Lower Esophageal Sphincter

December 21, 2011

Symptoms of Hiatal Hernia; Hiatal Hernia Symptoms and Treatment Options

Whenever an internal body part gets displaced from its normal position and moves into a foreign area — that is, somewhere it does not belong — a hernia occurs. A hiatal hernia describes a condition in the stomach and part of the esophagus pushes through the hiatus, a small opening in the diaphragm.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped wall of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. The esophagus, also known as the food pipe, normally passes through the hiatus and connects to the stomach. Because the stomach can sometimes bulge through this opening, there exists the potential for a hiatal hernia.

Diaphragm Hiatal Hernia

Small hiatal hernias are typically painless, and they cause no major health problems. In fact, many people do not realize they have a hiatal hernia, until their doctor discovers the during a medical examination for something else.

Larger hiatal hernias are usually uncomfortable and problematic. They allow partially-digested food and stomach acid to back up into the esophagus, creating acid reflux and heartburn. The heartburn caused by hiatal hernias can become severe enough to cause upper abdominal pain or chest pain, which is often mistaken for heart attack pain. A proper medical diagnosis is extremely important.

What Causes Hiatal Hernia?

Hiatal hernias result from weak muscle tissue that allows the stomach to bulge through the diaphragm and into the chest. The exact cause is uncertain. Increased and prolonged abdominal pressure — caused by obesity or overweight, pregnancy, coughing, vomiting, stressful bowel movements, or heavy lifting — may contribute to the development of hernias.

Injuries to the area can also cause hiatal hernia. And some people are simply born with a large hiatal opening. Women are more likely than men to experience hiatal hernias, and the condition is more common in overweight individuals and people who have seen at least 50 years of age.

Two Types Of Hiatal Hernia

While medical experts cannot say what causes hiatal hernia, they have identified two main types: sliding hernia and para-esophageal hernia. The first type occurs in the chest, and the latter comes near the esophagus.

A sliding hernia is the more common type of hiatal hernia. It occurs when the stomach, along with part of the esophagus that joins the stomach, pushes into the chest cavity through the hiatus. The condition may or may not cause symptoms.

Sliding Hiatal Hernia

Para-esophageal hiatal hernia is far less common, but it is much more serious. While the stomach and esophagus remain in their normal positions, part of the stomach bulges through the hiatus and lands next to the esophagus. Many people with para-esophageal hernia never experience symptoms. But the condition is dangerous, because it may “strangle” the stomach and cut off the blood supply.

Para-esophageal Hiatal Hernia

Hiatal Hernia Symptoms

Small hiatal hernias typically produce no obvious signs or symptoms. Generally the sliding hernia type, these hernias are not associated with any significant health problems. On the other hand, large hernias are likely to produce noticeable symptoms. These include heartburn, belching, swallowing difficulties, and fatigue. The larger the hernia, the more noteworthy and problematic the symptoms become.

When large sliding hiatal hernias do produce symptoms, they are usually related to gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. The connection stems from the fact that hernia formation interferes with the lower esophageal sphincter, the barrier muscle that prevents stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus.

People who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease are much more likely to have hiatal hernias than those who are unaffected by GERD. This suggests that hiatal hernias somehow contribute to GERD. Nevertheless, GERD can occur without a hiatal hernia, so it is evident that other factors also contribute to the disease.

Lower Esophageal Sphincter

Hiatal Hernia And GERD

Various mechanisms in the body work to prevent acid reflux, a term for the backwards flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. One mechanism involves the lower esophageal sphincter, the band of muscle where the esophagus meets the stomach.

Most of the time, this muscle remains contracted to prevent acid reflux and regurgitation. It relaxes only to allow food to move from the mouth, through the esophagus, and into the stomach. The esophageal sphincter muscle is attached to the diaphragm at the hiatal opening. The diaphragm muscle, which wraps around the sphincter, increases the pressure to further prevent reflux.

A valve-like tissue just below the sphincter is another mechanism to prevent acid reflux. Since there is only a slight connection between the esophagus and stomach, a sharp angle exists between the two. Thin tissue, formed from the walls of the stomach and esophagus, forms a valve that closes the esophageal opening when pressure occurs in the stomach.

