15 Hiatal Hernia Syndrome Symptoms

Hiatal Hernia Syndrome symptoms: what are they?


Hiatal Hernia Syndrome (HHS) is a medical condition frequently misdiagnosed or overlooked in conventional medical practice. The syndrome presents with a range of symptoms, often leading to misinterpretations and inappropriate treatments. The primary cause for misdiagnosis is the “sliding hiatal hernia”, which intermittently protrudes and retracts, making detection challenging. Standard medical approach often correlates HHS with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and prescribes antacids — an approach which be counterproductive when the patient has an actual deficiency of stomach acid.

The Hiatal Hernia Syndrome Symptoms include:
  • Acid reflux
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Silent reflux, leading to esophageal inflammation
  • Chest tightness or discomfort
  • Tingling sensations in extremities
  • Symptoms mimicking myocardial infarction
  • Shortness of breath or “air hunger”
  • Elevated stress hormones leading to anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia, exacerbated when lying flat
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Difficulty to bend over

It is imperative to understand the root cause, primarily the stomach exerting pressure on the diaphragm, which affects respiratory function and elevates stress hormones. “Hail Mary” treatments, such as psychiatric medications, do not address the underlying issues. Natural interventions are available that target the root cause and can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Transcript of the video

By Dr. Vikki Petersen

I want to talk to you about the many symptoms of hiatal hernia because you could have these symptoms and never think it had anything to do with your stomach.

Hiatal Hernia Syndrome symptoms and treatment: Dr Vikki Petersen's new book This is the cover of my book: Hiatal Hernia Syndrome. You can see 10 of the symptoms listed there.

Let’s talk about what conventional medicine tells you if you are diagnosed with hiatal hernia.

First of all, a lot of people are not diagnosed, even though they have it, because they have what’s called a “sliding hiatal hernia”: it pushes up and then it goes back down. And since 80% of them are sliding, you can see where that might be missed in an endoscopy and in the various testing that can occur.

But the classic thing you’re told is because you have acid reflux, GERD, heartburn, you’re told, “Oh, that makes sense with your hiatal hernia and here’s your antacid“.

Now that’s a dangerous thing to do. We’re going to get into that in another segment.

A lot of times, you can actually have symptoms of acid and not have enough acid. So you’re given antacid… and it’s just making things worse.

The start and stop of the diagnosis in conventional medicine is, “Okay, you have acid reflux, heartburn, etc., that feeling, some bloating…” and then they find the hiatal hernia and it’s either recommending PPIs (acid blockers) or surgery, depending on how serious it is.

However the key thing is — and this is why I wrote the book “Hiatal Hernia Syndrome” — because there is a cascade of symptoms associated with hiatal hernia that you never think to associate [with the condition].

Acid Reflux

Let’s start with some of the obvious ones, because we began with acid reflux. Because of acid reflux, you can have a sore throat, you can have trouble swallowing. Acid reflux is interesting because you can get a kind of a big flow of acid up the esophagus and you’re spitting out acid and it’s disgusting. It’s kind of like when you vomit.

Silent Reflux

Or you can have what’s called “silent reflux”, which is the acid is just sort of crawling up your esophagus. It’s still creating inflammation because the esophagus is not supposed to be bathed in acid.

Trouble swallowing and sore throat

And you can have trouble swallowing. Food can get stuck and it can be very uncomfortable, hoarse voice… That kind of thing.

Tightness in the chest, chest pain, tingling

The other is that because the esophagus is that tube that it quite far at the back of your chest cavity, but because of the inflammation, you can get a tightness in your chest, you can get chest pain, you can actually get tingling in your fingers, in your toes, especially with some pressure in the chest and the feeling of tingling…

A lot of people are then running to the ER, and that’s the right thing to do! My goodness, heart disease is the number one killer in our country. You always want to get to some place very quickly to rule out if you’re having a heart attack.

It’s just what happens next, when they tell you “your heart is perfectly fine“.

Let’s continue on with these symptoms — I think I’ll just work from the top down.

Shortness of breath

Because the stomach is in spasm and is pushing up on the diaphragm — that sheet of muscle that allows air to come in and go out — because of that spasming, it freezes up the diaphragm a bit and you can feel short of breath. It’s called “air hunger”, all of a sudden you find yourself taking a deep breath.

Stress hormones

The other thing that happens in concert with that, because of not enough air, is your stress hormones start going, they start getting a bit excited. With the stress hormones getting excited, you can feel the sense of anxiety when nothing in your immediate environment makes that warranted… There’s nothing happening in your environment, this is all internal. It’s like, “why do I feel panicky? Why am I so anxious?

