Thursday, June 16, 2016

The truth about Barrett’s esophagus

If you’re one of the 25 million or so people in the US with acid reflux, you know all too well the misery it can cause.

This can go way beyond a 4-alarm fire in your chest and can include:
  • Regurgitation of partially digested food and stomach acid
  • Chest pain
  • Chronic cough; frequent throat-clearing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bloating and gas
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness; laryngitis
  • Loss of tooth enamel
But there’s another consequence of acid reflux that is far scarier than an acidy burp or having to sleep propped up on pillows.

It’s Barrett’s esophagus.

What is Barrett's esophagus?
Barrett's esophagus is a condition where the color and the type of cells lining your lower esophagus change, becoming more like the inside of your stomach or intestines instead.

This process is called intestinal metaplasia and is most often the result of repeated exposure to stomach acid -- in other words, acid reflux or GERD. Obesity (especially around the abdominal area) can also be a risk factor.

It can be especially dangerous because people with Barrett's esophagus have an increased risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma – one of the most rapidly increasing cancers in the United States.

Barrett's esophagus and cancer
Once cancer develops, depending on the degree of severity it can result in losing a portion of your esophagus.

The surgery is called an esophagectomy, and it involves removing your esophagus and the top part of your stomach. A portion of your stomach is then pulled up into your chest and connected to the remaining un-diseased portion of your esophagus.

The procedure has a very high mortality rate and possible complications include:
  • Breathing problems
  • Increased risk of dangerous infection
  • Lowered immune system
  • Permanent damage to your larynx (voice box)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Frequent vomiting
Why the standard treatment can make it worse
The most common treatment for acid reflux/GERD and Barrett's is acid reducing drugs.  The thinking behind it is having less acid in the stomach means less acid available to slide up and aggravate the cells of your esophagus.

But stomach acid is essential for your body to be able to begin the initial breakdown of proteins. So when your stomach acid is “shut off” with medications, your digestion is greatly impaired or destroyed.

So in effect you aggravate the very area you’re trying to “keep calm” and the drug package inserts prove it!  Documented side effects of acid reducers include:
  • Dyspepsia—indigestion; burping up stomach acid
  • Dysphagia—difficulty swallowing
  • Dysplasia GI—abnormal cell development in the GI tract (which is exactly what Barrett’s is)
  • Esophageal disorder—again, this is what Barrett’s is
  • Pharynx disorder—problems with the tube that goes between your mouth and the esophagus
  • Vomiting—more stomach acid aggravating your esophagus
Tell me, how can these drugs possibly be seen as a wise treatment for Barrett’s esophagus?

What IS a smart approach for acid reflux/GERD and Barrett’s?
If you want to help lessen your chances of developing Barrett's esophagus (or help prevent it from worsening if you already have it), the smart approach is to...

Make sure your digestion is carried out the way it should be!

When your digestion is accomplished thoroughly and completely like Nature intended, there is no putrefying mass of food or acid to rise up and irritate your throat.

In other words, you help eliminate a primary root cause of Barrett's (and acid reflux/GERD too!).

This can be accomplished in two easy steps:

1- Make your meals inherently easier to digest
The protein and starch combination is a tough one for your body to handle because proteins and starches require opposing enzymes (acid vs. alkaline) and the presence of these foods together in the stomach can cause the enzymes to weaken or neutralize each other.

At that point, your digestion goes out the window!

But when you instead pair proteins OR starches with vegetables, you avoid the “enzyme fight” in your stomach, and your digestion can improve dramatically!

2- Consider enzyme supplementation
As we age, our ability to produce adequate enzymes for digestion diminishes, and without enough enzymes to do the job, heartburn and reflux are practically a given (as well as gas, bloating and constipation too).

That’s why supplementation with a quality enzyme formula that contains a thorough blend of crucial enzymes to target all types of foods can be a tremendous help in paving the way for better digestion.

