Tag Archives: Barrett’s Esophagus

That old chestnut, if you have your health you have everything!

That old chestnut, if you have your health you have everything!

Yesterday was my medical test day.  I’m pretty much talking soup to nuts … what with EKG’s, lots of blood work and then an afternoon at Mt. Sinai Hospital getting hundreds of pictures taken of my esophagus and stomach from the “inside” view.

Sheesh.  It was enough to make me heave, which I’m proud to say I didn’t, but having been prone on a surgical table for 45 minutes with lots of tubes, IV lines and the like, I do have pains in odd places today that are inexplicable such as the weird spot on my left jaw and the sore in my mouth just below my lip on the right side.

Hiatal Hernia, Credit: Medicine.net

Things are mostly okay with a few surprises — such as a Hiatal Hernia and some funny looking inflammation in my stomach.

For those *not* in the know (such as myself twelve hours ago), a Hiatal Hernia is when part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm into the space were the esophagus passes through to the stomach.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, “Your diaphragm normally has a small opening (hiatus) through which your food tube (esophagus) passes on its way to connect to your stomach. The stomach can push up through this opening and cause a Hiatal Hernia.” (Link)

Many patients who have been diagnosed with a Hiatal Hernia (such as myself) don’t exhibit any particular symptoms other than GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) and may only discover that they have a hernia after undergoing an Endoscopy. (An Endoscopy is a surgical procedure which entails a GI specialist viewing your esophagus through a tube that passes through the esophagus and the stomach all the way to the small intestine.  It is also known as an Upper GI Endoscopy.)

The diagnosis of a Hiatal Hernia is also found in patients who have Barrett’s Esophagus — and such is the case with me.

For those who’ve never heard of Barrett’s Esophagus, “it is a condition in which the cells of your lower esophagus become damaged, usually from repeated exposure to stomach acid. The damage causes changes to the color and composition of the esophagus cells.” (Mayo Clinic Link.) The process, known as “metaplasia” actually changes the cells from the normal ones found in the esophagus to the type of cells normally found in the intestines!  To quote some more from the Mayo Clinic write-up, “A diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus can be concerning because it increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Although the risk of esophageal cancer is small, monitoring of Barrett’s esophagus focuses on periodic exams to find precancerous esophagus cells. If precancerous cells are discovered, they can be treated to prevent esophageal cancer.”

Acid Reflux, Credit: Greater Baltimore Medical Center

GERD is the usual precursor to Barrett’s Esophagus.  In my case, the thinking is that I’ve had this for many years, but because my symptoms were not related to the classic heartburn of old Alka Seltzer commercials, but rather as sore throats and coughs, what I had always thought were seasonal allergies turned out to be LPR or Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease.  In other words, discomfort in my throat, not my stomach!

Often called “silent reflux” this particular permutation of gastric reflux is often linked to GERD as well as a risk factor for developing Barrett’s Esophagus and other Esophageal conditions. As well, Hiatal Hernias are also often seen in GERD and LPR patients.  (LPR Link)

All of these conditions require diagnosis, treatment and follow-up by skilled GI and ENT specialists and should be taken seriously.

There are also important steps that patients such take to help mitigate the discomfort and risks associated with these conditions.  Changes included the following suggestions:

– If you smoke, quit.

– If you are overweight, commit to returning to a normal weight for your height and body type.

– If you don’t exercise on a regular basis, you should strongly consider starting.

– Avoid the “no-no” foods:  Soda/carbonated beverages (even club soda), alcoholic beverages, chocolate, mints, citrus fruits/drinks/juices, spicy foods, tomato-based products, caffeine, fried foods, high fat foods, refined flours/sugars, highly acidic foods.

– Eat small meals/snacks 5-6 times per day, instead of 3 large meals.  This helps to digest food faster, especially if you eat one type of food at a time rather than loading up with lots of different foods as once.

– Try to take a walk after eating. A twenty-minute “constitutional” should do it. This really aids the digestive process.

– Stop eating 3-4 hours before lying down/going to bed

– Invest in a wedge pillow (gradual include to 6 inches) and use this for sleeping at night.

Also realize, that you can affect the outcome of your own health — and while things may not return to perfect, your commitment to yourself and doing what you can to help yourself, really does make a difference.




Living each day.

Living each day.

Whether it is the dangers of the ring, such as the one that has seen Ishika Lay on her long road to recovery from second-impact syndrome, or something closer to home, such as the sudden illness of a relative or friend, living each day to its fullest is an important mantra:  even when that means walking away from the things we love to do.

That means not only pursuing your dreams, but knowing when to sit out because the risks are too great.

Have a headache after sparring that won’t go away?  Go and get it checked out and follow the mantra:  when in doubt, sit it out.