Two important changes take place when a hiatal hernia exists. While the lower esophageal sphincter slides up toward the chest, the diaphragm remains in position. Without the muscle overlap and necessary pressure, acid reflux is likely to occur. With the stomach and part of the esophagus pulled into the chest, the sharp angle that normally exists between the two becomes less sharp. As a result, the valve-like effect is weakened. This also promotes acid reflux.

Common GERD Symptoms

Acid reflux, the regurgitation of food or liquid, is a major symptom of hiatal hernia in people with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Some may also experience swallowing problems, a sore throat, hoarseness, a dry cough, and a lumpy sensation in the throat.

Heartburn is another common symptom of hiatal hernia and GERD. The burning sensation characteristic of heartburn sometimes spreads from the chest to the throat. It usually leaves an unpleasant, sour taste in the mouth.

Upper abdominal pain and chest pain are serious GERD symptoms. Because many people confuse it with heart attack pain, it is important to undergo tests and procedures to accurately diagnose the condition.

Diagnosing Hiatal Hernia

More often than not, hiatal hernias are discovered during a test to determine the cause of heartburn, chest pain, or upper abdominal pain. Doctors may x-ray the upper digestive tract using a chalky barium liquid. Or they may use an endoscope, or flexible tube with a light and video camera, to explore inside the digestive tract.

On both an x-ray and endoscopy, a hiatal hernia appears as a “sac” between the stomach and esophagus. Often, the sac is visible only during swallows. Additional medical tests, such as ambulatory acid probes and esophageal motility tests, are used to diagnose GERD.

Hiatal Hernia Treatment

Hiatal hernias without symptoms need no treatment. However, acid reflux and persistent heartburn will probably require medical intervention through medications or surgery.

Acid reflux and heartburn symptoms have several treatment options. Over-the-counter antacids neutralize stomach acid and provide heartburn relief. Special medications called H-2-receptor blockers reduce acid production, and proton pump inhibitors block it. They also heal damaged tissue in the esophagus. If over-the-counter products are ineffective, doctors can prescribe stronger versions.

Medications will control most hiatal hernia symptoms, but sometimes a hernia requires surgery. Medical procedures are usually reserved for emergency situations, including those where prescription drugs offer no symptom relief. Hiatal hernia repairs are often combined with surgery for gastroesophageal reflux disease.

When Is Surgery Necessary?

Constriction or strangulation can cut off the blood supply. If a hiatal hernia is in danger of this happening, surgery may be needed to reduce the hernia. This is more likely to occur with para-esophageal hernias than with sliding hernias.

Hiatal hernia operations involve pulling the stomach back into the abdomen and making the diaphragm opening smaller. Surgeons usually remove the hernia sac and reconstruct the lower esophageal sphincter. This may involve an incision in the abdomen or chest wall.

Many surgeons use laparoscopic surgery to view internal organs from inside the body. This less invasive procedure requires smaller incisions, through which the laparoscope and surgical instruments are inserted. Laparoscopy enables a faster recovery, with less pain, scarring, and risk of infection.

GERD surgery, often combined with hiatal hernia repair, reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter. Surgeons may construct a barrier to prevent the backup of stomach acid. Some surgeons perform surgery to damage the nerves and create scar tissue in the esophagus. While this procedure strengthens muscles and reduces pain, it is usually performed when other surgeries are not an option.

Recovery usually takes two to three weeks, although patients must avoid hard work and heavy lifting for several months after surgery. Despite a procedure’s success, there is no guarantee that a hiatal hernia will not return in the future.

Other Popular Treatments

Lifestyle changes, home remedies, and alternative therapies are other ways to treat symptoms. Hiatal hernia sufferers can alleviate some of their problems by eating smaller meals, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, and losing excess pounds. Avoiding trigger foods and elevating the head during sleep are two more practical solutions.

Lifestyle changes

Some alternative medicine practitioners claim to cure hiatal hernia by manipulating the stomach and pushing it back into its normal position. However, no medical evidence exists to support their claim.