It’s a horrible feeling, especially when you can’t attach it to anything. So you start thinking, “it’s all up here“. It absolutely is not.

Again: stomach spasming. This is all starting in the digestive tract. That stomach is spasming. It’s pushing up on that diaphragm. Your diaphragm can’t move as freely as it should.

Your stress hormones want to let you know that you’re not getting quite enough air. Because when you think about it, we can live a week without water, a month without food. But what about air? How many minutes do you have where you can survive without air? It’s not that many… If you’re a Navy Seal, maybe six minutes. But the average human much less.

So, of course it’s warranted that your stress hormones try to get your attention and say, “Let’s do something. Something’s not right. Okay? We want to alert you to that fact“. And that’s where that anxiety comes in.

Heart palpitations

The other thing that occurs with that is you can get some heart palpitations. Again, we’re back to the ER ruling out the heart, which again, for a first time, it’s the right thing to do.

I know people have been back to the ER 5-10 times ruling out a heart attack. I get it: it happens in the middle of the night or whenever it happens, it’s very scary. But when that heart’s been checked out, the lungs have been checked out and you’re told it’s fine… that’s why I’m trying to talk about this. Because I can’t tell you how many people are stuck in that cycle.

And then what happens next after a few trips to the ER? They’re like, “You’re under stress and here’s your psychiatric medication. By the way, this has the side effect of suicide, suicidal tendencies. But hey, it’s all in your head“. And I’m being sarcastic, sorry for that and I’m not saying that those drugs are never useful, but in the main, they’ve been proven to be less effective than placebos.

So you want to know that. And also, I speak to patients constantly who say, “I’m not really a stressed out individual. You know, I’m not a high anxiety person. Now this is making me anxious. Sure, because this anxiety’s coming upon me and I have these heart palpitations and I can’t breathe. And my life is not the same. Like I’ve lost my life“. I hear that a lot. “This is not my life. This is not the life I want to lead. I can’t be active“, on and on and on.

So of course you’re upset. Of course you’re a little depressed. That doesn’t mean it’s coming from here. That’s a secondary effect of this.


Let’s continue on. Insomnia is another [symptom]. Because what happens is during the day we’ve talked about the poor little stomach being pushed on the diaphragm, but during the day when you’re upright, gravity is helping pull, pull everything down.

Soon as you get horizontal at night to sleep, unfortunately things get pushed up more easily because there is no gravity pulling in the right direction. And you can get the heart palpitations, the shortness of breath, the panic attacks, etc.

So for some people it’s exacerbated at night literally because of the position. Some people have figured this out. They’re starting to sleep on a bit of a slant, which can relieve the symptoms. But it’s not getting to the root cause because that’s not the way you want to live your life.

What other symptoms did I want to go over?

Lightheadedness, dizziness

You can actually have chest pain, you can get lightheaded so you can actually feel dizzy and lightheaded again because not enough oxygen.
And because you’re having this anxiety, you’re starting to hyperventilate a little bit.

This cascade of symptoms is why we named it Hiatal Hernia Syndrome, because of the coming together of all these symptoms that, again, when you’re in the midst of it, there’s no way you would tease it out to say, “Oh, it’s my gut. I understand that“.

It’s not until you start hearing this explanation that it makes sense. And I’ll tell you the very first time was a long time ago. I’ve been in practice for 40 years and we’ve been treating Hiatal Hernia Syndrome in this fashion for about 15.

I only wrote the book a couple of years ago, but probably 25 years ago, a young woman I was treating came in and she said, “I was in the ER over the weekend”. I was like, “What happened?
She said, “I had a panic attack“.
I asked “What was going on in life?
She goes, “Nothing. It was the strangest thing. I woke up in the middle of the night, I couldn’t get enough oxygen, my heart was pounding out of my chest. And I went to the ER.

I knew this woman. I’m a Doctor of Chiropractic as well, so I started [to work on her] and found out her poor diaphragm was in spasm. So we did some work on that, changed her diet a little bit and that ameliorated it.
But then, all of a sudden, we’re starting to hear about it more and more… That was the progression over the years. But I still to this day remember this young woman who began this whole knowledge base that is really not very understood.

More about heart palpitations

I do want to talk about the heart palpitations because that is something that gets a lot of attention. It’s scary and what’s happening?

For years, if you’ve seen any of my prior videos, I talk about the fact that I never understood why someone would go to a gastroenterologist or go to the ER and say, “You know, I have this, this bloating and I have gas and I’m uncomfortable when…, I can’t really eat. And I know you guys keep telling me my heart is fine. Well then, could this possibly be related to this stomach gastrointestinal issue that we know I have?” One for one, they would always be told, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. You know, hiatal hernia would never create that“.

