Hiatal Hernia Syndrome
Do you experience heartburn, shallow breathing, trouble swallowing, reflux, chest pain, or bloating? Any of these could be a symptom of lesser known conditions called hiatal hernia and hiatal hernia syndrome. Hiatal hernias are extremely common and affect over 40% of the US population and are often found accidentally on x-ray. These conditions occur in the upper abdomen. First, let’s take a look at what a true hiatal hernia is. The diaphragm, which rests above the stomach and intestines but below the lungs, has a hole in the center called a hiatus. This hole is for the esophagus, a tube connecting the stomach to the mouth, to pass through. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the upper portion of the stomach slips up through the hiatus and bulges into a cavity where it is not meant to be.
Hiatal hernia syndrome is a functional disorder, meaning that symptoms occur but there is no measurable change in anatomy. The symptoms for this are very similar to a hiatal hernia and the same treatment leads to the same result. It is thought that the syndrome is present when there is pressure from the upper stomach into the hiatus, but no hernia occurs.
The causes for hiatal hernia and hiatal hernia syndrome are many, and it is not always clear what causes them. The most common causes include abdominal surgery, trauma to the abdomen, overeating large meals, or frequent vomiting. Any increase in abdominal pressure, pushing the stomach up and out of the abdominal cavity, is a big risk factor. Examples could include constipation, chronic coughing, straining for bowel movements, straining during exercise, or obesity.
What can I do about it?
Diagnosis of a hiatal hernia is usually done via x-ray, but through understanding symptoms and doing muscle testing through Applied Kinesiology, we can raise our suspicion for the presence of this condition. Treatment for both a hiatal hernia and hiatal hernia syndrome are the same. Avoiding the risk factors that lead to developing the disorder is step one. For example, if you find that you are constipated and having to strain with each bowel movement, we would want to increase fiber in your diet and practice mindful
breathing to reduce strain.
The primary treatment for these conditions is a physical manipulation technique, called a Hiatal Hernia Adjustment. At Heart Spring Health, Dr. Conway performs the Hiatal Hernia Adjustment on many of his patients, which essentially involves pulling the stomach back down through the hiatus and into normal position. This simple yet effective treatment only takes a few minutes and can provide great relief. In addition to this technique, there are also several at-home recommendations that are provided to continue to reduce the hernia and orient the organs in their correct positions.
Dr. Conway’s approach to patient care begins with talking about the gut. The quality and variety of food we put in our bodies is directly connected to the quality of our health. He enjoys supporting patients with a variety of complaints including gas, bloating, abdominal pain, food sensitivities/intolerances, weight fluctuations, and more. Dr. Conway, a naturopathic doctor in Portland, earned his doctorate from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. Learn more about Dr. Andrew Conway.