Patients may turn to acupuncture, relaxation therapies, and herbal remedies to treat GERD symptoms. Studies suggest that acupuncture can help people with persistent heartburn, and relaxation techniques are known to eliminate stress and ease symptoms. Chamomile, licorice, slippery elm, and other herbal remedies are touted as effective dietary supplements.

A Final Word On Hiatal Hernia

When is it time to call the doctor for hiatal hernia problems? Severe abdominal pain or chest pain are two reasons to seek medical attention. Nausea, vomiting, an inability to pass gas, and difficulty with bowel movements are additional indicators. They are signs of possible strangulation or obstruction — an emergency situation that requires immediate medical attention.

For less serious hiatal hernia problems, over-the-counter or prescription medications can usually control the symptoms. No alternative therapy can cure hiatal hernia, and none can reverse the damage already caused to the esophagus. But some people may benefit from holistic treatments that are combined with conventional medicine. To ensure safety and prevent further medical problems, patients should talk to their doctors about complementary therapies before seeking alternative solutions. For more information on treatment for hiatal hernia symptoms be sure to visit Reflux Remedy today.

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September 22, 2011

What Is Acid Indigestion?

Acid indigestion, also known as heartburn, is a burning sensation in the chest after eating. It is caused by stomach acid coming back up, or refluxing, and reaching the esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach. Acid indigestion is a fairly common condition, affecting nearly one-third of the population occasionally, while up to 10% of adults suffer from acid indigestion daily. It is very common in pregnancy as well, with 1 in 4 pregnant women reporting daily bouts of heartburn for at least some of their pregnancy.

Symptoms of Acid Indigestion
Acid indigestion is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack because the symptoms can be somewhat similar. If you have any suspicion that you may be having a heart attack and not heartburn, it is critical that you seek medical attention immediately.

The main symptom of heartburn is a painful burning sensation in the upper abdomen and chest which can sometimes radiate into the back, jaw and throat. The burning can get much worse when bending over, lying down or after a particularly heavy meal. Pain usually starts within 30-60 minutes of eating and tends to recede gradually as food is being digested.

Causes of Acid Indigestion
Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) remains open or relaxes after eating, which allows stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Certain foods can exacerbate or cause the loosening of the LES, including peppermint, caffeinated drinks, chocolate, alcohol and foods high in fat. Foods that are spicy or acidic can irritate the lining of the esophagus and cause a worsening of your symptoms.

Putting pressure on the abdomen tends to increase the chance of acid indigestion, so it is important to avoid wearing tight clothing and be aware that coughing, bending, straining, having a hiatal hernia, being obese and being pregnant can increase symptoms of heartburn.

Certain medications can also cause trouble with acid indigestion, such as aspirin, ibuprofen and osteoporosis medication.

Treatment of Acid Indigestion
Many times, heartburn can be successfully treated by avoiding foods and activities that cause it and by taking over the counter medications such as antacids. Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime and try to stay upright for up to an hour after eating to help keep stomach acid where it belongs.

If home treatments are not offering relief, it may be time to talk to your doctor about prescription remedies to alleviate the pain and burning of heartburn. Prescription histamine-2 blockers, such as Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid and Axid, all work to reduce the amount of acid in your stomach. Reglan is a drug that helps empty food and acid more quickly and also helps to tighten the LES. The third and last type of drugs to be used are the proton pump inhibitors, which prevent the secretion of acid altogether. Common brands include Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium.

When Is Acid Indigestion Serious?
If you experience acid indigestion two or more times a week, you may be experiencing a more serious condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). GERD can be severe and can cause scarring of the esophagus. Please see your doctor if you are having repeated episodes of acid indigestion. Treatment to stop the erosion of the esophagus is important to prevent long term problems associated with GERD. Find more information on the causes and cures associated with acid reflux be sure to visit Reflux Remedy at refluxremedy.com today!

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June 15, 2011

Medication Acid Reflux Disease

Natural Heartburn RemediesHeartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not completely close, allowing stomach acid to travel up and into the esophagus. If this occurs more than twice a week, you are considered to have acid reflux disease (ARD). Fortunately, there are many things you can do to alleviate or even prevent the symptoms of acid reflux that you can incorporate into your lifestyle.


