Barrett’s Esophagus Self Help

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which some of the lining of the esophagus is replaced by a type of tissue that is normally found in the intestine. It is estimated to affect about 700,000 adults in the United States. It is more common in men than in women, and especially in Caucasians.

Barrett’s itself may or may not cause any symptoms. Barrett’s does not cause cancer, but often precedes it. The risk of developing esophageal cancer is 30 to 125 times higher in people who have Barrett’s esophagus than those who don’t. The risk of developing cancer is low, about 0.5 percent of people with Barrett’s esophagus will develop esophageal cancer each year.

People with known Barrett’s esophagus should be frequently monitored for early detection of possible cancer. Barrett’s esophagus can occur in people without gastric reflux, but is three to five times more common in people who do have it. Treatment with acid-blocking drugs sometimes improves the extent of the Barrett’s, but it doesn’t correlate with a reduction in cancer rates.

Production of peroxynitrite, a damaging free radical, contributes to Barrett’s esophagus. Vitamin C, glutathione, and folic acid are known to help reduce the formation of damaging peroxynitrites. Barrett’s is diagnosed by doing an upper GI endoscopy and biopsy.

The healing options may help with the symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus. They may also help prevent cancer of the esophagus, which is the long-term problem to be concerned about. Very little literature about this is available, but I am working with what is known in other areas of the digestive tract and personal experience with clients. It is necessary to continue to have medical testing and to be vigilant about this illness.

Healing Options

  • Take folic acid. Folic acid is well documented to help prevent colon cancer. In a Chinese study, folic acid and beta-carotene were studied to see what long-term effect they would have on the prevention of esophageal, stomach, and colon cancers.

They gave 20 milligrams (20,000 micrograms) of folic acid daily plus 1 milligram vitamin B12 as an injected shot once a month for one year. (Vitamin B12 was given as a precautionary measure, because if someone who has a folic acid deficiency is treated with folic acid, it can hide neurological damage that may be caused by the B12 deficiency.)

After the first year, the folate was continued twice a week plus 1 milligram of vitamin B12 every three months. There were no incidences of digestive cancers in the folate test group. It has long been used in patients with ulcerative colitis to help prevent colon cancer.

Folic acid works as an antioxidant to control peroxynitrite scavenger. In the 1970s, Butterworth, a medical researcher, did several studies on the use of folic acid, 10 milligrams daily, to successfully treat women with cervical dysplasia. This condition is not dissimilar to Barrett’s.

It may not be necessary to use such high dosages, but the research has not yet been done and folate appears to be nontoxic at extremely high dosages. Because folic acid can mask vitamin B12 deficiency, most products contain only 0.8 milligrams per dose (800 micrograms).

At this time, there is only one company I know of that sells folic acid in a 10 milligram dosage, available through Emerson Ecologics. Take 20 milligrams daily for one year, plus 1 milligram vitamin B12 by injection each month, or take sublingual B12 hydroxycobalamine 1,000 milligrams weekly. Second year, reduce dosage as noted above.

  • Try antioxidant nutrients. Several studies indicate that free radical damage helps initiate Barrett’s esophagus. Antioxidant nutrients are useful in nearly every condition. Selenium levels in people with Barrett’s esophagus are lower than in controls.

Glutathione levels are reduced, malondialdehyde, and NF-kappa B levels are increased. It is prudent to increase levels of antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C, carotenoids, vitamin E, selenium, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), lipoic acid, folic acid, and others.

You can begin with a combination antioxidant supplement with at least 200– 400 micrograms selenium. Add an additional 1,000 IU of vitamin E, 1,000–2,000 milligrams NAC, and at least 1,000–2,000 milligrams vitamin C. You may want to use the vitamin C flush.

  • Try probiotics and digestive enzymes. No published research on the use of probiotic bacteria or on the use of digestive enzymes in Barrett’s is available, but it would make sense to give each a trial.