Health Issues

Condition of the month – HIATUS HERNIA AND ACID REFLUX

I’ve been seeing a lot of people in my clinic recently who have been suffering with hiatus hernia and acid reflux.  Therefore I decided to put together the following fact sheet on what may help from a holistic point of view.  I hope you find it helpful.

What is it?

A person is said to have a hiatus hernia when part of the stomach protrudes, or herniates, through the opening of the diaphragm and into the chest cavity.  While a high percentage of people over the age of 40 have this disorder, many of these people experience few, if any symptoms.  Hiatus Hernias can stop the digestive system from working properly.  The ability of the muscular rings to keep the food and acid in the stomach may be inhibited, causing acid reflux, where food and acid splash up into the oesophagus, causing heartburn, chest pain and belching.  Sometimes the acid reflux leads to angina-like chest pains and spasms; the symptoms may be so intense that they are mistaken for a heart attack.  Over a long period of time the constant irritation of the oesophagus can lead to inflammation, scaring, ulceration, haemorrhaging and even oesophageal cancer.

What causes it?

As with almost all digestive disorders, poor diet plays a large role in the unpleasant symptoms.  Anything that contributes to an overly full stomach – eating too much or eating foods that are not easily digested – encourages the stomach’s contents to back up.  In many cases food allergies make the condition worse.  Stress can trigger severe gastric upset as well.  Injury, surgery or pregnancy can lead to a hiatus hernia, as can the general weakening of muscles most people associate with aging.  Finally some people inherit a genetic tendency to this condition.

No matter what the cause, hiatus hernias respond well to diatary, herbal and stress reduction therapies.  If you have this disorder, you must have regular check-ups to monitor the health of your oesophagus.

Recommended Foods

Eat basic, unrefined foods that have not been stripped of their natural fibre.  Whole grains, raw vegetables, and raw nuts and seeds are all good choices.  Avoid overeating by planning several light meals throughout the day.

Drink plenty of water, particularly when you feel symptoms coming on.  The water will dilute and neutralise the rising stomach acids.  Cabbage juice is excellent for soothing the digestive tract.  Drink a glass every day.  Green Barley grass is a super food which helps to alkalise the body ( a body in an acidic state does not assimilate nutrients.  Deficiencies ensue, toxins are not eliminated and infective agents proliferate).  Bareley grass also has amino acids and chlorophyll that are used by your body as a natural and effective anti-inflammatory ingredient.  It can be taken in powder or capsule form.

Foods to avoid

Avoid overeating, eating on the run and stop eating before you feel full.  Do not eat just before bedtime – allow 2-3 hours for your stomach to empty.  Stay away from foods that are hard to digest – fried and greasy foods, red meat and heavy sauces.  Consider testing for food allergies and eliminate any problem foods from your diet.  Avoid caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and spicy or minty foods.  They irritate the stomach and can aggravate your symptoms.

Supplements

Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements

  • Liquorice root (DGL) chew 1-2 400mg tablets 20 minutes before each meal.  DGL is a special type of liquorice extract that soothes and heals the stomach and oesophagus.  It does not cause high blood pressure.
  • Aloe Vera – take 1-2 tablespoons 3 times daily.  Aloe Vera promotes healing and soothes the digestive tract.
  • Slippery elm – take 1 teaspoon,300mg of the capsules or 3ml of the tincture 3x daily.  This herb is used to soothe and reduce inflammation of the lining of the oesophagus and stomach.
  • Digestive enzymes – take 1-2 capsules of a full spectrum blend with each meal.  Enzymes help you to digest food more effectively so that they are less likely to cause irritation.
  • Chamomile tea is soothing to the digestive tract.  Drink 1-2 cups daily.
  • Liquid calcium is soothing to the stomach.  Take a formula containing 500mg of calcium and 250mg of magnesium 2 xs daily.  Magnesium helps to relax tightened muscles of the oesophagus and stomach.

Stress reduction

Take immediate steps to reduce the amount of stress in your life.  Conventional medicine is finally beginning to accept  that stress is linked to many diseases and conditions.  There are many ways you can do this – find ones that work for you and stick to them.  Here are some suggestions:

Make nightly meditation sessions a habit.  Breathe calmly and deeply from your abdomen and count each breath.  Give one count to each inhalation and one count to each exhalation.  When your reach 10 start again.  Don’t keep track of how many you’ve done; simply use the numbers as a means of focus.

Build regular exercise into your day, but don’t force yourself into a punishing regime – walking in green spaces is excellent for both mind and body.  Yoga is also excellent for relaxation, whilst increasing flexibility and general wellbeing.

Complimentary therapies such as reflexology and massage have been shown to have good results in promoting relaxation and combating stress.

If you are obese, your sypmtoms will greatly improve if you lose weight.

Finally stop smoking and eliminate your exposure to second-hand smoke.  Tobacco smoke is known to aggravate heartburn.

The above information contains recommendations to help you manage your condition and in no way is intended to replace any professional advice you may have been given.  Please check with your doctor, or health care professional before making any dietary or life style changes or taking any supplements.