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Hiatal Hernia Guide

Christine Jeffries

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ask: Can smaller hiatal hernias heal?

By rodriguez8
 
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While I was in college (a couple years ago) I had a binge eating disorder which I am now in remission from. I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, though, which I assume was caused by the binge eating and the pressure of excess food on my stomach. Though I did not gain weight from the binges, I DID experience bloating, burping, and IBS from all of the food.

Now, I have the IBS portion of my disorder under control probably because I no longer binge as often (I would say it occurs now maybe every other week). But apparently the hernia never really healed because I still burp up food and gas from my stomach for hours after every meal, even if it is a very small one. I DO NOT have acid reflux, just the feeling like I need to burp. My question is, over time, will this condition go away if I can end the binge eating? Part of the problem is that the burping/bloated feeling makes me feel so miserable that it discourages me from trying to live a healthy lifestyle. I hope that one day the condition will go away!

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Diane Porter

Rodriguez, thank you so much for your detailed answer.

I would like to refer your question to one of the experts on our medical advisory board and see if they have any thoughts. Hang in there with me for a few days and please watch this link, OK? We'll see what more we can learn.

Diane

October 14, 2009 - 10:11am
rodriguez8

Hi there and thanks for your reply! In answer to some of your questions, I have never purged or used laxatives. I have never been overweight from the eating problem, I guess since I am pretty active all that binge eating just left my body. I pretty much maintain the same weight throughout my adult life. Unfortunately that also enabled me to continue binge eating. I do not smoke and hardly ever drink. I was diagnosed with the hernia through an endoscopy 4 years ago which I had due to severe diarrhea that I would get while running-- Doc said nothing was wrong with me and the only thing he found "wrong" was :a small genetic abnormality" --his words-- my hiatal hernia. Of course, that had nothing to do with the diarrhea, and at the time I had no symptoms from the hernia itself. Doc assumed the diarrhea was from the hard training. Actually that problem subsided once I began using metamucil every morning...To myself, I secretly assumed that I had caused the diarrhea problem through binge eating. Didn't tel doc (embarrassing...) But I continued binge eating occasionally. Once I began to have the chronic burping, I had another endoscopy and the doctor said there was no hernia found! I assumed to myself that I had actually caused the reflux/ sliding hernia (which doc said would come sometimes and go away at others- which is why he didn't see it) & burping through the binge eating-- though I never was able to confirm that. But here I am four years later, and the binge eating is greatly reduced, and continuing to get better, but I am left with these digestive abnormalities and a diminished appetite... I am just hoping things will go away by themselves over time as I continue to lead a binge free lifestyle.

October 13, 2009 - 4:59pm
Diane Porter

Rodriguez,

Welcome to EmpowHer! And thank you so much for your question.

Your question actually covers a lot of topics. I'm glad that you're doing better, but I'm sorry that you're still binge-eating on occasion. Do you also purge? Or did you, when you were in college, either by using laxatives or making yourself throw up after a binge? (I am guessing not, since you said you didn't gain weight, but I want to be sure.)

How was your hiatal hernia diagnosed? Did you have X-rays or an endoscopy? At the time of your diagnosis, did your doctor recommend surgery, or leaving it alone?

Do you smoke, Rodriguez, and/or are you overweight? Have you ever been pregnant? Or had a severe abdominal injury?

Do you have these symptoms regardless of what kind of food you eat? (In other words, do you have the same symptoms with something like yogurt as you do with something like citrus?)

Let me start by showing you EmpowHer's encyclopedia page on hiatal hernias. We have information on causes, risk factors, symptoms, foods to avoid, medications and more:

http://www.empowher.com/media/reference/hiatal-hernia#definition

Here is the Mayo Clinic's page on hiatal hernias. Be sure to click on the blue links down the left side that lead to information on tests, treatments and drugs:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hiatal-hernia/DS00099/DSECTION=causes

From the information that I've found, your ability to "heal" depends partially on the size of the hiatal hernia. And by "heal," it doesn't go away -- it is just that many people can manage or get rid entirely of the symptoms with some lifestyle changes and/or medicine. Here's what the Mayo says about this:

"If you don't have any signs or symptoms from a hiatal hernia — and most people don't — you probably won't need any treatment. But if you're experiencing recurrent gastroesophageal reflux, you may get relief from a few simple changes in your lifestyle. If you're overweight, losing weight alone may relieve your symptoms."

And

"A few people with a hiatal hernia may need surgery. This is usually considered only when medications and lifestyle changes fail to relieve severe reflux symptoms, or if you have complications such as chronic bleeding or narrowing or obstruction of your esophagus. Large hiatal hernias may also need repair if they cause symptoms such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or chest pain.

"An operation for a hiatal hernia may involve pulling your stomach down into your abdomen and making the opening in your diaphragm smaller, reconstructing a weak esophageal sphincter, or removal of the hernia sac. In some cases, this is done using a single incision in your chest wall (thoracotomy) or abdomen (laparotomy). In other cases, your surgeon may insert instruments and a fiber-optic camera through several small incisions in your abdomen. The operation is then performed while your surgeon views the images on a video monitor (laparoscopic surgery).

"Laparoscopic surgery generally causes less pain and scarring and requires a shorter hospital stay than does thoracotomy or laparotomy. The procedure that's best for you may be determined by the kind of hernia you have and the experience of your surgeon."

Some chiropractors work with patients who have hiatal hernias. Is this something you are interested in?

This page has some nutritional and herbal advice:

http://www.moondragon.org/health/disorders/hiatalhernia.html

Has any of this helped, Rodriguez? Are you still under a doctor's care for this? Please get back with us with the answers to my questions and we'll see what else I can find out for you. In any case, the symptoms that you're suffering need to be treated. To endure them for a long time not only hurts your lifestyle motivations, it can also hurt you physically. Pain or discomfort over a long time is the sign that something needs to be fixed. Let's see what we can help you find.

October 13, 2009 - 9:05am
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