I know we all tend to ignore the long-term effects of our actions or even cast a “blind eye” to their very existence, but headaches and the like are also symptoms of acute problems that can be dealt with much more readily early on.  Sometimes it is only a matter of facing down the demons that seem to haunt us when we contemplate the “why” question that prevents us from taking the next step — say to a doctor’s office.  Not to do so, however, is to play a dangerous game of roulette with one’s own health and well-being.  It is also an example of breaking a cardinal rule that can best be translated as cheating at solitaire.

Here’s another one: Do you have indigestion every time you eat a slice of pizza?  Or in the absence of that, cough after every pasta or pizza meal?  Has it seemed to escalate at night lately, even when you don’t eat pizza? Go and get that checked! And P.S. … stop eating pizza and pasta till you know what’s going on.  At the very least you might have GERD (Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease), but it also might mean (depending on your age), that you are starting to see changes to the actual make-up of your esophagus (Barrett’s Esophagus) which can lead to “no joke” complications.

I bring this all up because so many of us “live” with things that we think are nothing that end up being a big something in a hurry when we least expect it.  When that happens the effects are often horrendous, both to the individual undergoing treatment and to family and friends who suffer along with each bump in the road.

Athletes presumably have a great sense of their bodies – certainly of the cause and effects of too little sleep, poor eating habits and so on; however, that doesn’t always translate into evaluating the relative risks of injuries or of even recognizing that the twinge in a shoulder is really a rotator cuff injury about to blow.

That’s when we all have to take some responsibility not only for our own health and well-being, but for what we see going on around us by taking to heart the “if you see something, say something” mantra.  Sure, you might be accused of putting your nose into someone’s business, but you well might recognize something that your sparring partner just doesn’t see.

Part of living each day certainly translates into living it with gusto, but we also need to be cognizant of all the aspects of our day, even the things we’d rather ignore.  The problem is the things we ignore have a way of slamming us in the face whether we acknowledge them or not, and for my money, it’s better to face an issue head on than wait for the unexpected surprise.

Getting back in the swing!

Getting back in the swing!

Whether it’s perfecting your left hook or flexing your mind (as in keeping a “daily” blog) – getting back to a regular regimen is tough going when you’ve been away from it for a while!

Having stepped into the gym on Saturday for the first time in three weeks was a case in point.  I’m nursing sore abs, a creaky shoulder and a mindset that is less focused on perfecting the minute shifts of tuned-up training, than just getting to the gym at all.

So my job is to push my momentum, meaning, getting myself back on a weekly gym schedule that *builds* rather than maintains!  I’m also trying to talk myself out of the neat excuses for not going such as, “I’ll be out of town on Saturday” or “I’m tired” or “it’s raining out” … you know the drill!

I can say the same for writing!  When I don’t write every day I get out of the habit — so, starting today, I am bound and determined to get back on the writing stick!  And yes, I’ll even give myself some slack for having finished up my degree, et alia, but a daily blog is just that, a daily blog.  That means putting fingers to the keyboard with a mindset that can get past the range of reasons *not* to do something.

Meanwhile, it’s 2012 and I’m already over three weeks behind in getting my resolutions in order for the year!  So here goes!

1.  Write a daily entry for Girlboxing!

2.  Gain more strength, endurance and flexibility. Being in my late 50s means I need resistance training and a lot of it to keep my bones strong.  I also need to do more aerobic training, and yoga.  That means getting back to a training schedule that has me doing at least one thing a day and on some days all three!

3.  Eating better!  Yikes.  This one is tough.  Having been diagnosed with LPR (Laryngeal Pharyngeal Reflux) and GERD (Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease) PLUS having Barrett’s Esophagus (the cells in the esophagus near the gastric junction actually CHANGE due to acid erosion), I’ve been living a low-acid/low-fat life!  What I have to get to, however, is better balance in selecting meals and foods and how they are combined.  This one is a tough to sort out – and I’ll actually do a column on it sometime soon, suffice to say that I’m getting there.  I’ve lost nearly 25 pounds since the change in my eating regimen in July 2011, now the trick is to go the rest of the way (another 10 pounds), while continuing to build muscle (which has suffered as late) so that when I eventually meet my goal, I’ll be a healthy and toned – rather than depleted and weak.

4.  The next project:  now this is the tough one!  I’m thinking book and just have to move into the space by DOING rather than angsting about it.  And therein lies the sticky problem: getting to the DOING part.  Again, it’s a matter of starting and once in the habit continuing the process until it is concluded.  Easier said than done?  No, probably not ‘cause we all have goals that we set and follow.  It’s that pesky issue of getting started!

What it all comes down to for the year:  Doing!

So, day one in my reforecast New Year means putting the fingers to the keyboard to say thanks so much to my Girlboxing friends for listening and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

And how nice that it happens to coincide with the Chinese celebration of the Year of the Dragon!