Hiatal Hernia: Why Your Doctor Doesn’t Understand It

Traditional Medicine Doesn’t Get Hiatal Hernia: A Problem for Many

Summary of the video

Traditional medicine in this country is based on a disease model that either manages symptoms with drugs or… performs surgery. The concept of getting to the Root Cause underlying a symptom or set of symptoms and naturally treat that cause is not at all part of medical education or practice.

In this video, Dr. Vikki discusses:

  • Many patients with hiatal hernia symptoms are routinely told by doctors that their symptoms are psychological or unrelated to the hernia.
  • Emergency rooms prioritize life-threatening conditions, often overlooking the root causes of symptoms like “heart palpitations” and “shortness of breath”.
  • Patients are frequently misdiagnosed with “panic attacks” or “anxiety disorders”.
  • Hiatal hernia surgery centers have increased, but the surgeries often don’t address the root causes of the symptoms.
  • The medical community tends to specialize, leading to a fragmented understanding of interconnected symptoms.
  • It is of importance to approach health from a holistic standpoint, considering the body as an interconnected system.

Transcript of the video

Why doesn’t your doctor understand hiatal hernia? This video is #3 in a five-part series on hiatal hernia.

Our  medical model

I hear from new patients I speak with, “Why does my doctor keep telling me it’s all in my head?“. Or, “Why does my doctor keep telling me there’s no way having a hiatal hernia could create all these symptoms?” (like heart palpitations and panic attacks and shortness of breath and anxiety and insomnia). “Why don’t they get it? I keep being told that that’s impossible“.

What we have to appreciate here is that the medical model practiced in this country is very much about — as you probably experienced if you’ve done too much in conventional medicine — that there’s the General Practitioner and then there’s all the different specialists.

Let’s start with the ER trip that so many people with hiatal hernia suffer with.

EKG in ER won't diagnose hiatal hernia syndromeThey go to the ER and of course, what’s an emergency room tending to see? It’s tending to see life and death experiences. So if you go in with “I’m short of breath and my heart’s beating out of my chest“, of course the very first thing they’re going to do is check your heart, make sure you’re not having a heart attack or a stroke, etc., to save your life.

That’s their job. That’s what an emergency room is there for. And bless them for being there. They save lives all the time.

But as soon as they do the EKG and check your blood pressure, and do a number of different things, they go “Listen, your heart’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with your heart. Great news, you’re not having a heart attack“.

That might settle you down a little bit, but you still have this shortness of breath. You still have this feeling of anxiety, and so now you’re told you’re just having a panic attack. That’s all this is.

Of course you don’t know why you’re having a panic attack. You’re not somebody who tends to get panic attacks. You’re not even a panicky, anxious person per se. Some patients say, “Yeah, I’ve had anxiety in the past“, but others say, “I’m not an anxious person. I’ve never had a panic attack in my life. What’s this about?“. We’ll get into that in a moment.

Sticking with the emergency room… Here and then, you leave the emergency room with a prescription for some sort of anti-anxiety medication. It’s very important when you’re given prescriptions to look at the side effects. And with these particular drugs, those side effects should scare you.

What you really want to do is get to the root cause.

From ER to specialist

Now, maybe you’re back to the emergency room because you have terrible shortness of breath and say, “Listen, you checked my heart before you said it was fine. Maybe you missed something. Maybe there’s something wrong with my lungs. I can’t get a deep breath and I just, I’m short of breath“, etc. etc.

Now they also add your lungs to the equation, only to tell you your lungs are fine, and then maybe recheck your heart. And again, you’re told your heart is fine and you’re just having a panic attack.

So you’ve done this maybe a couple of times and you’re still miserable with a variety of symptoms, and maybe concurrently you’re having the classic acid reflux heartburn. So you decide to pursue the gastrointestinal route and see a GI doctor who sometimes will do an endoscopy. And if your hiatal hernia happens to be acting up at that moment, that would be the moment — see that you have a hiatal hernia, usually it’s small to moderate severe — when you would be having more severe symptoms.

