Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that affects the inner lining of esophagus as a result of longstanding acid reflux. In this disorder, there is a change in the normal inner lining of the esophagus. It becomes similar to the lining of intestine. At least 10 to 15 percent of people who suffer from chronic acid reflux or more, widely known as GERD, (gastro esophageal reflux disease) can have Barrett’s esophagus.
There are no specific symptoms to distinguish Barrett’s esophagus. Patient may just complain of symptoms of long standing GERD, such as heartburn, pain below the breastbone, complain that food sticks in the region of the lower esophagus, nausea etc.
Barrett’s esophagus is a cause of concern because there is high probability of developing esophageal cancer, though in a lesser percentage. Most important is to keep regular follow up and examination of esophagus once the patient is detected of having Barrett’s esophagus.
Causes Of Barrett’s Esophagus Disease
It is important to know what is acid reflux or GERD before we discuss further about Barrett’s esophagus.
However, due to some reason when the valve becomes weak, the stomach acid and juices may leak backwards into the esophagus irritating the lining of its lower end. This is called GERD or acid reflux.
Constant and long standing reflux can result in change in cellular structure of the esophageal lining, giving rise to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. However, many times Barrett’s esophagus can be seen in those who do not suffer from symptoms of GERD. In such cases the cause remains unknown. The risk factors for this disorder are:
- If you are having long standing acid reflux and GERD.
- Men often become victim of Barrett’s esophagus than women.
- It is usually observed in people above the age of 40. The rate of its occurrence in young people is less.
- White men are more susceptible than black complexion individuals.
- Eating spicy and pungent food, pickles, drinking alcohol, cigarette smoking, drinking hot tea and coffee, eating processed food etc give rise to hyperacidity and acid reflux and subsequently Barrett’s esophagus.
Barrett Esophagus Diagnosis
Endoscopy of esophagus is a very important procedure for diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus. The only underlying symptoms are that of acid reflux such as heartburn, pain, nausea etc. So if there is a long standing history of acid reflux or GERD, the gastroenterologist usually performs endoscopy.
In this procedure a small tube called endoscope which has light and camera, is passed into the throat and in the esophagus and the inner lining is visualized. A sample of tissue is taken as a biopsy material and sent to laboratory to confirm the diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal malignancy.
Home Remedies For Barrett’s Esophagus
Since acid reflux and heartburn are factors that may cause Barrett’s esophagus, the primary goal should be to treat acid reflux. Thus it will prevent development or slowdown the progress of Barrett’s esophagus. Together with medications such as proton pump inhibitors, H2 inhibitors, and antacids, change in lifestyle is necessary.
- Avoid eating spicy and pungent food.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking.
- Reduce the intake of processed food and tinned food.
- Avoid drinking too hot tea and coffee.
- Do not lie down for at least one hour after your meals. This is because those who are having weak esophageal valve, recumbent position after meals allow the stomach juices to flow into the esophagus.
- Eat bananas, apples, vegetables and fruits which are high in vitamins and minerals. They have antioxidant properties which protects from harmful free radicals which are responsible for development of cancer.
- Reduce your weight if you are obese as it increases the risk of acid reflux.
- While sleeping, the head and chest level should be higher than stomach.
When the condition is severe or if there is suspicion of malignancy, surgery and other radical measures are to be considered.