One of the most frequent questions we hear at the Beverly Hills Hernia Center is whether there is a way for patients to practice active hernia prevention. The answer is: absolutely, yes!
Of course, there a number of risk factors, such as one’s gender and risk factors inherited genetically from family members that patients have no control over. However, once we understand our risk and the likely symptoms of a hernia, there are a number of ways we can lower the chances of a sudden and painful flare-up. Indeed, teaching patients how to prevent a hernia is one of the main focuses of our work here at Beverly Hills Hernia Center.
As the only M.D. in the Western United States whose practice focuses chiefly on how to prevent hernia flare-ups as well as treating them once they happen, Dr. Shirin Towfigh wants everyone who is concerned about this issue to know there are many steps that can be taken to prevent hernias. As a top surgeon and an expert on minimally invasive hernia surgery, she nevertheless believes strongly that the best way to treat hernias is through conservative means that prevent them from becoming an issue in the first place.
The Five Pillars of Hernia Prevention
· Don’t gain weight. Your goal should be the ideal weight for your height, with a body mass index of no more than 25 on a BMI calculator. We know this is much easier said than done for a great many of us, but the closer to our ideal weight we are, the better off we’ll be. While talking about a hernia diet might sound a bit silly, preventing the pain and discomfort of a hernia is actually a pretty good motivator for weight loss – and keeping our weight down is good for all aspects of our health.
· Stay fit and exercise. In particular, core abdominal strengthening is key. In some of our patients, hernia bulges have been reduced and symptoms of pain have resolved simply through an exercise regimen. If you just had an abdominal or pelvis surgery or even a hernia surgery, make sure you begin exercise early. We recommend gym-type exercise as early as 2-4 weeks after surgery, depending on the type of treatment; some patients can start even earlier.
· Eat a diet that prevents constipation. Straining during a bowel movement can very often directly lead to a hernia flare-up. Moreover, high fiber diets that prevent constipation are also generally healthy and tend to foster weight loss. Whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables, and even fiber supplements such as Metamucil are all excellent choices. Also, don’t forget to drink plenty of water. This becomes even more important following hernia surgery. It is important to give yourself the opportunity to heal and allow the hernia repair mesh to work.
· If you are coughing due to a cold or allergy, treat that cough aggressively – it can lead to a nasty hernia flare-up. If you absolutely have to cough, engage your abdominal muscles and tuck in the pelvis before you cough—this will reduce abdominal pressure, and may decrease the chance of hernia formation. If your coughing is related to smoking, take all steps necessary to quit! Nicotine-free e-cigs are a great alternative.
· Men should treat any symptoms related to an enlarged prostate. Just as straining while defecating can lead to hernias, so can straining for urination.