Q&A: Hiatal Hernia

Question: Hello! I have heard about you through [a friend] and I’m hoping you can give me a little light at the end of my tunnel! I have been pregnant 4 times, and shortly after the birth of my 3rd child I suffered from unexplained (“post partum”) anxiety, which lead me to have irritable bowel symptoms (diarrhea), and GERD. Now, 3 years later, I have tried acid reflux medicines, but they never seemed to get rid of the “stuck burp” feeling I had, and they kept the diarrhea going, so I lost weight due to the diarrhea, IBS, and anxiety. I’ve been on probiotics and digestive enzymes for almost 2 years, but I still burp frequently and now have a sore spot (seems to be on my esophagus) when I burp. And, the reflux is bad at night even though I have the head of my bed propped. I don’t think anything else is wrong with me, but I just can’t figure out why I have such bad GERD. I’m skinny & eat really healthy foods. Please help . . . I’m thinking I have a hiatal hernia that developed after multiple pregnancies that no one has addressed and that’s why I’m still suffering. I’m so scared this GERD is really damaging my body, please help me gain control and relief of this. I don’t like going to the doctors for it because they just tell me to take PPI’s (which give me diarrhea), so I’ve just been taking enzymes. I have noticed that the gas in my tummy doesn’t occur if I don’t eat fats/animal products, but the GERD (frequent burping and stuck burps) still occurs. What happened?? Am I suddenly allergic to dairy, fat, and animal products???? Please help. Thank you!! Answer: You are probably correct in assuming that your pregnancies have resulted in your stomach being pushed into the diaphragm (a “hiatal hernia”), in part from the physical pressure exerted by the babies, but also because there is a good chance your minerals are depleted, which results in poor muscle tone. The “open” diaphragm allows stomach acids to migrate into the esophagus, which can erode that tissue since it is not designed to tolerate it, as the stomach is. Reducing the acid doesn’t help in the long run, since it prevents you from digesting any proteins you consume, which will lead to increased (destructive) acidity in the rest of the digestive tract, (which can cause irritable bowel symptoms) as well as starving your muscle tissue for nutrients, thus allowing the problem to perpetuate itself. Enzymes replace what your body should be producing on its own, creating a dependency, and leading to the same damage to the esophagus if they can migrate out of the stomach. “Allergies” are simply the body’s inability to break down any given protein, whether you swallow, touch, or inhale it. After enough undigested proteins get into the system, it starts treating everything as an antigen!

Using the Dandelion flower essence massage oil helps to release tension in the solar plexus, which may help it to drop back into position with downward pressure while blowing out; it is hard to completely correct it yourself because it is painful! Addressing the tendency to hold in emotional tension can be helped with breathing exercises and learning to “express” emotion rather than “stuffing” it. One of my favorite herbal combinations to rebuild stomach function is HY-A. Slippery Elm in bulk or capsules help to soothe the “burn” by coating and cooling the tissue in addition to providing an easily assimilable complete protein. Gastro Health, Papaya and Mint, and Ginger may also be helpful.

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