Hiatal Hernia and Weight Loss

Hiatal hernia treatment is usually aimed to help relieve the symptoms such as acid reflux or heartburn. Some lifestyle measures can help, too. For example, maintaining healthy weight is essential to help eliminate excess pressure in the abdominal areas. But can a hiatal hernia go away with weight loss?

An array of health benefits from healthy weight

You don’t need to look far to understand why maintaining a healthy weight is so beneficial. Just pick up a magazine or turn on your TV – and you will see the message that it’s beautiful thing to have a sliming body, which is one of superficial reasons to start your weight-loss plan.

But having healthy weight is much more than ‘looking good’, because it can give you many more meaningful reasons. You will feel better, more confident, and not easy to get tired (more energy) throughout your day. Also, you will be at lower risk from many different health conditions such as back pain, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, joint diseases (arthritis), sleep problems (sleep apnea for example), some types of cancer, and many more!

If you’re already diagnosed with a condition (such as diabetes or hypertension), healthy weight plays a role to help control the disease and lessen the severity. Even a small amount of losing weight could sometimes lead to big benefits. The following are a few pieces of information what studies have shown:

  1. In women with normal height, their risk of osteoarthritis in the knees decreases by half for every 11 pounds of excessive weight they lost, according to one study. This is quite reasonable since carrying 10 pounds of extra weight is heavy enough to put about 30-60 more pounds of force on the knees every time you make a step.
  2. Losing weight, even just 10 percent of excess weight, might provide a significant improvement in people with sleep apnea (a chronic disorder in which you can suddenly stop breathing for prolonged periods when you’re sleeping).
  3. In one study, a moderate weigh loss (about 23 pounds of weight loss within 18 months) might be helpful enough to control blood sugar levels in diabetics especially for those who’re obese.
To determine whether or not you’re at healthy weight, there are usually two variables you need to look for; your body mass index (BMI) and waist size (waist circumference)!

The way of how BMI determines your healthy weight is dependent on several factors. Your height and weight are the main ones. Other factors include age, ethnic group, gender, and sometimes muscle’s density.

In general, BMI around 18.5 to 24.9 is ideal for most adults. This recommendation might be slightly different if you’re Asian. In young people and children, the calculation is also based on the gender and age. A very muscular adult – a weight trainer, heavyweight boxer, and athlete for examples – may be at healthy weight even though his BMI is categorized as obese, because he can have many muscles that are much denser than fat.

As well as measuring BMI, another important variable you need to take into account is your waist size. You’re still at high risk for many medical conditions if you have too much fat around your belly, even though you have normal BMI. Waist size greater than 37 inches (men) and 31.5 inches (women) are considered unhealthy!

Can a hiatal hernia go away with weight loss?

Your left diaphragm has a small hole called ‘hiatus’ that carries liquids and foods to the stomach from the esophagus. Normally, this hiatus fits snugly around your esophagus. But if it weakens and part of your stomach pushes upward, you can develop hiatal hernia.

Losing weight, especially if you’re obese /overweight, is one of the best ways to cope with hiatal hernias. It can help reduce your abdominal pressure, since being obese means more excess fatty tissues accumulated in the abdominal cavity (this can lead to more pressure on your tummy muscles and encourage your abdominal tissues to protrude through your hiatus).

But will a hernia go away with weight loss?
When it comes to the conclusion of whether or not weight loss will help cure the disease, the answer might be not fully known. Currently, the only known way to repair a hernia is with surgeries. Non-surgical treatments, including lifestyle measures such as weight loss, are aimed to help relieve the symptoms and prevent the disease from worsening.

Hiatal hernia usually doesn’t cause early signs and symptoms until it becomes large enough to put pressure on the surrounding tissues. Interestingly, many patients won’t need treatment. In other words, treatment is not always necessary. It’s possible to keep the symptoms off for years so treatment is not required.

Typically, you need to treat the disease if it starts causing discomforts or symptoms. For example, some of the following medications are usually used to help relieve acid reflux and heartburn:

  1. Over-the-counter antacids to help soothe and re-balance stomach acid such as Mylanta, Maalox, and Gelusil.
  2. H-2 receptor blockers, medications to help reduce the production of stomach acid. These include Zantac 75 (ranitidine), Pepcid AC (famotidine), and Tagamet HB (cimetidine).
  3. Proton-pump inhibitors, medications to block acid production and allow time for damaged tissues of esophagus to heal.

Sometimes stronger versions of the medications mentioned above might be required, this usually requires prescription.

Even if necessary, surgical treatment is required for emergency situations – for examples, if non-surgical treatments are not effective enough to treat the symptoms or if the disease has caused serious complications such as difficulty breathing and severe chest pain. The good news, there are only a small of cases that require surgery.

Though hiatal hernia usually doesn’t lead to serious problems, it’s important to prevent the disease from worsening – see also a complete list of what NOT to do with hernias in here!

If it worsens and gets larger in size, you might have some of the following complications:

  1. Reflux esophagitis, a chronic condition in which your lower esophagus becomes inflamed.
  2. Difficulty swallowing caused by narrowing or/and scarring of the lower esophagus.
  3. Sometimes the lower esophagus can bleed easily (chronic), causing anemia.
  4. There is also a chance for stomach acid to seep up into the lungs, causing chronic wheezing, cough, or even pneumonia!

A hiatal hernia is a very common condition, especially in elderly people (age 50 or older). If treatment is required, your doctor can treat the disease effectively with a well-comprehensive program.

Article sources:

  1. http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/3215.aspx?CategoryID=52&SubCategoryID=143
  2. https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/101/nutrition-basics/health-benefits-of-weight-loss.aspx
  3. https://www.ecaware.org/what-is-esophageal-cancer/risk-factors/hiatus-hernia/