You probably haven’t heard of eosinophilic esophagitis (EE) unless you or someone you know has it. A decade ago it was considered fairly rare by the medical community but this condition is rapidly increasing in incidence. It used to be mainly a problem diagnosed in children but now it is more commonly being found in adults.
EE occurs when eosinophils (a white blood cell, part of the immune system) infiltrates the esophagus due to food and environmental allergies. When the eosinophils detect an ‘intruder’ (the allergen) they release substances that ultimately cause tissue swelling which leads to compression of the tube. The swelling comes and goes depending on the exposure to allergens. During an acute reaction, food that is being consumed may feel like it can’t go down (called dysphagia) and in extreme cases it can become impacted. Repeated cycles of this event cause the esophagus to stiffen and may create strictures and thickenings, known as Schatzki rings.
Esophageal pain associated with food consumption is often reflux related and so many people assume they have heartburn when they have pain behind their sternum. However, if this pain is also associated with the sensation that food is getting stuck part way down, this is a signal that the problem may be EE. EE can only be diagnosed by a gastroenterologist who will perform an endoscopy with tissue biopsy. The tissue will be observed under microscope to confirm abnormal eosinophil concentration.
Eosinophilic esophagitis is of particular interest to me because I was diagnosed with it in 2014. Looking back, I can remember the first time it felt like I couldn’t swallow something I ate. It was ages ago and it didn’t happen again for years so of course I didn’t even give it a second thought. But over time, I had these episodes more and more frequently and more and more intensely until I had a very intense lengthy episode of impacted food that motivated me to go for a diagnosis.
Eosinophilic esophagitis is considered chronic, incurable, progressive and is expected to relapse and remit. The conventional treatment is palliative and can have undesirable side effects.
Naturally, I have found better natural treatments!
Identifying and avoiding food intolerances has been so helpful. I went from having 2-3 episodes per week to 1 every 3 months – and those I could trace to accidental or purposeful exposures to specific foods.
Identifying and avoiding or desensitizing environmental allergies is another component of the treatment strategy. Some EE sufferers only experience episodes during their hay-fever season. That was not my case, but my worst episodes have occurred during grass season, which is my allergen. Retraining the immune system to not attack these pollens has brought further improvement.
Helping the lymphatic system to drain efficiently with detoxifying remedies has also helped both prophylactically and during acute episodes.
If you have chronic heartburn, you may have eosinophilic esophagitis. This condition irreversibly damages your esophagus so early detection is desirable. Natural treatments can substantially improve your quality of life and reduce the progression of the condition.