Having a hernia – when a segment of internal body tissue pushes through a hole or parting within a muscle wall – is very common, particularly once you’re over 50. They don’t always cause problems; in fact, sometimes you only know you have a hernia when you notice a bulge in your skin.
However, a hernia in the stomach or abdomen can become very uncomfortable or painful, and surgery might be required.
One of the most common types is a hiatal or hiatus hernia, where part of the stomach pushes through a gap in the diaphragm, which can sometimes cause issues with acid reflux, heartburn, difficulty and pain swallowing, as well as excess gas and nausea.
So, what do you need to know about how to prevent a hernia? Stopping a hernia from occurring in the first place isn’t always possible – but there lots that can help prevent a hernia from causing severe problems, particularly in terms of managing any associated heartburn and acid reflux (for more on this topic, see our acid reflux information videos).
Here’s 10 things that can help:
1] Take care with bending and lifting
Anything that puts strain on the affected muscles can cause a hernia to worsen, and things like bending and lifting are common culprits. So be mindful – avoid heavy lifting and remember to bend at the knee.
2] Quit smoking
Smoking irritates the digestive system and can exacerbate symptoms and slow down healing processes. There’s lots of support out there to help you quit: your GP or pharmacist can point you in the right direction.
3] Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight – especially carrying extra weight around the middle – can effectively ‘push’ against the diaphragm, worsening your hernia and its affects. Taking steps to lose excess weight can really help.
4] Avoid tight waistbands
Similarly, tight trousers and belts can ‘push’ against the diaphragm and increase discomfort. Opt for comfortable-fitting clothes.
5] Avoid big heavy meals
Smaller, regular meals – rather than big, heavy dinners – can help relieve discomfort and reduce heartburn and acid reflux.
6] Let your food settle after eating
Sit properly upright while eating, as slouching forwards can ‘push’ up on the stomach. And don’t rush around too soon after your meals.
7] Avoid food and drink that aggravates heartburn and acid reflux
Rich, spicy and fatty foods, as well as too much coffee and alcohol, are known to make acid reflux worse, so try cutting down on these.
8] Don’t eat too close to bedtime
In addition, lying down too soon after eating can exacerbate the problem. Try to ensure your evening meal is at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
9] Prop up your bed
Elevating the top of your bed a few inches – so your head’s higher than your stomach when you’re lying down – can help stop acid rising up your oesophagus at night-time.
10] Don’t let coughs linger on
Coughing strains diaphragm muscles so can be bad news for hernias. If you do get a cough, ask your pharmacist for advice and see your doctor if it doesn’t clear up quickly.
Is a hernia or acid reflux causing you problems? Make an appointment to see how our expert team can help. Call us on 020 7183 7965 or complete the contact form below.