And at that point you are told, “Yes, you have a hiatal hernia“. And then you ask the question, “Well, is that why I’ve been having these heart palpitations and panic attacks and shortness of breath, etc.?” And then you’ll be told, “No, those things are not related“.

And so you leave, scratching your head and going, “Wow, I guess I really am just anxious. I’m like, what’s wrong with me?” And then you start having introspective thoughts — which is not healthy — and analyzing why you’re suddenly this anxious person when you never were before. Kind of a mess is what it is.

So, even if you’re told the hiatal hernia is present, you’re absolutely not validated for having all these other symptoms as possibly related. And that is wrong because they are related. And I see every age group, male, female, fit individuals and couch potatoes, all across the spectrum, people suffering with this whose lives can be ruined.

They can absolutely be ruined because this syndrome, Hiatal Hernia Syndrome, prevents them from living the life they’ve always lived.

So it’s missed because doctors are trained in boxes of “I’m a heart doctor“, “I’m a lung doctor“, “I’m a gastroenterologist“, “I’m a GI doctor“… and never the twain shall meet!

It’s only in the ER that they might try to say, “Okay, you’re not dying, thank goodness“, and move on to the next patient. That’s what they’re there for.

[Interruption to answer a question on live stream about insurance not covering Hiatal Hernia Syndrome treatment].

Misdiagnosing the protective response

A scary thing I’m seeing when patients keep going back to their doctor and saying, “Listen, my heart’s beating out of my chest, you say my heart’s fine. How could it possibly be fine?” It’s a legitimate question certainly, and then they put you on a beta blocker to slow your heart rate. That’s scary. You don’t need that.

The heart rate elevation is secondary to the fact that that stomach is in spasm; it’s pushing up on the diaphragm which is impacting where the heart is located. Then the heart starts palpitating to kind of say, “Get out of my way“.

There are two reasons for the heart palpitations. One is literally that the diaphragm and stomach are getting in the way of the heart. Dr. Gupta a cardiologist from the United Kingdom stated it.

There’s also the fact that because the diaphragm is a bit spasmed, it’s not effortlessly bringing in air in and out, and it’s bringing in less… the heart will start palpitating at a more rapid rate to bring more oxygenated blood. It’s a protective response.

Ditto for the stress hormones being secreted. You get this abundance of stress hormones, it gives you this sense of kind of doom and anxiousness. And why is that?

Your nervous system is just trying to say, “I don’t know what’s going on, but pay attention”. It is like a smoke alarm going off and it’s just asking you to look around and pay attention because you’re not getting enough oxygen. And I want to speak to that.

But before I do… So it’s a protective response, you see? Because you can’t live very long without oxygen, your heart starts trying to bring more oxygenated blood and your stress hormones are trying to get you into “fight or flight” so you’ll be alert to this problem.

It’s all a secondary response: your body is trying to protect you and it’s trying to assist you. It doesn’t feel very good when you have heart palpitations and you’re anxious at the same time. It feels terrible. Sometimes you can feel like you’re dying, for goodness sakes! It is a protective mechanism of the body just to try to help and assist and get your attention.

The blood oxygen level

Now, one thing that happens a lot is somebody can be very short of breath. They go to the ER and they’re told, “Your blood oxygen is perfect. There is no lack of oxygen in your blood“. “In your blood” is the key point because your body is very sensitive to how much oxygen is in the blood; there can’t be much variation without you being quite sick.

We learned this during our pandemic because people would go to the hospital when their blood oxygen had dipped and then they could be on a ventilator, etc.

The body will do everything to keep that blood oxygen very, very stable within a narrow range. Now, that doesn’t mean that when the diaphragm is in spasm and you are short of breath, you’re not legitimately short of breath… You are. You’re having trouble getting a deep breath.

But compensatorily, your body is also making sure that the blood oxygen is still fine. So you can have perfectly fine blood oxygen and still be feeling short of breath.

I know that’s a bit counterintuitive, but again, that’s the truth of it. And it’s again, how strong this machine, the human body is in keeping going and keeping certain factors very, very stable.

Hiatal hernia surgery trending

So, your doctor is not trained in hiatal hernia. Although I must say, as our digestion has gotten worse, and more and more hiatal hernias are starting to be found on endoscopy (gastroenterologists find more and more cases).

