A hiatal hernia is a condition in which a small part of the stomach protrudes through an opening in the diaphragm into the chest cavity. The diaphragm is the sheet of muscle that divides the chest from the abdomen.
Hiatal hernias are most common in people who are 50 or older and obese. The exact cause of hiatal hernias is still unknown, but weak supportive tissues can be a leading factor.
Other factors include pressure on the stomach and surrounding muscles, age-related changes in the diaphragm and being born with an unusually large hiatus (opening in the diaphragm).
Poor posture while sitting, lifting heavy objects, obesity, excessive smoking and too much stress in life also put you at higher risk.
A small hiatal hernia rarely causes signs or symptoms. However, a large hiatal hernia can cause symptoms like heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, fatigue, frequent belching and feeling especially full after meals.
Along with medicines, lifestyle and dietary changes as well as simple home remedies can help relieve the symptoms of a hiatal hernia. A small number of cases may require surgery.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for a hiatal hernia.
1. The Warm Water Fix
Drinking warm water first thing in the morning and then performing the following exercise is a good way to help bring down the hernia from the opening in the diaphragm.
- Just after waking up, while you are still in the bed, drink a glass of room temperature or slightly warm water. It will help relax the stomach muscles and diaphragm and put some weight in the stomach.
- Then, stand up, lift your arms straight out from your sides and bend your elbows so your hands touch your chest. This will help stretch the diaphragm and open up the hiatus.
- Next, rise up on your toes as high as possible and quickly drop down onto your heels. Do this several times in a row. This will help the weight of the water to pull the stomach down.
- Then, while standing with your arms up, take a few short and quick breaths with your mouth open for about 15 seconds. The panting will help tighten the diaphragm back up and close the hole.
Note: In the morning, avoid drinking coffee, tea, juice and cold water.
2. Self Massage
Abdominal self-massage mainly targets the uppermost portion of your abdominal cavity. It helps reduce the discomforts and symptoms of hiatal hernia. It also helps strengthen the stomach muscles.
- Lie on your back and relax.
- Put your fingers just below the breast bones (sternum) where you can find your rib cage.
- Next, apply downward pressure and slowly move towards your belly button.
- Repeat for 5 minutes.
- Do this twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Yoga can also alleviate pain and discomfort caused by a hiatal hernia.
Yoga poses like the Chair Pose help strengthen the diaphragm and stomach muscles.
- Stand with your back straight and arms perpendicular to the ground. Keep your feet about a hip’s width apart.
- Raise your arms straight above your head.
- Bend your body forward to a 45-degree angle, bringing your chest toward your thighs. Keep your arms out straight, aligned with your back, and turn your palms to face the floor.
- Gently bend your knees as if you were about to sit in a chair.
- Press your weight toward the floor and look forward. Hold the position for a few seconds, taking several deep breaths.
- Press your shoulder blades to your back, lower your tailbone toward the floor and draw in your abdomen. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and focus on your breathing.
- Straighten up slowly.
- Repeat the cycle a few times more.
Note: Avoid yoga poses that put pressure on the abdomen, such as Cobra, Bow and Bridge Pose.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an excellent remedy to reduce symptoms like heartburn and acidity due to a hiatal hernia. Though acidic in nature, apple cider vinegar produces an alkaline effect in the body.
- Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
- Sip it slowly before meals.
- Do this whenever you have heartburn or acidity.
This popular spice helps calm and soothe the stomach. It can relieve abdominal pain and bloating, especially after eating a meal. It also works as a natural antacid.
- Add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a cup of hot water.
- Cover and steep for a few minutes.
- Drink this tea while it is still warm, 2 or 3 times a day.
In addition, include cinnamon in your cooking.
Chamomile, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, is a natural remedy for hiatal hernias. It can soothe an aching stomach, treat heartburn and relax the muscles in the digestive tract.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile in a cup of hot water.
- Cover and steep for 5 minutes.
- Strain and add honey, according to your taste.
- Slowly sip a cup of chamomile tea up to 4 times a day, especially between meals.
7. Baking Soda
Baking soda is a natural antacid. It can provide quick relief from heartburn, the most common symptom of hiatal hernias.
- Mix ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water.
- Drink it immediately.
- Repeat as needed, but avoid drinking this solution in excess.
Note: Avoid this remedy if you have high blood pressure.
8. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is one of the best natural treatments for digestive problems caused by a hiatal hernia. It soothes the inner lining of the intestines and reduces abdomen pain. It also controls heartburn by reducing inflammation.
Drink ¼ cup of aloe vera juice about 20 minutes before eating a meal.
Note: Do not use more than 2 tablespoons of aloe vera gel to make the juice. It may cause diarrhea.
9. Slippery Elm
This herb is another effective remedy for a hiatal hernia. It helps reduce stomach acidity and alleviate heartburn. In addition, slippery elm has soothing and anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of powdered slippery elm bark in 1 cup of hot water.
- Let it steep for about 10 minutes.
- Drink it twice a day, especially after eating your meals.
10. Change Your Diet
When suffering from a hiatal hernia, it is important to keep a close eye on your diet. Keep two goals in mind: 1) avoid foods that trigger or worsen the symptoms, and 2) lose weight, which will lessen the pressure on your stomach.
- Avoid foods that trigger heartburn, such as chocolate, caffeine, onions, garlic, spicy foods, fried foods, citrus fruits and tomato-based foods.
- Follow a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. You can also have lean meats but avoid spicy seasonings.
- Eat healthy fats, such as olive oil and nuts, to balance your diet.
- Include whole-grain foods in your diet.
- Eat several smaller meals throughout the day rather than fewer large meals.
- Have your dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime.
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
- Limit your alcohol consumption or avoid it completely.
- Do not smoke cigarettes and avoid other tobacco products.
- Elevate the head of your bed 4 to 6 inches (about 15 centimeters) to prevent symptoms like heartburn and acidity. You can also use an acid reflux wedge pillow to reduce discomfort.
- Do not lie down or bend right after having a meal.
- After eating, take a short walk around your dining room or kitchen.
- Avoid straining during bowel movements.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing around your torso.