Having a hiatal hernia is a somewhat common occurrence in the United States, with about 20% of the population affected at some point in their lives. It is a much more common occurrence in people over the age of 50, though, and it can unfortunately cause some painful and uncomfortable symptoms. For those with severe cases, surgery may be the only option for long term relief. Even though hiatal hernia surgery does carry some inherent risks, however, the surgery has one potential side effect that is worthy of note: weight loss.
Hernia is the term for when tissue or an organ have abnormally pushed through the barrier of the cavity in which they reside. In the case of a hiatal hernia, this means that an abdominal organ has pushed through an opening (technically known as a hiatus) in the diaphragm, the large dome-shaped muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity. Most of the time it is the stomach that pushes through, and there are two main types of hiatal hernias:
Approximately 90-95% of hiatal hernias are the sliding type, and most of the time there are either no symptoms or a few minor symptoms; the other 5-10% are paraesophageal, and of those cases, about half are asymptomatic. When symptoms do present, they can vary in severity from person to person. Below are some common symptoms of hiatal hernia:
The precise cause of hiatal hernias is not currently known, though there are some people with a congenital predisposition to have an abnormally large hiatus. Despite some of the uncertainty about the cause, there are some risk factors that have been identified:
As noted, most people with a hiatal hernia won’t experience symptoms and therefore won’t require any kind of treatment. For those who do have symptoms, the treatment options will vary based on the severity of the condition and the nature of the symptoms. Lifestyle changes (like sleeping with the head of your bed elevated) and over-the-counter antacids can help ease the symptoms for most people, but for others surgery may be necessary. The surgery, known as fundoplication, is the same laparoscopic surgery used to treat GERD.
The fundoplication surgery involves wrapping the top of the stomach known as the fundus around the lower esophagus to create a valve-like structure. This wrap, which can be partial (360 degrees) or complete (270 degrees), reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter and helps prevent stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus. This is the most common procedure for the treatment of GERD and hiatal hernia, though occasionally the relief doesn’t last and the procedure needs to be performed again.
In addition to relieving the symptoms related to a hiatal hernia, the surgery may also have the unintended side effect of promoting weight loss. While weight loss isn’t the goal of the procedure, the overall reduction in symptoms related to eating may promote a more regular and varied diet that is healthier and more likely to lead to a calorie deficit. There is also a possibility of having at least a temporarily reduced appetite in the days and weeks following the surgery.
Even though weight loss may be an unexpected benefit of hiatal hernia surgery, it’s likely to be minimal and temporary. To really achieve the kind of long-term weight loss most people are looking for, a comprehensive approach is needed that is specifically designed to aid weight loss. Yet while traditional methods like adopting a restrictive diet or exercise plan get a lot of attention online, they aren’t actually very effective and typically lead to a pattern of losing weight and then gaining it back again.
If you, like many Americans, are tired of trying the same old solutions for weight loss, then it’s time to consider a new approach. At True You Weight Loss, we offer endobariatric weight loss procedures that can lead to results that are comparable to bariatric surgery options like gastric bypass without the risks of actual surgery. To learn more about endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty or any of our other state-of-the-art procedures, please contact us today to request a consultation.