Other helpful suggestions
Other safe, natural measures to help soothe an inflamed GI tract and enhance digestion can include:
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Chewing Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)—available at health food stores
  • Healing nutrients like fish oil can help repair damage to the esophagus

9 comments:

  1. How is this diagnosed by a physician? What test/s would have to be conducted?

    Thanks,
    Irene

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My husband was diagnosed with Barrett's with a EGD and they took biopsies. He had to have a EGD every year with biopsies after that. When the reports came back inconclusive twice they started treatment for the Barrett's. It took approx 4-5 treatments. His last EGD with biopsy came back good. Another one in a year and if we are still clear no other follow-up will be necessary.

      Delete
  2. I guess an endoscopy could be used to decide on a diagnosis

    ReplyDelete
  3. No one should dismiss GERD. A dear friend of mine had it so bad he started getting bubbly saliva and kept washing it all down with water, not paying attention to his own health while trying to save his elderly mother from lung cancer. After she died I begged him to see a Gastro specialist. Not good....He had gone from Barretts (he didn't know he had) to the largest tumors Sloan Kettering ever saw of it's type.

    He went into remission for 3 yrs but the MD told him not to rejoice as these cancers, after the 3rd yr. develop into Liver carcinomas.

    Call it the voodoo power of MD suggestion...but he was devastated & sure enough, within 6 wks. he had liver cancer & died a year later.
    Message====> take this seriously!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sheree..your diet has helped me find answers. In 2006 I began to have Atrial Fibrillation during the night and often when actually eating. I went through three cardiologists before I found one who agreed there 'could' be some connection. He arranged for me to be examined by a Gastroenterologist. I was diagnosed with Gastritis and Barett's Oesophagus. The prescribed treatment was a PPI. After I went on your diet program I received an all-clear from both. The use of PPI's has concerned me. I have the view I am allergic to certain foods. Stress as I age is also a problem. Most of the specialists dismiss any link between A/F and what we eat. The webs sites have many responses like mine....over to you

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have GERD and am taking Pantoprazole 40mg for the last 15 years. My daughter just bought me the Great Taste No Pain book for fathers day and I am going to start using it right away. I take about 12 different drugs for depression, asthma, art. of the knees, hips, back and shoulders and would like to get off some of them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My husband passed after battling esophageal cancer for 5 years. He had acid reflux, or as he called it-indigestion for years and years. It is not a situation I would want anyone to experience, as the patient or the caregiver. Don't ignore acid reflux, indigestion or heartburn or whatever you as the one experiencing it feels, please go to the doctor. The alternative is not something you want to experience.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I was diagnosed with LPR reflux last August. Several years ago I was diagnosed with partial paralysis in one of my vocal cords causing my raspy voice. Looking back, I think I had LPR all along. In August I was prescribed Omeprazole 40mg twice a day. Within 3 months I was symptom free. In February my ENT referred me to a GI for an endoscopy which disclosed Barrett's Esophagus. The GI told me to keep taking the Omeprazole and gave me a brochure to read and that was it. I found a new GI doctor who said the other GI doc should have done a colonoscopy along with the endoscopy and told me to stay on the Omeprazole and he would do a follow up & colonoscopy in 6 months. Now the Omeprazole has stopped working and my reflux is worse than ever. I have an appointment on Monday with the new GI. I'm scared to death as I know 2 people who passed from Esophogal cancer in the past year and I have had prostate cancer for the last 15 years. My primary doctor told me not to worry because only 10 percent of Barret's patients convert to cancer. Sounds like this is nothing to play around with. I hope they find something that will get my reflux back under control. Thanks Sherry for a great article.

    ReplyDelete
  8. My husband has been on PPI for about 30 years. We do a lot for his health with alternative means. He loves his meat and potatoes. He finally decided on his own to get off his PPI since he read they can cause Kidney damage. He had the worst bout of acid reflux he has ever had. We have managed to get that under control by alternative means. But I'm sure that in the process of all this, a hiatal hernia is causing problems now. He is working with our chiropractor and if what he is doing for him doesn't help, he will go see a doctor. Meanwhile, with all the acid he was having, he will go get checked out by the gastro doc. We had a friend die from not paying attention to his acid problems.

    ReplyDelete

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