Hernia Prevention: 4 Things to Do
Did you know that more than one million hernia repairs are performed each year in the U.S.? Hernias are an extremely common condition, and some people who have them don’t experience symptoms! Those who are asymptomatic are usually diagnosed by their doctors.
A hernia occurs when tissue protrudes through a weak spot in the muscle that’s holding it in. This creates a bulge. This bulge can be painful, especially when you cough, lift a heavy object, or put pressure on your abdominal muscles.
Most hernias happen in the belly and groin areas. You may have a hernia if you can feel a soft lump in your abdomen, groin, or a scar from previous surgery. The lump may disappear when you press on it or lie down.
A hernia isn’t inherently dangerous. Sometimes, it doesn’t improve on its own, and this can lead to complications. Hernia repair is a common procedure, especially if the hernia is painful or getting bigger.
Hernias are named for their location. The types of hernias include:
- Inguinal hernia. Develops in the groin.
- Femoral hernia. Develops in the inner thigh.
- Umbilical hernia. Develops near the belly button.
- Incisional hernia. Develops along a prior surgical incision in the abdomen.
- Epigastric hernia. Develops between the bottom of the breastbone and the belly button
- Hiatal hernia. Develops in the diaphragm.
A hiatal hernia develops when the upper part of the stomach bulges through the abdomen. Symptoms of a hiatal hernia can mirror the symptoms of other gastrointestinal illnesses.
Though a small hiatal hernia usually won’t cause symptoms, a large hiatal hernia can cause heartburn by letting food and stomach acid back into the esophagus. Changing your diet or taking medication can improve symptoms.
A hiatal hernia is more likely to occur in those who are 50 or older or those who are obese.
- A bulge in the area of the pubic bone that becomes more pronounced if you strain
- Burning or aching at the bulge
- Pain or discomfort in the groin, especially when straining
- Heaviness or dragging sensation in the groin
- Weakness or pressure in the groin
The contents of a hernia can become trapped, or incarcerated. If your hernia is incarcerated, you will not be able to push it back into your body. An incarcerated hernia can become strangulated, which means that the blood flow to the trapped tissue has been cut off. If left untreated, this can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of a Strangulated Hernia
- Nausea, vomiting, or both
- Sudden pain that becomes intense
- Hernia bulge that turns red, purple, or darkens
- Inability to move bowels or pass gas
See a doctor immediately if you have any symptoms of a strangulated hernia.
Although a hernia isn’t dangerous on its own, you probably want to lower your risk of developing one. The best way to prevent a hernia is to reduce strain on your abdominal muscles and tissues. Read on for four ways to prevent a hernia.
1. Stay at a Healthy Weight
Being overweight means your abdominal wall to be under pressure. This is caused by extra body fat that exerts a force on your midsection as you move. If your BMI is over 30, you are considered obese. If you need help losing weight, consult your nutritionist for advice on changing your diet.
2. Add Fiber to Your Diet
Eating a diet that’s rich in fiber will help you have regular bowel movements. This will prevent constipation, which can lead to straining during bowel movements. It is important to avoid straining to reduce hernia risk. High-fiber foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. Fiber supplements may be helpful if you need additional help in avoiding constipation. Staying hydrated also helps avoid constipation.
3. Lift Carefully
Lifting heavy objects improperly can lead to straining. Be sure to lift heavy objects carefully or avoid lifting them altogether. If you need to lift something heavy, bend from your needs, not your waist.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking is dangerous to almost all aspects of your health, so it’s no surprise that it can increase hernia risk. Smoking causes coughing, and coughing places extra pressure and stress on your abdomen. Smoking can lead to a hernia and can cause one to reoccur in the future.
If you’re having unexplained gastrointestinal issues or want to improve your overall digestive health, schedule an appointment today.