Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the tissue that lines the esophagus becomes precancerous, is not reversible. However, there are effective ways to manage gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a condition doctors believe is associated with Barrett’s esophagus. Lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of Barrett’s esophagus progressing to cancer.
GERD occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach rise into the esophagus. Avoiding trigger foods—such as chocolate, coffee, fried foods, peppermint, spicy foods, and carbonated beverages—can help reduce symptoms. These foods increase acid levels in the stomach.
Doctors also recommend eating multiple small, frequent meals instead of a few large ones. To prevent reflux from occurring while you sleep, wait at least three to four hours to lie down after eating a meal. Also, elevate your head at bedtime.
In addition, research suggests that drinking alcohol may increase the risk of GERD and Barrett’s esophagus. Our doctors recommend avoiding alcohol altogether if you have been diagnosed with either condition.
People with Barrett’s esophagus who smoke have a higher risk of developing esophageal cancer than those who don’t. Smoking increases the production of stomach acid and weakens the muscular valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach. Smoking can also decrease the production of saliva, which neutralizes acid.
Experts in NYU Langone’s Tobacco Cessation Programs provide the tools and counseling to help you quit for good.
Carrying excess weight, especially in the belly, can compress the stomach and cause acid to rise into the esophagus, worsening GERD symptoms. If you are overweight or obese, your doctor can refer you to specialists and nutritionists in the NYU Langone Weight Management Program who can help you lose weight. Our experts can also discuss whether bariatric surgery—a procedure performed on the stomach or intestines that may help you lose weight—is right for you.