How Barrett's Esophagus Is Treated

Female doctor examining her patient with stethoscope in office, desk with laptop in foreground
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Barrett's esophagus can be treated with lifestyle modifications, medications, and surgery. While prevention is undoubtedly important, there are valuable ways to avoid harmful health effects of Barrett's esophagus even if you have already been diagnosed with the condition.

There is no definitive cure that can reverse the disease, so you may need to have long term monitoring with a diagnostic test such as endoscopy throughout the course of your treatment.

Lifestyle Modifications

Your daily habits can impact your symptoms when you have Barrett's esophagus. Certain foods and lifestyle factors can affect the disease itself. It is important that you pay attention to the modifications that you can make on your own.

Helpful daily habits include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Not laying down for about two hours after you eat
  • Elevating your head a few inches while you sleep
  • Maintaining a reasonable weight
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Not wearing belts or clothes that are tight-fitting around the waist

Foods and Drink Selection

When you have Barrett's esophagus, some foods and drinks can exacerbate the condition. You need to avoid these foods or even completely eliminate them from your diet. Keep in mind that the foods that worsen your condition may also cause some discomfort.

Foods to avoid:

  • Fried foods
  • Greasy foods
  • High-fat meats
  • Butter and margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Creamy sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Whole-milk dairy products
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Caffeinated beverages (soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Black pepper
  • Citrus fruit and juices (orange, grapefruit)
  • Tomato juice

While the list of foods to avoid with Barrett's esophagus seems long, that does not mean you have to go hungry! There are plenty of foods that do not have a negative impact on your condition.

Some of the foods that you can eat when you have Barrett's esophagus include:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Baked potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Lean ground beef
  • Lean pork tenderloin
  • Lean pork chops
  • Lean turkey
  • Lean ham
  • Skinless chicken breasts
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheeses (in moderation)
  • Bread
  • Cornbread
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Decaffeinated, non-carbonated beverages
  • Non-citrus fruit juices
  • Water

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Therapies and Prescriptions

Currently, there are no medications that will cure or reverse Barrett's esophagus. A number of medications can help alleviate your symptoms and may prevent your condition from worsening.

Antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and H2 blockers can reduce the reflux (upflow) of stomach acid into the esophagus. Acid reflux damages the lining of the esophagus, and it is a major factor that worsens Barrett's esophagus.

Medications used for the treatment of Barrett's esophagus are often available as OTC formulations. More potent versions are available by prescription. Your doctor may recommend that you use an OTC medication or a prescription, depending on factors such as—the severity of your condition, other medications that you take, and whether you also have other medical conditions.

Antacids

Antacids are useful in relieving heartburn and indigestion. The active ingredient in antacids neutralizes stomach acid, a substance that causes pain and damages the lining of the esophagus.

Some antacids include:

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

PPIs block acid production in the stomach. These are often prescribed for treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers of the stomach or intestine, or other digestive disorders that may cause excess stomach acid.

Proton Pump Inhibitors include:

H2 Blockers

H2 blockers suppress acid production in the stomach. H2 blockers, also called H2-receptor antagonists, are acid-reducing medicines commonly used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease and esophagitis and to reduce the symptoms of peptic ulcer disease.

Commonly used H2 blockers include:

Keep in mind that some medications can harm the esophagus, potentially worsening your condition.

Surgery and Specialist-Driven Procedures

In Barrett's esophagus, the lining of the esophagus is altered due to long term damage. Sometimes, the condition is considered pre-cancerous, and the altered esophageal tissue needs to be removed. There are several types of procedures that you can have if there is a concern about serious consequences, such as cancer.

Surgical treatment may be done using an open surgical procedure or an endoscopic method (which is less invasive). Endoscopy is the use of a tube that is placed into your mouth and directed down to your esophagus. The tube is attached to a camera, which allows your medical team to see the appearance of your esophagus from the inside.

Types of Procedures Used to Treat Barrett's Esophagus

There are several ways of removing esophageal tissue in Barrett's esophagus.

Types of procedures include:

  • Resection: Removal of the altered esophageal tissue
  • Cryotherapy: Using cold temperature to destroy damaged tissue
  • Radio ablation: Using heat to destroy damaged tissue
  • Photodynamic therapy: Using light to destroy damaged tissue

In some cases, surgery can be used to narrow the sphincter (opening between the stomach and the esophagus) to reduce acid reflux. This type of procedure does not involve removing damaged esophageal tissue, but it may prevent the condition from worsening.

A Word From Verywell

Because Barrett's esophagus is considered to be a potentially pre-cancerous condition, medical attention is necessary. Some natural remedies, such as peppermint oil or ginger tea, may be helpful for managing symptoms, but there are not any natural remedies that have been found to reverse the disease.

The key to treatment lies in lifestyle modification. You may need to have your condition monitored with repeated endoscopic examinations—and possibly with biopsy—to assess whether you need an interventional procedure.

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