Causes of Acid Reflux: Hiatal Hernia

Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can be caused by a few different things, one being hiatal hernia. Many simply think that the cause is fatty foods or foods that are high in cholesterol, but there are actually life altering events that can cause acid reflux. Some patients may actually produce an abnormal amount of acid that causes acid reflux and others may have several different causes at work, but chances are it is one of four causes; this is what you need to know about hiatal hernia.

Not every person who suffers from acid reflux has a hiatal hernia, but most who have a hiatal hernia do suffer from acid reflux. The effect of a hiatal hernia on acid reflux is not known for sure, but it is generally assumed that hiatal hernias do have something to do with gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is important to understand how the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, relates to the condition called acid reflux because a hiatal hernia does affect the LES, which in turn causes acid reflux.

When a hiatal hernia occurs the diaphragm, where the LES lies in proximity to the abdomen, is punctured and a small part of the stomach comes free. As a result, the LES moves to the chest and is no longer at the level of the diaphragm where it needs to be. So if a person doesn’t have a hiatal hernia their esophagus is continually contracted around the diaphragm. Those who do have a hiatal hernia don’t have a continually contracted esophagus, causing acid reflux.

If a hiatal hernia doesn’t affect the individual in this way it could be that there is a hernial sac, a small pouch in the stomach above the diaphragm. The sac is then pinched off by the stomach and LES by the diaphragm and begins to trap acid that is moving from the stomach. This keeps the acid close to the esophagus making it more possible that reflux will occur with a transient relaxation or swallow. Finally, the hiatal hernia may affect reflux by blocking a flap of tissue that is intended to act like a valve to slow movement to the stomach.

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