The Hiatal Hernia Syndrome and Gluten Connection
*** this article was take from www.glutenfreeandmore.com written by Dr Vikki Peterson
There is an interesting syndrome that is afflicting millions of individuals across the planet. Its symptoms include:
- Acid reflux or GERD
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Panic attacks or anxiety Bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Insomnia, and more
In total, there are about 20 different symptoms.
We call it Hiatal Hernia Syndrome because of the group of symptoms that tend to occur together. A hiatal hernia is when your stomach pushes up above your diaphragm.
There are several varieties of hiatal hernia and the main symptom associated with it is acid reflux because the stomach is squeezed or spasmed to such a degree that stomach acid moves up your esophagus. This can create the classic heartburn or gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD or acid reflux), but reflux can also be “silent” because it moves slowly up the esophagus, creating inflammation.
The patients with the silent reflux can notice a tightness in their chest, hoarseness of their voice, some trouble swallowing, etc.
What’s counterintuitive about the patients suffering from a constellation of symptoms is that their hiatal hernia is typically small or even undiagnosed by their doctor. Small hiatal hernias are typically dismissed as “nothing” and creating little to no symptoms beyond acid reflux.
What is disturbing about this syndrome is that millions who suffer from it remain undiagnosed and therefore continue to suffer to a degree that can be devastating to their lives.
Here’s a common scenario: You suffer acid reflux and see your doctor. He/she prescribes an antacid. That seems to work for a while, and you don’t think more about it.
Over time you develop other symptoms. You feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating. Big meals can make you very uncomfortable. You feel full for a long time and suffer gas and perhaps constipation or diarrhea. You’re short of breath or you notice some heart palpitations. You may even awaken in the middle of the night with a panic attack where your heart is beating very rapidly, and you feel extremely anxious.
This prompts an ER visit where you’re told you’re “fine.” You’re not having a heart attack, your lungs are healthy, and the recommendation is that you need to handle your anxiety. You might be offered anti-anxiety medication with the assurance that there’s nothing physically wrong with you.
Yet your symptoms continue and can worsen. The shortness of breath can severely alter your activity level. The heart palpitations can start to really upset you and increase your anxiety. You go back to your doctors and specialists and continue to be assured that you’re “fine” or perhaps due to some digestive complaints of gas, bloating, or constipation, they decide to have you do a scope called an endoscopy.
The endoscopy might show a hiatal hernia (likely small), perhaps some stomach or esophagus inflammation due to the reflux, and that’s all. You are told to continue your antacid and your doctor insists that your other symptoms have absolutely nothing to do with your hiatal hernia.
You are left feeling quite hopeless about your condition, especially as it worsens.
I’ve had very active, athletic patients who had trouble just walking around their house. I’ve met formerly relaxed, calm patients who suddenly have extreme anxiety and who don’t want to live the rest of their lives on anti-anxiety medication.
Hiatal Hernia Syndrome affects all age groups, both men and women, those in shape and out of shape, overweight and not. There is not a “classic” demographic associated with this syndrome and since I hear from patients all over the world, I can safely state it’s not an “American problem” either.
What is the underlying problem?
Remember that in the vast majority of cases, this is a digestive issue. Your stomach spasms and pushes upward into your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is the sheet of muscle that separates your heart and lungs from your digestive organs.
Whether your stomach is pushing on your diaphragm or has risen slightly above it, doesn’t affect the related symptoms. You can have pressure on the diaphragm adequate to cause acid reflux and due to the inhibition of motion of your diaphragm, you can suffer shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
The stomach is located just below your ribcage on the left side and your heart is located also on the left side just above the diaphragm. The relationship between how the increased stomach pressure and poor diaphragm function affect your heart therefore becomes clear, simply by understanding anatomy.
Yet patients are told that such an association is impossible. I can confidently say after working with patients for the past 15 years who suffer with this condition, that the association is very conclusive.
What about the anxiety? Again, anatomy explains what’s happening. When you don’t get enough oxygen, due in this case from your diaphragm being unable to fully move, your nervous system goes on high alert.
You’ve heard of fight or flight. When your nervous system gets concerned about a decrease in oxygen, it manufactures stress hormones to “get your attention.” It’s a survival response to get you to address the problem. But the result is the wave of panic and anxiety, and you have no idea why you are feeling it. It’s very upsetting because you never know when it’s going to come upon you.
Where does gluten fall into this picture? As you likely know, gluten is an extremely common food sensitivity. Hiatal hernia syndrome tends to start with the stomach malfunctioning. If you’re sensitive to gluten, it can cause the spasms that we see so commonly with this syndrome.
In fact, it is a rare patient who does not have a food sensitivity and gluten is the number one food we find. It is therefore critical to identify if you have any food sensitivities, chief among them gluten.
When treating patients with this syndrome, it is also vital to normalize the function of their gut, identifying any infections or toxins that are preventing the gut and immune system from functioning optimally. If you have been suffering for a while, resetting your hormones is also needed.
Finally, there is a structural component to hiatal hernia syndrome whereby we must balance the muscles and nerves that are affected. The chronically elevated and spasmed diaphragm must be rebalanced, as well as the nerves that travel to your diaphragm, located in your neck.
As a final note, recently, gastroenterologists have been recommending surgery for this condition. If your hiatal hernia is small to medium, there is no reason to engage in this surgery. It has poor long-term results and does not get to the root of the problem. I have met few patients who were happy with the results.
The program to resolve this syndrome is a natural one, requiring no drugs or surgery. After 15 years of appreciating the almost epidemic proportions of this syndrome, I can safely say that if you do not suffer from it, there is a strong likelihood that you know someone who does. If you think you or someone close to you may be suffering with this problem, you can learn a great deal more about it in my new book, Hiatal Hernia Syndrome. It’s my sincere wish to help as many people suffering with this condition as possible since it can be so debilitating.
Do you need help with your health?
We have the tools to discover why you may be having trouble with a weakened immune system. It’s not difficult as long as you’re ready to make some dietary and lifestyle changes. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. We will hold your hand through the changes and make each step of change an easy one.
For more information, call Saratoga: (408) 542-0354 or Clearwater: (727) 339-6008
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC. CCN
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr Vikki Petersen is a public speaker, author of two books, several eBooks and creates cutting edge content for her YouTube community. Dr Vikki is committed to bringing Root Cause Medicine and its unique approach to restoring health naturally to the world.