Barrett’s Syndrome and Your Digestive System

barretts-digestionIn Barrett’s Syndrome or Barrett’s esophagus the cells in the esophageal lining change. Barrett’s esophagus is more common among people who have GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder). A common digestion disorder, GERD happens when the acid that the stomach produces to digest food refluxes back to the esophagus. Due to this acid reflux, the esophageal lining becomes irritated. Over a period of time, GERD can progress to Barrett’s Esophagus.

Understand your Digestive System

The food that you eat travels down to the stomach through a pipe known as the esophagus. Its main job is to pass down the food to the stomach for digestion. To digest the food we eat, digestive fluid is produced in the stomach. The fluid is very acidic in nature, hence the name gastric acid, and can cause much damage to esophagus if it travels upwards.

GERD is a condition caused when the gastric acid is refluxed upwards, towards the esophagus, causing heartburn. Over time, if not treated, GERD can develop into barrett’s syndrome.

Consult your doctor if you experience frequent heartburn or if you experience heartburn along with the following:

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Blood in stool or vomit
  • Vomiting

What are the Causes of Barrett’s Esophagus?

Barrett’s Esophagus is a digestion disorder that develops in some people having chronic GERD or esophagitis (a disease in which the esophagus becomes inflamed). Bad eating habits are the most common cause of Barrett’s. Eating junk food, oily, or spicy food too frequently can cause damage to the esophagus. Once the cells in esophagus are damaged, they cannot be replaced.

Usually the first symptom of acid reflux, GERD, or Barrett’s is heartburn. If a person has persistent heartburn, with or without the other symptoms listed above, he or she must immediately see a doctor.

Barrett’s is usually diagnosed following an endoscopy. In endoscopy, the physician sees the esophageal lining and the extent of damage to it. If needed, the doctor may take a small tissue sample (that is, perform a biopsy) and send it to the laboratory for further examination.

Barrett’s Esophagus Treatment

The doctor will begin your treatment based on following factors:

  • Your age, medical history and over-all health
  • Your tolerance for specific medicines and therapies
  • Extent of the disease

Treatment options include: medicines, surgery and dilation procedure.

There is no definite cure for barrett’s syndrome. Once the normal cells in the esophageal lining are damaged, they cannot be brought back to normal. So the treatment focuses solely on preventing any more damage to the esophagus.

Make these Lifestyle Changes to avoid Acid Reflux

Certain lifestyle improvements can prevent acid reflux and help manage it better if present.

  • Have your last meal at least three hours before bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol and cigarette
  • Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet; avoid fried, spicy foods; reduce caffeine intake
  • Have smaller meals
  • Lose weight if you are obese to relieve upward pressure on the stomach
  • Elevate the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches to avoid acid refluxes while sleeping
  • Meet your doctor on timely basis to monitor the disease