So the gastroenterologist is starting to see more of these hiatal hernias, and they’re small. However the number of hiatal hernia surgery centers has really exploded in the past five years across the country. And that’s not a good thing. And why is it not a good thing? It sounds so easy. It’s like, “Oh yeah, you’ve got this opening. We’ll just do surgery. Close it right back up.”

By the way, you’ll never be able to vomit [post surgery]. Nobody likes to vomit, but if you really feel sick and you want to and feel the need to, you won’t be able to once they’ve altered your anatomy with this surgery.

And the other thing is — remember what is a hiatal hernia, that widening: the stomach’s pushing up and widening that opening — all the surgeons do is closing that opening by wrapping the neck of your stomach around your esophagus. And sure it’s closing it, and you’re not going to get reflexive or, I should say, reflexive acid up into your esophagus as much.

But does [surgery] do anything to get to the root cause of why you developed the heart palpitations and the panic attacks and why your microbiome (remember those 38 trillion microbes in the gut are out of balance) or why you’re constipated?

The root causes of Hiatal Hernia Syndrome are not touched by surgery.

Hiatal hernia surgery misses the root causes

I keep meeting people, unfortunately, who have had the surgery and say, “I am so sorry I did. It was a terrible recovery first of all. It took a very, very long time, and I have all the same symptoms I had before and I can’t ever vomit“. They’re not happy with it.

Now, the stated success rate of the surgery is very high. What does success rate of surgery mean? You went in there to wrap the neck of the stomach around the esophagus, (there’s other techniques as well) and a successful surgery is one that accomplished its goal. “Mary, this was the success. What I (the surgeon) intended to do, I did. You’re alive. And that was accomplished“.

That’s success based on a surgeon’s results. Fair enough, but what does Mary care about? She and you care about what are your symptoms, and are they going to be alleviated by this problem? And even more importantly, if you have an unhealthy gut, which is what created this whole problem in 90%+ of the time, maybe 95% of the time, that unhealthy gut is going to create other problems for you.

So simply getting this opening narrowed because you’ve got surgery is not going to change any of that, and you’re still going to have liver enzymes that are elevated. You’re going to have a small intestine that’s not functioning and digesting and absorbing food the way it should. Your large intestine is full of microbes that are pro-inflammatory versus anti-inflammatory, on and on and on.

The surgery does nothing to fix that, unfortunately.

In conclusion

So the topic today was “why did your doctor miss it?” And in a nutshell, doctors aren’t really looking for it unless they’re gastroenterologists. And because all these surgery centers have popped up, I find patients with very small hiatal hernias who are being told, “Yeah, do the surgery, do the surgery, do the surgery”.

I think that’s disingenuous. I really do, because the success rate is not good and it’s not going to get to the root cause of the problem. Getting to the root cause is what we’re going to talk about on Friday.

But suffice to say, what are the big symptoms? Constipation, bloating, acid reflux, heartburn, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, panic attacks, feeling of anxiety. These are the big common ones. The fact is that all of those symptoms, which sound like they could have nothing to do with one another, are related. It is absolutely the case. And that’s why doctors miss it: they don’t tend to look at the body as a whole. They’re just looking at their area of expertise. No organ in the human body works in a vacuum; they’re all interrelated.

Now, I’m not saying if you need a type of surgery it’s not great to have that surgeon be an expert in just that part of your body. That’s great.

But in these inflammatory situations, looking at the body as a whole is really the only way to resolve it.

Additional resources

Dr. Vikki’s book on Hiatal Hernia Syndrome and its many symptoms
Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s research on stomach and Afib
More on the symptoms of Hiatal Herni Syndrome by Dr. Viikki


If you suffer from these symptoms…

Too many people are suffering from Hiatal Hernia Syndrome and don’t know it. If you have symptoms such as bloating, gas, acid reflux, constipation, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, panic attacks, anxiety, etc., you could be suffering from this. Take a moment to call us. This potential situation is unlikely to get any better. The hernia will widen, and from just moderate it can go severe and require surgery. Don’t wait for this to happen.

For consultations, call us at 727-335-0400

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