Millions of people across the globe live with Barrett’s esophagus. But can Barrett’s esophagus be cured?
Adults diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus may find their outlook seems grim. But there is hope after your diagnosis. Seeking a second opinion from a GERD expert and seeking alternative treatment plans can help you make the decisions you need to make about your care.
What Is Barrett’s Esophagus?
The reason why so many people are obsessed with the question “can Barrett’s esophagus be cured?” is the disturbing and painful nature of the condition. So what is it?
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which tissues lining the intestines replace those lining the esophagus.
It is a serious and life-altering condition. It puts you at increased risk for esophageal cancer and requires constant monitoring to assure that the condition does not progress or turn into cancer.
Because of this, individuals diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus should seek a second opinion if they have any doubt. We always suggest a GERD expert for this second opinion since they will provide you with all of your treatment options, including surgery if that is appropriate. Unfortunately, our research has found most GIs only recommend daily proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication with aggressive surveillance via endoscopy (EDG). But as you will learn, there are other alternatives for you to consider.
How Do You Know If You Have Barrett’s Esophagus?
It is hard to tell if you have Barrett’s because it does not have any symptoms. However, GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, does have well-recognized symptoms. Barrett’s is predominantly the result of longstanding acid reflux disease, and as such, treating GERD as a progressive disease rather than an annoyance is important.
GERD symptoms you should know:
- Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of GERD, though it is not the only symptom.
- Vomiting or regurgitation are also symptoms. These symptoms can range from frequent and explosive vomiting to less noticeable symptoms like frequently regurgitation “in the mouth.”
- Chest pain other than heartburn can also be a symptom. However, chest pain can be a symptom of a variety of health problems of varying severity, including serious cardiac problems. If you experience unexplained chest pain for any reason, particularly if you are a smoker or drug user, please call your doctor immediately.
- Silent reflux, a variation of GERD, has unique symptoms that can include a chronic cough, frequent hoarseness, or persistent throat clearing.
What Can Cause Barrett’s Esophagus?
Before asking yourself “can Barrett’s esophagus be cured,” you should ask yourself about what you can do to avoid developing this condition.
Barrett’s esophagus may seem to strike people randomly, but there are several risk factors associated with Barrett’s. Knowing these underlying causes is particularly important if you are a GERD sufferer.
Two significant factors driving the development of Barrett’s esophagus are smoking and obesity.
If you are a smoker, we highly recommend that you quit smoking regardless of whether or not you’re worried about Barrett’s. There is a multitude of proven benefits to quitting smoking, so no matter how difficult it is for you, it’s certainly worth it.
Research has found that weight gain is associated with both esophageal cancer and Barrett’s esophagus. Maintaining a healthy BMI of 19 to 24, maintaining an active lifestyle, and avoiding unhealthy foods high in fat, salt, and sugar are all part of a strategy to stay healthy. To learn more about weight and its causal role with acid reflux, please read How excess weight is destroying your lower esophageal sphincter and driving your GERD symptoms.
What Can I Do To Prevent Barrett’s Esophagus
Besides quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy BMI, there are ways to reduce your risk of contracting Barrett’s through maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. We know you’ve heard this plenty of times before, but the reality is this advice is incredibly sound. The human body craves plants and will reward you for eating plenty.
Regular use of low dose aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs is a strategy you should discuss with your doctor. The National Cancer Institute believes that more research is necessary, but some observational studies hint at aspirin’s anticancer potential. We also suggest an article on WEBMD; Can Low-Dose Aspirin Lower Cancer Death Risk?
You should also consider several lifestyle changes, especially those that reduce the symptoms of acid reflux. We encourage you to read our article, Adjusting Your Lifestyle to Control Your Gastric Acid Reflux. Significant damage can occur during sleep, so we want to emphasize the section with our nighttime recommendations.
Can Barrett’s Esophagus Be Cured?
There is no mainstream treatment plan to eradicate Barrett’s Esophagus except RF ablation and surgery.
RF ablation, or radiofrequency ablation, is a new approach to treating and purging Barrett’s from the esophagus that seems to hold great promise. It can at the very least prevent the development of more advanced conditions that may progress from Barrett’s. Our article, Stop GERD from progressing to high-grade dysplasia or esophageal cancer discusses RF ablation in more detail.
In cases of high risk, surgery may be performed to remove Barrett’s esophagus cells. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Medication and lifestyle changes can ease your signs and symptoms. Surgery to tighten the sphincter that controls the flow of stomach acid may be an option. Treating GERD doesn’t treat the underlying Barrett’s esophagus and likely won’t decrease the risk of esophageal cancer but can help make it easier to detect dysplasia.”
The most common treatment plan for sufferers of Barrett’s syndrome is the daily acid reducing medication together with regular monitoring via endoscopy (EDG). Most doctors recommend daily proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to reduce the production of acid in your stomach. If you chose PPIs as your acid reduction medication, you should be aware of the health risks associated with the daily long-term use of proton pump inhibitors. We encourage every adult who uses PPIs daily to discuss these risks associated with long-term use with their doctor.
Those who asked “can Barrett’s esophagus be cured?” and find that the answer is “no” can at least take relief in the fact that management and treatment of Barrett’s are possible, and can greatly improve your quality of life.
The most important thing you can do as a sufferer of Barrett’s esophagus is engaging in regular check-ups and endoscopic examinations with your doctor. We also recommend endoscopies for those who believe that they have successfully treated their Barrett’s condition through RF ablation.
Since the risk of esophageal cancer increases for those with Barrett’s, it is vital that you work with your physician and continue to monitor your condition. Your doctor will recommend an EDG frequency, and Dr. Para Chandrasoma also offers his recommendations in our article How often should I have surveillance endoscopy?
The answer to the question asked in the title of this article is unfortunate. But the reason so many people ask that question is that it’s a condition resulting from a disease that typically results from lifestyle choices. Excessive weight, obesity, and diet are often the cause of GERD, which in turn can progress to Barrett’s esophagus.
We encourage anyone suffering from Barrett’s to focus on the day-to-day management of GERD symptoms. If you are interested in avoiding powerful medications, then focus on lifestyle factors such as reaching and maintaining a healthy BMI, following a GERD-friendly diet, adopting specific lifestyle changes, using less powerful medications such as antacids and H2 blockers, and experimenting with several home remedies.
We hope you will consider RefluxMD’s “Recipe for Relief: a GERD-friendly meal plan and acid reflux diet program,” which offers a three-week meal plan and over 90 delicious GERD-friendly recipes.
Although there is not a proven cure for Barrett’s esophagus at this point, there are many things you can do to reduce your risk of progressing to high-grade dysplasia and esophageal cancer. We encourage you to get started today and partner with a GERD expert to design your path to relief and good health.