A hiatal hernia is caused by part of the stomach moveing up into the chest through a hole in the diaphragm. Acid reflux, or heartburn, occurs when stomach acids roll up through the stomach into the esophagus. These conditions are related as heartburn is a symptom of hiatal hernia.
There are a number of body parts that are involved in a hiatal hernia in addition to the stomach. The diaphragm is a large muscle that assists with human breathing. A hiatis is a hole in the diaphragm through which the esophagus, or the tube that carries food to your stomach, runs. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach lining moves upwards through the hiatis.
When the hiatal hernia is small, the hernia does not produce any symptoms and is only discovered, if at all, accidentally during a doctor's exam. In addition to the symptom relationship between hiatal hernia and acid reflux, other symptoms can include difficulties in swallowing, chest pain, and nausea. The pain from gastric reflux or heartburn can be worse when a person is lying down.
Most treatments for hiatal hernia and acid reflux focus on neutralizing stomach acids to reduce pain. These treatments can include over-the counter antacids or over-the-counter or prescription drugs designed to reduce the amount of acid that the stomach produces. A physician may recommend drugs that strengthens the diaphrag and help block stomach acid from moving upwards into the esophagus.
There are other treatments for hiatal hernia and acid reflux in addition to taking medications. A physician may recommend eating smaller meals more frequently and avoiding foods that are spicy or can cause stomach upset, such as onions and citrus fruits. Doctors also might suggest quitting smoking, losing some weight and eating a minimum of three hours before going to sleep at night.
In some cases, surgery is required to treat hiatal hernia and acid reflux. Surgery is recommended when other treatments do not have a sufficient impact on acid reflux and other symptoms. Hiatal hernia surgery and surgery to address gastroesophageal reflux disease are often performed at the same time. Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a medical condition that is caused by acid reflux.