Hernia is a protrusion of an internal organ (fat or intestine) through the muscles and tissues covering it and holding it in place. The protrusion of the organ takes place when the covering muscles become weak or when excess strain is laid on a particular area.
Different types of hernia:
- Inguinal Hernia – When a part of the intestine pushes out through the groin muscles and tissues.
- Femoral Hernia – This occurs in the upper part of the thigh or groin when a portion of tissue pushes through the wall of ‘femoral canal’.
- Umbilical Hernia – When the intestine pushes through the muscles and tissues near the belly button (umbilicus), the condition is called ‘Umbilical Hernia’.
- Hiatal Hernia – A condition when the upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm that separates the chest and abdomen.
Hernias usually don’t go away or repair on their own. Surgery for hernia is the most advised solution to put back the internal organ in it’s place and in this process, the muscle and tissue is strengthened with stitches and/or by using a supporting material. “Making lifestyle changes go a long way in preventing the recurrence of hernia” says Dr. Karthik Gunasekaran, Chennai’s most sought after gastroenterologist and laser surgeon at The Laser Gastroenterology Clinic.
Here are some lifestyle changes that our expert gastroenterologists suggest to their patients after hernia surgery:
- Quit smoking, if not immediately but eventually.
Tobacco contains nicotine. Nicotine restricts the blood flow in the body. After a surgery (or any injury), good blood flow to the area is needed for the incision/injury to heal well. The blood flow in smokers is hindered due to nicotine which makes it little difficult for the injuries to heal. Also, if you keep coughing while or after smoking, the repeated pressure on the abdomen can lead to inguinal hernia.
- Lose weight if you are obese or overweight.
Being overweight or obese can cause several medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart problems, kidney problems, stroke, diabetes etc. Being overweight puts pressure on the organs in the abdominal area. Constant pressure on the abdominal area while sitting, standing or moving around can result in hernia. Losing weight not only reduces the risk of hernia but also from several other medical conditions.
- Including fiber in your diet.
Including or adding more fiber in the diet can help avoid constipation. (Fiber can be included through addition of vegetables, whole grams, fruits etc). Long term constipation strains the organs in the lower abdominal area and that can lead to hernia.
- Take enough care while lifting weights
Whether you are working out regularly or your profession demands lifting weights or heavy objects regularly, proper care needs to be taken so that your lower back and abdominal area is protected. Fasten the area with supportive belts to reduce the pressure.
- Get stronger physically – workout regularly
Working out regularly keeps all the muscles strong and can help reducing the risk of any type of hernia. Not only you will lose the extra pounds that add stress to your mind and body, you can become strong physically and can be more confident in your regular life.
“You may feel lazy to start but as you push yourself for a couple of months and get used to working out, your body will keep asking it for more” says Dr. Karthik Gunasekaran, a leading gastroenterologist in Chennai.
When should be seen by a doctor for hernia?
Some hernias are medical emergencies and some disappear by just lying down. In any case, if you see a bulge or protrusion accompanied by nausea, vomiting, fever or chills, visit your family doctor or a good gastroenterologist near you immediately.