Hiatal hernia can be caused by a number of things, often unique to each sufferer. One common cause, however, can be described as "mechanical": that is, caused by lifting improperly, heavy bouts of coughing, attacks to the abdomen, tight clothes, or poor posture. Lifting a heavy item whilst holding your breath (which happens often amongst people not trained in proper lifting techniques) can force the stomach into the esophagus and cause a hiatal hernia.
Another common cause of hiatal hernia is to do with the ileocecal valve. This is situated between the small and large intestines. Its function is to allow material to pass from the large intestine into the colon, but not vice versa. The ileocecal valve can become swollen and irritated; This causes it not to close properly, and permit material to travel back into the small intestine from the colon.
Although it cannot be determined whether a faulty ileocecal valve or hiatal hernia occurred first, a problem with this valve is known to further aggravate a hiatal hernia. Diet is a major factor in this: overeating, eating when upset, and poor combination of food can lead to this condition.
Interestingly, as well as "eating when upset" as being a contributory factor, emotional stress in itself has been raised as a possible cause of hiatal hernia – particularly the emotion of anger. One theory states that when some people get angry, they breathe and suck air upward, and then fail to release it properly. This results in the stomach remaining up, and repeated instances causing a hiatal hernia.
The stomach is forced into the sphincter that is designed to stop acid or food returning into the mouth or throat. The sphincter does not close properly and its function is compromised. This allows acid to travel into the esophagus and cause burning sensations, also known as heartburn or acid reflux.
The condition can also cause stress to the vagus nerve. Its function is to control the release of hydrochloric acid. As it may not work properly, this can cause either too much or too little acid to be secreted.
The diaphragm muscle's movement is impeded. Its function is to pull downward to cause the chest capacity to expand and fill the lungs with air. A hiatal hernia sufferer may find that their diaphragm muscle is affected to the degree that they experience shallow breathing unless they help the process consciously using their chest shoulders and take a deep breath.
The esophagus has been known to form a kink. This would then cause difficulty in swallowing. Sufferers may get the sensation that material is often stuck in their throat.
Through the vagus nerve, which has significant links to a number of other organs in the body, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, and even the external genitalia, imbalances can be spread throughout the patient's body and other important systems.
Hiatal hernia sufferers often experience poor digestion. This leads onto rotten food staying in the body longer than it should be, and causing toxicity in the patient. Naturally, there is a lack of nutrition and the usual symptoms of this, such as constipation, allergies, and immune weakness.
Hiatal hernia can also aid the development of asthma and heart disease. As previously mentioned, the lungs' capacity is affected. Intestinal gas can put pressure on the hernia and then the heart, and can in severe cases bring on a heart attack.
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