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
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
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
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
- Chewing Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL)—available at health food stores
- Healing nutrients like fish oil can help repair damage to the esophagus