Hiatal Hernia: Is There A Natural “Cheap” Cure?

There is a simple remedy for hiatal hernia and it might be just as simple as changing your diet.

UPDATED 2/13/2016

Pain is a big motivator.  And pain can come in many forms.  The pain of a severe income loss causes one to look at new budget strategies – the need to be frugal.  In my case, I have a real physical pain.  A hiatal hernia.

Any0ne who knows they have one knows what I am talking about.   The thing is that most folks don’t know they have one till it “raises it’s hand” with the telltale signs of heartburn, pressure behind the breastbone and an difficulty swallowing.  For me, it also has an ever-present feeling of fullness verging on pain at the top of the throat and behind my breastbone, often waking me up at night.

Anyway, why am I bringing up such a personal health topic here on SimpleFrugal?  The answer is simply this: if there is a simple “fix” that doesn’t cost boatloads of money and trips to the doctor or (yikes!) surgery that I think you might benefit from, too, you know I’ll share it here.

What is a hiatal hernia?

A hernia, generally speaking, is when muscles in the area become weak and allow they adjacent organ to slip through and get pinched. This pinching can cause moderate to severe pain and if too much of the organ slips through and becomes constricted (in advanced cases) serious problems can develop such as gangrene (when blood flow stops to an area, gangrene can set in).

In the case of a hiatal hernia, the hernia happens at the hiatus (or top) of the stomach where the esophagus and stomach meet.  It is here where the esophagus comes through the diaphragm, the large plunger shaped muscle that causes the lungs to expand and contract while breathing.   If the opening in the diaphragm where the esophagus comes through weakens enough for the stomach to “pooch up” through, it can be uncomfortable, to say the least.  It can also lead to more serious things later – things which I want to avoid.

Learn to live with it?

First of all, yes I did see my regular doctor about it.  Had x-rays to confirm it.  He then proceeded to tell me that there was really nothing to be done (unless it becomes constricted which can lead to gangrene as mentioned before).  Basically, I’d have to learn to live with it.  He gave me a prescription for Prilosec and other heartburn medicines and advised me to watch foods that make my heartburn worse.  Wow, that was sooooo helpful (hear the sarcasm).

In search of a “natural” cure for Hiatal hernia

Since there is no known “medical cure’ (only laparoscopic surgery if it becomes severe or life-threatening), I set out to reverse engineer how a hiatal hernia occurs and then work to reverse it!  If the diaphragm is lazy, then the cure would be to strengthen it, right?  Stands to reason.

So, I’ll be trying some exercises to firm up the diaphragm.  Now it won’t be like push-ups or other more obvious exercises.  I’ll be doing balloon blowing type exercises as well as deeper more diaphragmatic breathing while hanging.  Having stronger core muscles makes sense so I’ll be looking into how a 50ish woman who is overweight can tighten up the abs and correct lazy posture.  Wow, I should have done this looooong ago!

New lifestyle/diet

It seems that the general advice on the subject is to avoid all acid foods.  Foods like citrus and things that are spicy.   That will be a hard one for me as I love Mexican and spicy Chinese food.  Thankfully, I am not as bothered by heartburn as I am with just the full bloating feeling behind my sternum (breastbone).  I am going to eat less at each meal and cut my coffee intake to one cup (I believe in moderation unless things become unbearable).  That and I really need to lose the weight that has crept on the past 10 years.  So, I’ll make a 3 month trial of the “diet” to see if there is a difference.

So, over the coming months I’ll be exercising the diaphragm as well as experimenting with what foods bother a hernia and I’ll keep you posted.  If you don’t hear from me on this, leave a comment and I’ll get you up to date.


Update:  Just two days of my exercises (balloon blowing and hanging from a chin-up bar) have GREATLY improved the discomfort!  I also took my fingers and sort of dug under my ribcage and while pushing in and down took deep breaths.

I also stopped eating big meals after 4 PM (I always got more heart burn pain and pressure at night) and now drink a tea of Slippery Elm and Ginger in place of the coffee (which I still drink one cup).  I am already feeling a difference.


October 9, 2011 Update:  The Honest truth is that the stabbing heart burn is gone as well as the difficulty swallowing – and practically overnight!  I began to eat just fruit or smoothies for breakfast then snacked on more fruit and some veggies throughout the morning.  My lunch is my big meal of soup, sandwich, casserole whatever you might call a dinner sized meal.  and then ate more fresh veggie snacks till dinner which is a light meal/snack.

This seems to be making a huge difference as I don’t think the stretching and balloon exercises would have worked so quickly.  Besides I still feel occasional pressure in the same region that the pain used to be.  So, my conclusion is that eating my main meal at breakfast or lunch and having only a fruit snack or a smoothie for the evening meal seems to have abruptly stopped the pain of my hiatal hernia.

Since hiatal hernia is more of a nuisance that a real health threat, I will consider it “cured” since I don’t have pain.  And since the only way to confirm whether it is still there or not is to have an xray (which I am not inclined to do, thank you very much!), I will be content that though the hernia my still exist, physically, I am not concerned with having a complete cure (that of having the top of the stomach return to it’s natural position).

Try eating more fruit and veggies and lighter meals through the day.  It made the difference for me.

2.13.2016 Update: Wow, has it been so long since I first wrote this? In any case, I have had several nudges to update and it is appropriate especially since I am feeling “normal” on a consistent basis.

Since I stopped eating grains and processed sugar products, I have had no incidence of pain or bloating in over a year and before that only on occasions when I had a glass of commercially made wine. I attribute this to eating a high vegetable matter diet. I eat animal protein and moderate amounts of healthy fats, as well. So I guess if you needed to label it, I eat close to Primal/Paleo. I think it is significant that I have had no discomfort or bloating in all that time. I can drink a small glass of my daughter’s home made wine without discomfort as well.

Could it have been the grains/flours/sugars/fake fats irritating the hernia? Maybe the acid in the wine? Not sure but I don’t miss the man made foods. And I feel great otherwise as well.

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Kay - June 15, 2015

Hi Cheryl,

I was wondering how you’re doing now? And whether the exercises have helped? If so, how often do you do them and which breathing ones do you do?

I myself have started blowing up 3 new balloons every morning and hanging from a chin-up bar – while breathing normally. But I don’t think that’s sufficient to fix it.

Thanks so much. And lots of good health to you.

– K

Mark - June 22, 2015

Hi Cheryl,
I stumbled across this site and your comments and they intrigued me. I am in my middle 50s and have a hiatal hernia just like you, with similar experiences with the medical community (“You’re just going to have to live with it; here, take these drugs, these will help you”). I have tried all sorts of crackpot ideas looking for a cure, and I have to admit, I’ve actually experienced relief from my heartburn by the simple act of blowing up a balloon. Would you be able to update your post, as it has been nearly four years since your last comment? How are things going? Thanks!

    Cheryl - February 13, 2016

    Hi Mark,
    First of all sorry it took so long to reply. I have taken your suggestion and updated the article. Thanks!

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