Hiatus hernia refer to the displacement of a portion of the stomach through the opening in the diaphragm, through which the oesophagus passes from the chest to the abdominal cavity. In this disease, a part of the upper wall of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm at the point where the gullet passes from the chest area to the abdominal area.
The disease is common in all age groups, although it occurs more often after the middle age. In infants, the disease is usually associated with abnormally short oesophagus.
The diaphragm is a large dome-shaped muscle dividing the chest from the abdominal cavity. It is the muscle concerned with breathing and it is assisted by the muscles between the ribs during exertion. It has special openings in it to allow for the passage of important blood vessels and for the food channel, the oesophagus.
Hiatus hernia is characterised by pain in certain areas like behind the breast bone, on the left chest, the base of the throat, right lower ribs and behind the right shoulder blade. The pain increases on lying down or after heavy meals and on bending forward with effort.
Other symptoms of this disease are heart-burn, especially after a meal, a feeling of fullness and bloatedness, flatulence and discomfort on swallowing. In infant, there may be vomiting which may be bloodstained.
The chief cause of the mechanical defect associated with hiatus hernia is faulty diet. The consumption of white flour, refined sugar and products made from them such as cakes, pastries, biscuits and white bread as well as preservatives and flavouring devitalise the system and weaken the muscle tone. As a consequence, the muscles become prone to decomposition and damage and ultimately leads to diseases like hiatus hernia.
Drinks like tea and coffee also effect the mucous lining of the stomach and irritate the digestive tract. These drinks, when taken with meals cause fermentation and produce gas. This increases the distension of the stomach and causes pressure against the diaphragm and the oesophageal opening, thereby increasing the risk of herniation. Other causes of hiatus hernia include overweight resulting from overeating, shallow breathing and mental tensions.