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Battle of the Bulge: Natural Relief for Hiatal Hernias

It often surprises people when they realize chiropractors can help adjust so much more than necks and backs! As hiatal hernias become more and more prevalent in the U.S., I am now discovering them in my chiropractic patients every day. Even when it comes to hernias, there are effective, natural ways to find relief, without medication or surgery.

What is a hiatal hernia?Dr Mike with patient with a hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia is a displacement of the stomach in which it pierces through the esophageal hiatus of the diaphragm into the chest cavity. In other words, your stomach is too high up. This condition can cause an array of symptoms including:

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach cramps
  • Neck pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hiccups

The severity of hiatal hernias is on a broad spectrum, so while one patient may present with many symptoms, others have none. In fact, one of my patients looked baffled when I completed his treatment and he said, “I have felt a gas pocket in my stomach for the past 10 years and this is the first time it has subsided.” Others will come in with what they believe to be GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Within a traditional medical model, a proton pump inhibitor, such as Nexium, would likely be prescribed. However, these drugs seldomly address the root cause of the problem and often have unfavorable side effects (especially when taken long-term). Most of my patients who have been “diagnosed” with GERD and prescribed proton pump inhibitors experience immediate symptomatic relief following a hiatal hernia chiropractic adjustment. A patient recently told me that the hiatal hernia adjustment did more for his digestion than any medication he has ever taken!

What causes hiatal hernias?

While there are a multitude of possible causes (leaky gut, improper breathing mechanics, etc.), I have noticed one physiological process that seems to be the underlying culprit for most people…the standard American diet, which is devoid of fiber, phytonutrients, and water. This lack of vital nutrition can cause hard stools and strenuous exertion with bowel movements. Excessive forceful squeezing of the abdomen will displace all the upper contents up, and downward contents down. Imagine squeezing a tube of toothpaste causing the contents to go in opposite directions of your tight fist. The answer to the hiatal hernia phenomenon can frequently be related to intra-abdominal pressures. These pressures are important to address because they can also lead to inguinal hernias, varicose veins, diverticulosis, and hemorrhoids (for the abdominal contents “down south.”)

How can I treat or prevent hernias?

Simply living in the western world and consuming a western diet puts you at risk for gastrointestinal disturbances. Cultivating an awareness about what you eat and how you feel will help relieve pain and distress with just a few changes.

Eat your veggies For preventative measures, increase your dietary fiber intake. Like mom used to say, “eat your vegetables.” Dietary fiber, which is often talked about for its benefits in the colon, appears to also have a protective mechanism for hiatal hernias. This is due to the stool softening effect of fiber. Stool softeners can work in the short-term, but why not consume fruits, vegetables, and legumes that are prepackaged full of nutrients by mother nature? Whole-food, plant-based diets are ideal, but ultimately you will be on the right track if you mightily decrease the amount of inflammatory meat/dairy products you consume and increase the amount of veggies, fruits, legumes, and mushrooms you eat.

See a chiropractor I also recommend everyone getting their abdomen checked for visceral misalignments by a trained chiropractor. When performing a visceral adjustment, the physician will simply guide the patient to inhale and exhale while applying gentle pressure to manually adjust the stomach. Hiatal hernia adjustments are often followed by symptomatic relief and can have a profound effect on digestion, as well as the rest of the body.

If you are experiencing digestive distress, it is the body’s way of alerting you to an imbalance. Before covering those symptoms with a medication, consider a conservative yet effective approach that will help you get well, and stay well, naturally!

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dr-mike-cohenDr. Mike Cohen is a chiropractic physician and certified acupuncture provider at First State Health & Wellness—Newark. He integrates chiropractic care, acupuncture and nutritional counseling for optimal pain relief and healing. First State Health & Wellness has been providing award-winning healthcare and education for over 30 years. If you’re ready to discuss conservative wellness options for you and your family, call 302.454.1200 or e-mail mcohen@firststatehealth.com to schedule a consultation.

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