Antacids such as popular over-the-counter drugs like Maalox, Tums, Mylanta and Rolaids have been known to ease the symptoms of acid reflux. These medications neutralize your stomach acids and provide fast-acting relief in instances when acid reflux is mild or an isolated incidence. Many antacids come in liquid form and coat the lining of the esophagus. This helps to reduce the amount of acid in the stomach.


With a bit of trial and error, acid reflux sufferers can figure out their dietary triggers. Common foods that cause acid reflux are:

  • Dairy
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Citrus fruits
  • Chocolate
  • Snack foods like potato chips and corn chips
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauces
  • Ground beef, chicken nuggets and chicken wings
  • Some pasta dishes

Keep a dietary journal for a couple of weeks. See if you can figure out what foods are causing your symptoms and comprise a list of foods you should avoid. Because large meals stay in the stomach for a longer period of time, eating smaller, more frequent meals can also be beneficial.


Many sufferers find that sleeping with their head higher than their torso can alleviate night time symptoms of ARD. You can do this by either elevating the head of your bed or sleeping with several pillows under your head, neck and shoulders. Other night time tips include wearing loose fitting pajamas, sleeping on your left side and eating your last meal no later than at least two hours before you lay down for the night.

General Tips

  • Smoking can exacerbate symptoms, if you smoke, try to quit.
  • Stress can be a trigger for ARD, try to relax with deep breathing exercises.
  • People that are heavier tend to suffer with ARD more than others. If you are overweight, try shedding a few pounds.
  • Exercise can help. Not only will it help you lose weight but it will help you relax and unwind.
  • Avoid aspirin which can irritate the stomach and cause reflux.

Many people with ARD have found that with just a bit of persistence and a few lifestyle changes, they can easily manage their symptoms.

For more information visit regarding medication for acid reflux disease visit refluxremedy.com today!

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May 10, 2011

Acid Reflux Disease and Diet

Acid reflux disease is very much connected to what you eat. Food is one of the major contributors to acid reflux disease. Acid reflux disease has the ability to cause long-term harmful effects. If you have acid reflux you may be experiencing heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, nausea and hoarseness. The term ‘You are what you eat‘ couldn’t be more true when it comes to acid reflux. Your diet has a lot to do with how you feel. There are foods that are great for preventing and treating acid reflux. There are also eating habits that are known to decrease the chances of developing acid reflux disease.

Finding the Right Balance

The body needs the right balance of foods in order to perform properly. Many people think that foods that have an acidic taste are foods that cause acid reflux. This isn’t always the case. Citrus fruits have an acidic taste but are more neutral when they are digested. You need a balance of acid forming and alkaline forming foods to have good nutrition. A diet that is heavy in either acidic or alkaline foods can cause an imbalance. Too much acid forming foods in the body causes an increase in hydrogen levels. An abundance of hydrogen can increase your chances of developing acid reflux.

Types of Foods

The kind of food you eat is directly related to acid reflux disease. You should be eating a wide variety of healthy foods. Fatty foods are not good for acid reflux. The higher the fat content of the foods you eat, the more your body will need to produce stomach acid to break it down. Fat molecules are more difficult to digest and therefore cause the stomach to create more acid. If you have a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the presence of more acid can be dangerous because the acid may seep into the esophagus. You should focus on eating low fat protein, fruits and vegetables. Drinking water, aloe juice and eating ginger and papaya are great for acid reflux prevention and treatment. You should avoid alcohol, caffeine, sodas, onions and garlic.

Eating Habits and Lifestyle

Acid reflux may be triggered by a variety of foods. The food that triggers your acid reflux may not be what triggers someone else’s. To find out what is causing you to reflux you should keep a daily food journal. When you feel acid reflux, look to see what may have caused it to occur. Try to remove that item from your diet, but be sure to find an equally nutritious replacement. Your eating habits can contribute to acid reflux disease. You should avoid eating right before bed as this can cause the production of excess stomach acid at a time when you are in a laying down. This may permit stomach acid to enter the esophagus.

If you would like to find out more information about the types of food and eating habits that can help you to prevent acid reflux, review The Reflux Remedy Report today.

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