Abdominal hernias occur when an organ or some fatty tissue pushes the inner lining of the abdominal wall through a weak area of surrounding muscles or tissues and shows up as a bulge in the abdomen. The area of weakness is sometimes present at birth. It can also be caused by aging, injury or a previous surgical incision. Sometimes, the bulge can be pushed back in place. If not, the only alternative is surgery. Hernias are very common, and are often more of a nuisance than a danger. But it is possible that a portion of intestine can become trapped in the hernia and "strangulated" as the blood vessels supplying it are compressed. This condition is very painful, can block digestion, and even lead to gangrene of the affected piece of intestine. A strangulated hernia requires emergency surgery.
Hernias occur most frequently among people who are obese, those who have a chronic cough or frequent, violent sneezes, among pregnant women, and among those who are chronically constipated and strain excessively during bowel movements.
As far as home treatments are concerned, about all you can do is try to push the hernia back in place by wearing a truss or other support garment. Avoid lifting or otherwise moving heavy objects; quit smoking; eat a high fiber diet to prevent constipation (and consequent straining) and drink lots of water.
In addition, I recommend that you be medically monitored and consider repair surgery if the problem worsens. The procedure itself often is done on an outpatient basis. You should be able to get back to light activities within a few days.
Andrew Weil, M.D.