 pellets 3 to 4 times daily have been reputed to be helpful in tightening the esophageal hiatus