This section contains answers to frequently asked questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.
There are certain foods and drinks that can make your symptoms worse. These include spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine.
Making changes to your lifestyle can help control the symptoms of acid reflux caused by a hiatus hernia. Some food and drink can increase the amount of acid in your stomach or relax the muscle at the bottom of the oesophagus and make heartburn worse. These include:
You might find it helpful to keep a food diary so that you can start to recognise which foods make your symptoms worse. When you know what these are, you can stop eating them or have less of them.
You can take a number of different types of medicine that should help you feel better. They work by either neutralising stomach acid or reducing the amount of acid produced in your stomach, and by protecting your stomach and oesophagus.
Antacids work by counteracting or neutralising the acid in your stomach. Some antacids also cover the surface of your oesophagus and stomach which forms a protective barrier against acid.
You won’t need a prescription for these medicines– you can buy them from a pharmacy or supermarket. They are available in tablet or liquid form. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
How well antacids work varies from person to person. If you find they don’t relieve your symptoms, your GP or pharmacist may recommend a different medicine.
Proton pump inhibitors (for example, omeprazole, lansoprazole and pantoprazole) reduce the amount of acid being produced. Histamine blockers, sometimes called H2-receptor blockers (for example, ranitidine and cimetidine), also reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces, although they don’t work as well as proton pump inhibitors. You won’t need a prescription to buy H2-receptor blockers but you will need one for proton pump inhibitors.
Always ask your GP for advice and read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine.
As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with having surgery for a hiatus hernia. These are specific to you and differ for every person but may include feeling full and uncomfortable especially after eating and difficulty swallowing. Ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.
Complications are when problems occur during or after the operation. Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure.
Complications and side-effects following surgery for a hiatus hernia are rare. The main ones are listed below.
Sometimes the benefits of the operation don’t last and it may need to be done again. If your symptoms come back after your operation, talk to your surgeon.
If you’re overweight or obese, you’re more likely to get heartburn and indigestion. You’re also more likely to develop a hiatus hernia.
The exact reasons why being overweight causes heartburn aren’t known. However, being overweight or obese can increase the pressure inside your abdomen (tummy) which may have an effect. Being very overweight may also affect how well the opening from your stomach to your oesophagus (the pipe that goes from your stomach to your mouth) works. Whatever the cause, acid from your stomach can flow backwards into your oesophagus. This is called acid reflux and is what causes heartburn.
Heartburn is a common symptom of a hiatus hernia. Other symptoms include finding it difficult or painful to swallow, feeling sick or being sick and a cough or wheezing when breathing at night. Speak to your GP if you have any of these symptoms or think you might have a hiatus hernia.
Exercising and eating healthily can help you to lose excess weight and reduce your symptoms. Try to do 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes of more. You can do this by carrying out 30 minutes on at least five days each week.
Reviewed by Sarah Smith, Bupa Health Information Team, October 2013.
For our main content on this topic, see Information.
For sources and links to further information, see Resources.
This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.
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