gastro-esophageal junction

April 6, 2011

Hiatal Hernia Acid Reflux

There are several causes for acid reflux. Of the thousands of sufferers of acid reflux daily you would be surprised to discover how the causes for acid reflux in different individuals vary. Many suffer from acid reflux as result of a hiatal hernia. A hiatal hernia is an abnormality of the stomach that occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and the upper part of the stomach move above the diaphragm. The diaphragm, amongst other functions, serves as the muscle that separates the stomach from the chest. When this muscle is functioning properly, the diaphragm helps to keep stomach acids in the stomach. If you are suffering from a hiatal hernia, acid then has the space to move past the stomach into the esophagus causing acid reflux disease symptoms.

There are ultimately two types of hiatal hernias, para-esophageal and sliding:

  • In cases of para-esophageal hernias, the gastro-esophageal junction stays put but part of the stomach squeezes up into the chest finding its way next to the esophagus. This type of hernia makes home in the chest cavity. Para-esophageal hernias have been known to cause complications such as strangulation and incarceration. During incarceration, the hernia is stuck and is actively being squeezed. During strangulation there is a lack of blood supply which can lead to tissues that are involved in the strangulation dying. In order to stop the strangulation surgery must be the resort.
  • The other type of hiatal hernia is a sliding hiatal hernia. Approximately 90% of hiatal hernias are sliding hernias. A sliding hiatal hernia occurs when the gastro-esophageal junction and part of the stomach literally slides into the chest. This usually occurs as a result of weakening anchors of the diaphragm to the esophagus from increased pressure in the abdomen or longitudinal esophageal muscle contractions. Part of the stomach may only slide into the chest while swallowing or a part of the stomach may make way into the chest and permanently reside there. When you swallow, your esophagus contracts, shortens and pulls on the stomach. After swallowing, your junction falls right back into starting position.

There are no concrete known causes of hiatal hernias, however, it is speculated that hiatal hernias may be a result of a weakening in the tissues that support the area. Weakening of the tissues can be due to vomiting, pregnancy, wearing tight clothing that add pressure to the abdomen, sudden heavy lifting, tears or holes in the diaphragm, age, obesity and smoking.

Over half of hiatal hernia sufferers never complain of any symptoms. If there are any symptoms experienced, it usually simulates the discomfort that is most often associated with acid reflux such as heartburn, which can be experienced in the throat, chest, and lower abdomen, regurgitation, which is the expulsion of stomach contents from the mouth, sour or bitter taste in the mouth, hiccups, burping or coughing. Though it is a less experienced symptom there have been cases where sufferers have complained of nausea.

Try eating smaller meals, avoiding foods that are your acid reflux triggers, losing weight and drinking lots of water to lessen symptoms. If you have any other questions please feel free to visit today.

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