By Jeff Foster

A Hiatal Hernia, also known as a diaphragmatic hernia, occurs at the opening of the diaphragm where the esophagus connects to the stomach. The esophagus is also referred to as the food pipe since it is responsible for carrying the food from the mouth directly into the stomach.

A hernia occurs anytime when one body part pushes its way into another body area where anatomically that body part does not belong. The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscular wall which separates the chest cavity from the abdomen and is greatly used in the mechanics of normal breathing. There is a small opening in the diaphragm known as the hiatus. With a hiatal hernia the stomach bulges up and into the chest through the opening known as the hiatus.

Although the exact cause of a hiatal hernia is unknown, it is thought that these hernias occur as a result of a weakening in the supportive and surrounding tissues. Other contributing factors may include obesity, smoking and advancing age.


Although fairly common, especially in those over 50, the majority of hiatal hernias are small and of no consequence. Many are only discovered through tests when your physician is actually looking for something else, such as evidence of acid reflux disease. However, large hiatal hernias can certainly cause their fair share of problems, including allowing food and stomach acids to back up into the esophagus causing heartburn.

Symptoms of hiatal hernia include heartburn, chest pain, burping, and difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). These symptoms occur not as a direct result of the hiatal hernia itself but as a result of what the hernia allowsthe backflow of food and stomach acid into the esophagus. Many people report an increase in symptoms when lifting heavy objects, lying down, leaning forward or straining.

Even if you have been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, unless you have symptoms then you generally will not require any treatment.

However if you have been diagnosed with a hiatal hernia and are experiencing symptoms then it is important work closely youre your healthcare provider in order to determine the best treatment plan for your symptoms.

Lifestyle modifications such as weight loss, if you are over weight, reducing stress, sitting up after eating, avoiding tight fitting close and limiting fatty foods may be enough to give you complete relief from the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. Other treatment options include medications such as antacids, histamine blockers and proton pump inhibitors, and surgical repair if the hiatal hernia is large enough.

Relief can be found from a symptomatic hiatal hernia. Just ask the questions and you will find the answers just for you.

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