And I didn’t get it because let’s look at anatomy: you’ve got the stomach on the left side and then the diaphragm in between.
And guess what’s right above it? Your heart, they’re right above each other. They’re not that far apart as far as anatomy is concerned.

I’ve kind of ranted and raved about this over the years because it’s really not a big stretch to understand how the stomach is in spasm, pushing the diaphragm up. And now it’s sort of impinging upon the heart itself.

And it wasn’t until, I guess, six to eight months ago, that I ran into a cardiologist online. He’s from the UK and he talked about this cardio-gastric reflex. Just that: he talked about the fact that the stomach being elevated can sort of set off the heart into palpitations, AFib, things like that. They can be very serious.

It’s one thing being told your heart is fine, but when these heart palpitations keep happening, especially if it goes into AFib (atrial fibrillation), then you are putting stress on the heart.

So you don’t yet have a problem, but if we don’t get to the root cause, you’re continuing to stress out your heart. You’re continuing to stress out your stress hormones and that will imbalance things secondarily and tertiarily. That’s why we have to jump in and really get to the root cause.

Difficulty to bend over

Another very common [occurrence] is people say,”Boy, I can’t even bend over to…” A young man told me the other day, “I can’t even bend over to pick up my dog’s bowl off the ground without my heart being set off“.

In other words, things are so constricted and there’s so much pressure in there that extra bending over tying your shoes, bending over to get something, you can’t do it without setting off these heart palpitations.

So this is quite a cascade of symptoms, right? And again, conventional medicine, is unfortunately going to tell you (if they even find a hiatal hernia) that all these symptoms have nothing to do with it. And that is false. That is absolutely not true. And so many people are suffering because of that untruth. And then they just sort of give up and go, “All right, that’s all in my head. Gimme the psychiatric drug“. Then we have added insult to injury.

So the good news is there is treatment. I am going to talk about hiatal hernia every single day this week and different segments. But I wanted to go over all these symptoms so that you could maybe… Somebody like this who is just all of a sudden, feeling anxious, short of breath… They don’t know what’s wrong with them. They’ve been to the doctors, they can’t find anything… This can very much be, statistically speaking, the underlying root cause [of their ailment]. And it’s not hard to figure it out. It’s truly not. And the treatment’s natural. It’s not drugs, it’s not surgery, it’s a natural treatment and you get your life back.

The confluence of all these aspects of the body coming to together can… I’ve had people be homebound and just afraid to go out of the house because they never knew when the heart palpitations would come on them and they get paralyzed with anxiety.

So it can be quite serious. But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve been in practice for 40 years. We’ve been specializing in this for 15 [of these years] with excellent results.

I wanted to go over all those symptoms and explain why bloating and gas.

Constipation & diarrhea

I actually missed a very important one. Constipation, chronic constipation and/or diarrhea.

A lot of times people who have had constipation since they were little kids — and they didn’t even know it was constipation because families don’t discuss poop enough — a lot of times somebody has been suffering with this and it has been increasing the pressure within their abdomen because of this chronic lack of passing of stool in an efficient manner every day of their lives. That is a strong underlying root cause.

I hope this was helpful. I went on a little bit longer, but, uh, than I had thought. But it’s likely someone you know has this, and they might be suffering silently or they just might be putting up with being on PPIs, which are acid-reducing medication that’s not really helping their other symptoms.

It is unfortunate because it’s not that hard to fix. So I hope this was helpful.

Root Cause Medical Clinic

If you think you may be suffering from Hital Hernia Syndrome symptoms, consider calling our medical team. Root Cause Medical Clinic in Clearwater has adopted the root cause approach of functional medicine to treat patients with minimal recourse to drugs and surgery. Our medical team is comprised of specialists in multiple fields, including internal medicine, functional medicine, chiropractic, nutrition, and physical therapy. Using thorough diagnostic methodologies and lab testing, we go to the root cause of why you have the symptoms that are bothering you. As long as you are ready to make some dietary and lifestyle changes, we can help you. We will “hold your hand” through the changes, step by step, to make each step an easy one. We are located at 1000 S Ft Harrison, Clearwater, at the corner of Ft. Harrison Ave. and Magnolia Dr. There is plenty of parking space directly accessible from Ft Harrison. If it is not convenient for you to come to Root Cause Medical Clinic, we offer telehealth/telemedicine consultations to residents of certain states. Call us for details and to schedule a consultation at  727-335-0400

Sliding Hiatal Hernia: Do You Suffer From It?
Treating The Physical Side Of A Hiatal Hernia

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