Dietary changes can often treat the symptoms of a hiatal hernia, but won’t make the hernia go away. Avoid large or heavy meals, don’t lie down or bend over after a meal, and keep your body weight in a healthy range.
Certain exercises may help strengthen the muscles around the hernia site, which may reduce some symptoms. However, exercises done improperly can increase pressure at that area and may actually cause the hernia to bulge more. It’s best to discuss what exercises to do and not do with your doctor or physical therapist.
If these changes don’t eliminate your discomfort, you may need surgery to correct the hernia. You can also improve symptoms by avoiding foods that cause acid reflux or heartburn, such as spicy foods and tomato-based foods. Additionally, you can avoid acid reflux by losing weight and giving up cigarettes.
If you have a hiatal hernia, over-the-counter and prescription medications that reduce stomach acid can relieve your discomfort and improve symptoms. These include antacids, H-2 receptor blockers, and proton pump inhibitors.
If your hernia is growing larger or causing pain, your doctor may decide it’s best to operate. Your doctor may repair your hernia by sewing the hole in the abdominal wall closed during surgery. This is most commonly done by patching the hole with surgical mesh.
Hernias can be repaired with either open or laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic surgery uses a tiny camera and miniaturized surgical equipment to repair the hernia using only a few small incisions. Laparoscopic surgery is less damaging to the surrounding tissue.
Open surgery requires a longer recovery process. You may be unable to move around normally for up to six weeks. Laparoscopic surgery has a much shorter recovery time, but the risk of your hernia reoccurring is higher.