Have you or anyone you know suffered with acid reflux? I am sure the answer to that question for the majority of you is yes as statistics tell us that one in five Americans experience acid reflux on a weekly basis and 40 percent of us deal with it at least once a month. We often blame the spicy food we may have eaten that day and will often have an over the counter remedy on hand to deal with the symptoms. Maybe, though, it’s time to think differently.
Esophageal adenocarcinoma is cancer of the lining of the soft tube that delivers food and drink from the mouth to the stomach and this particular variety of cancer has increased sevenfold since the early 1970’s. As if that isn’t bad enough, the American Cancer Society estimates that 15,850 Americans will die of esophageal cancer this year alone! Eighty-five percent of esophageal cancers are found in people 55 and over and approximately four times as many men get the disease as women.
“It’s one of the fastest growing issues we have in our population” says David Odell assistant professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead investigator on a study of esophageal cancer which was funded by the American Cancer Society.
If you have a couple of bouts of acid reflux per week you will no doubt have been pronounced with suffering with GERD. GERD is caused primarily by obesity, a tendency to eat very large meals and leading a stressful life.
Unfortunately GERD can sometimes lead to a disorder called Barrett’s esophagus, which is when the cells of the esophagus begin to change. “Five percent of GERD patients will develop Barrett’s, and 10 percent of those will go on to develop cancer” reports Odell. He also warns that “if someone has heartburn that is not controlled by medication or simple measures like not laying down after eating, it’s critical that they follow up with their doctor or a gastroenterologist. If you have reflux, discuss it with your physician to make sure there is nothing else going on and if you have difficulty swallowing, see your doctor immediately; it could be the first sign of a tumor.”
There are some measures you can take to reverse GERD and reduce your esophageal cancer risk.
- Ensure you eat a high-fiber diet as it can reduce the risk of Barrett’s esophagus by up to 66 percent and esophageal adenocarcinoma by as much as 34 percent.
- Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables will cut your risk of Barrett’s by as much as 73 percent and risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma is reduced by approximately 32 percent.
- The folate that leafy greens and legumes provide have also shown to reduce the risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer by up to 60 percent.