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If you notice a bulge on your stomach or upper leg, there’s a good chance it is a hernia. A hernia is a protrusion of an organ or other tissues from the inner part of the body, typically affecting the abdominal wall. Commonly, it’s part of the intestine, or fat or other connective tissues that’s poking through a weak spot in your abdomen. Approximately 10% of the population develops a hernia over the course of their lifetime, making it somewhat common.

Hernia types

The most common type of hernia is an ‘inguinal’ hernia, which involves the area around the groin. It makes up approximately 60% of the total types of hernias. ‘Hiatial’ hernias involve movement of your stomach through your diaphragm muscle into the chest cavity (often relating to heart burn symptoms or presence of reflux disease). Other types include ‘incisional’ hernias which happen over areas where a surgery was performed in the past, such as after a gall bladder surgery. ‘Femoral’ hernias affect the area of your upper leg near your femoral artery. ‘Umbilical’ hernias happen at the belly button and ‘epigastric’ hernias appear between the ribs and the belly button.

Causes of hernias

The two primary causes of hernias involve weakened/damaged muscles and other supportive connective tissues, and an increase in pressure or strain in the area of weakness/damage. There are several reasons why a muscle or connective tissue may be weak or damaged and can include: obesity and poor levels of fitness, sports injuries, pressure from persistent coughing, liver diseases, or reasons that affect the normal breakdown and repair of muscles and connective tissues (eg: poor nutrition, smoking/toxicity).

Risk factors for developing hernias

· Male
· 35+ years of age
· Born with a weak abdomen
· Lifting heavy objects
· Overweight or obese
· Rapid weight loss
· Heavy or chronic cough/sneezing
· Frequent straining from constipation
· Sports injury or accidents affecting abdomen
· Pregnancy
· Smoking
· Low-fiber diet
· Genetic vulnerability

Tips for preventing hernias

1. Keep fit and avoid injuries. Regular exercise will keep your muscles and connective tissues working well and reduce the chance of weak spots developing in your body. Make sure to maintain proper posture while lifting heavy objects, better yet, get help lifting those heavy items.

2. Avoid smoking and toxic exposures. Chemicals disrupt the normal repair processes of the body, so avoid/reduce such exposures.

3. Eat a diet with consistent sources of dietary fiber. Fiber helps to promote digestive regularity which reduces abdominal pressure which can reduce the chance of developing a hernia. High fiber foods include legumes, vegetables, whole grains and fruits. Flax/chia seeds and psyllium are particularly high in fiber that can promote proper bowel movements, though it’s important to consume enough water with these sources of fiber.

4. Encourage healthy weight and resolving obesity. This will typically involve putting a plan together that involves steps one and three. Avoid rapid weight loss with very low calorie diets as this can actually promote the likelihood of developing a hernia.

5. Recent research shows that prenatal deficiencies in vitamin D and vitamin A can predispose babies to develop congenital hernias.

Of course, it’s a good idea to get yourself checked with your primary healthcare provider if you ever find new masses on your body.

 

Dr. Rahim Habib ND
About the Author

Rahim Habib is a registered naturopathic doctor with over 15 years of experience in general family practice. He has a special interest in helping patients comprehensively detoxifying their bodies for preventative and therapeutic benefit. He also has a special interest in children’s health, assisting kids in their learning and behavioural health with conditions such as ADHD, Autism spectrum, asthma, allergies and childhood obesity. He also helps adults with chronic conditions, such as thyroid disorders, infertility, inflammation, obesity, autoimmunity, dementia and cancer care. He is the director of the Four Seasons Naturopathic Clinic for Detoxification and Healing and can be reached at 905-597-7201 or www.FamilyNaturopath.ca.