Hiatus hernia: self-help

hiatus hernia

If you have gastro-oesophageal reflux symptoms from a hiatus hernia, there are a number of things you can do to help.

Self-care measures to help ease heartburn include the following.

  • Eat a number of smaller meals rather than 3 larger meals each day. This will help put less pressure on your stomach.
  • Drink most fluids between meals (rather than at meal times). Try avoiding carbonated beverages.
  • Try avoiding foods and beverages that can aggravate symptoms of reflux, such as citrus fruits, spicy foods, chocolate, tomato-based foods, alcohol, and caffeine-containing drinks such as tea, coffee and cola.
  • Avoid fatty foods, as they relax the sphincter muscle in your lower oesophagus and slow down stomach emptying, which allows more time for acid to reflux into your oesophagus.
  • Try to wait a couple of hours after eating before you do any exercise.
  • Do not lie down after eating. Always wait at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down or going to bed. By then, most of your food will have passed into your small intestine and can’t flow back into your oesophagus.
  • Raise the head of your bed by about 10-20 cm if you can. The effects of gravity will help stop stomach acid from moving into your oesophagus when you’re asleep. It’s best to raise the head of the bed by inserting something (such as a piece of wood or a brick) between the floor and the bed at the head end, rather than using pillows to do this, because pillows tend to increase pressure on your abdomen.
  • Avoid bending over or stooping, especially after eating. Do not lift very heavy objects that cause you to strain. Anything that increases pressure in your abdomen can help push your hiatus hernia further through your diaphragm.
  • Try not to wear tight clothing that restricts your chest and stomach.
  • If you are taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief and are suffering from heartburn, you may need to change your medication. Certain medicines, including NSAIDs, can affect stomach acid secretion. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure.
  • Take antacid medicines if you need them. Many different brands are available from pharmacies without a prescription.
  • Give up smoking! Smoking increases stomach acid reflux.
  • If you are overweight, losing weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce the pressure on your stomach and reduce symptoms. Discuss with your doctor a safe weight loss plan that is suitable for you.

If these self-care measures are not controlling your symptoms, your doctor may recommend further treatments.

Always remember that if there is any change in your symptoms, or they get worse, you should see your doctor.

Last Reviewed: 6 November 2015
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References

1. Mild intermittent symptoms of gastro-oesophageal reflux (revised February 2011). In: eTG complete. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2015 Jul. http://online.tg.org.au/complete/ (accessed Oct 2015).
2. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). Gastroesophageal reflux (GER), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in adults (updated Sep 2013). http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/ger-and-gerd-in-adults/Pages/overview.aspx (accessed Oct 2015).
3. NHS Choices. Hiatus hernia (updated 12 Mar 2015). http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hernia-hiatus/Pages/Introduction.aspx (accessed Oct 2015).
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