What NOT To Do When You Have Hernia?

When internal part of the body, your intestine for example, pushes /protrudes through a weakness in the abdominal muscles, you can have a condition called ‘hernia’. Though surgical treatment is the main option to cope with, some lifestyle measures can help too. If you have a hernia, there are some important checklists of what NOT to do to help prevent the problem from worsening.

First off, what actually is hernia?

Normally, your muscles are strong enough to keep organs (such as intestines) in their proper place – otherwise you can have hernia. A combination of excessive pressure and weakness of fascia (connective tissue /muscle) is the main reason of why the problem occurs.

Though it is not immediately life threatening in most cases, it will not go away without treatment. Surgery is often used to treat and prevent its serious complications. In fact, it is one of common surgical problems.

Some potential dangerous complications of hernia are as follows:

  1. It’s possible for hernia to enlarge over time, causing swelling and extra pressure on surrounding tissues. This can be quite painful.
  2. The protruding tissues may become ‘incarcerated’ or trapped in the weak spot, more difficult to be pushed back. Immediate treatment is necessary, because the blood supply to the part of the trapped intestine will get impaired. If left untreated, this can lead to tissue damage, umbilical pain, nausea, or inability to pass gas /stool.
  3. Incarcerated hernia can cut off the blood supply to the affected section of intestine. If this is completely cut off, this can cause tissue death which could be so dangerous  if not immediately treated.

There are several types of hernia. It can occur in the region of the stomach, groin, belly button, or upper thigh areas. Depending on where it occurs, it is categorized into the following types:

*Image credit to Medscape

Inguinal hernia

It occurs when fatty tissue, a section of the intestine for example, pokes through a weak site of the abdominal wall fascia around the groin, at the top of the inner thigh. It is relatively more common in men, and more likely to occur with age. It’s the most common type of hernia!

Femoral hernia

As the name suggests, it is a kind of hernia that pokes through the wall of femoral canal. It’s more likely to affect more women than men.

Umbilical hernia

It is a condition in which fatty tissue protrudes through abdomen close to the belly button. It tends to affect babies, especially when the umbilical opening in their abdominal muscles seal improperly after birth. The good news, it is usually harmless – it will heal naturally by age 1 or 2, though sometimes it may take longer to close. If it doesn’t improve by age 4, surgical repair may be required.

Epigastric hernia

It is a hernia that occurs when fatty tissues push through a weak spot of the abdominal wall, typically between the belly button and the lower section of the sternum (breastbone). Though it is usually not large, you could get more than one at a time!

What else?

Other types of hernia include:

  1. Hiatus hernia, where part of the stomach pokes into the chest by squeezing through the weak sheet of muscle in the diaphragm.
  2. Spigelian hernia, where part of the bowel (large intestine or/and rectum) pushes through the belly at the side of the belly muscle, below the belly button.
  3. Muscle hernia, as the name implies it occurs when part of a muscle pushes through the abdominal wall fascia. Sometimes a sport injury can cause this hernia in the leg muscles.
  4. Incisional hernia, when fatty tissues protrude through a surgical wound in the abdominal area that hasn’t properly healed.

So, what NOT to do when you have hernia?

Since there is a chance for the problem to turn into serious, it’s much better to see a doctor without delay if you notice some of the following symptoms:

  1. Sudden, unusual severe pain.
  2. Vomiting that doesn’t improve with lifestyle measures.
  3. Difficulty to pass wind (gas) or stools (persistent, severe constipation).
  4. The bulge of hernia becomes tender /firm – or more difficult to be pushed back in.

Your doctor may refer you to hospital for surgery. The problem should not turn into serious with prompt treatment.

There are also a number of ‘what NOT to do’ checklists to help prevent the problem from worsening, these include:

What foods to avoid and what to eat?

When it comes to diet for hernia, there is actually no specific foods you need to avoid. Just make sure that your diet meets to your daily intake of calories to maintain your healthy weight, because overweight or obesity may contribute to weaken the strength of your abdominal muscles.

In fact people with healthy weight are less likely to develop hernia. Being overweight means there are more excess fatty tissue accumulated around your intestine. This can cause more pressure on your tummy muscles, making your hernia worse. And if you need to take a surgery to treat the problem, your overweight can make it harder.

It’s also worth a try to watch on your dietary fiber intake. High-fiber foods (veggies, fruits, and whole grains for examples) can help relieve your constipation. On the other hand low-fiber diet can worsen your straining during bowel movement, which is bad for your hernia prognosis. Here are some constipating foods to limit: