written by: Dawn Salamon
• edited by: Diana Cooper
• updated: 5/31/2011
Although umbilical hernias typically occur in infants, adults can also develop them if they are overweight, pregnant or have excess fluid in the abdomen. Surgery is generally recommended to repair the hernia, but there are natural remedies that can be used to treat or prevent them from recurring.
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What is an Umbilical Hernia?
An umbilical hernia occurs when tissue, fluid or a part of an organ such as the intestine pushes through a weakened area of the abdominal wall, causing a lump or bulge in the navel or belly button area. Fairly common in infants, especially in females and those of African-American descent, umbilical hernias form if the opening in the abdominal muscles for the umbilical cord does not close up completely after birth, allowing a piece of the intestine or other tissue to poke out and cause a hernia. Generally, umbilical hernias disappear without medical intervention by the time the infant is a year old and are usually not painful or life-threatening. Surgery is recommended if the hernia is large, becomes infected, is a burden to the child or has not closed up by age five.
Umbilical hernias in adults, however, are a direct result of health issues such as obesity, pregnancy, ascites (excessive fluid in the abdomen), heavy lifting or chronic coughing. In adults, umbilical hernias do not dissipate on their own and can lead to complications such as the development of a strangulated hernia or an incarcerated hernia -- both of which require immediate medical attention.
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Treating Umbilical Hernias Naturally
Surgery is the recommended treatment for the repair of umbilical hernias in adults, especially if they become strangulated or incarcerated. However, there are some natural remedies for umbilical hernias that can help alleviate the pain as well as help prevent them from forming or recurring. Remedies that may help lessen the pain associated with umbilical hernias as well as possibly stop their formation or recurrence are:
Hawthornia -- a blend of hawthorn, litchi seed, citrus seed and fennel -- is widely used in China as a way to strengthen the weakened wall of the abdomen (known as Qi). If used early enough, hawthornia can stop the progression of the umbilical hernia and limit their regrowth.
Using a combination of the herbs Shepherd's purse as a tincture and lady's mantle as a tea -- both have an astringent effect that constrict the blood vessels and lessen blood flow.
Eating low-fat, higher protein foods such as tuna, chicken, lentils and other beans, cottage cheese and skim milk as protein deficiencies and surplus fat can weaken the abdominal walls and lead to hernia development.
Eating high-fiber foods such as dark green vegetables, fruits and unrefined whole-grains to reduce risk of constipation which can strain the abdominal wall.
Increasing water and/or fluid intake to also reduce risk of constipation.
Engaging in regular exercise to strengthen the core muscles and reduce risk of obesity; however, be aware that exercises that are improperly performed or involve heavy lifting put strain on the abdominal and/or visceral muscles. This can lead to weakening of those muscles and hernia development.
Acupuncture and/or reflexology on the colon, adrenal gland and groin points of the body by a trained professional.
Visceral manipulation by a trained professional.
The above remedies are for use by adults only under the supervision of their physicians. These natural remedies are not recommended for use on infants or children with umbilical hernias. Also, folk remedies, such as fastening a round object, such as a coin or button, over the hernia or using a band or other tight bindings to reduce the size of the hernia, are not recommended as they do not promote healing and can lead to serious complications.