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Elimination Diet Targets Esophagus Inflammation

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inflammation of the esophagus may respond to elimination diet Hemera/Thinkstock

Whenever digestive problems involve the throat, esophagus or upper chest, you might experience heartburn, difficulty in swallowing or that “food stuck in the throat” sensation.

You might associate such symptoms with children who have food allergies, but when these symptoms are seen in adults, there can be a number of causes. Doctors are finding that with adults, too, they can be food-related.

This brings into play a condition called eosinophilic esophagitis, or EoE, because it is increasingly behind cases of throat and chest discomfort in adults.

In simplest terms, EoE occurs when the esophagus becomes inflamed from an increased number of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell. These cells are provoked into production by allergens, drugs, parasites and other means.

If you zero in on food allergies as a possible cause of EoE, then there’s good news from the American Gastroenterological Association.

A recent article in Gastroenterology, the AGA’s official journal, reviewed the success of a six-food elimination diet in adult patients with EoE. In fact, identifying food triggers could become a therapeutic alternative to corticosteroids, the article said.

Dr. Nirmala Gonsalves of Northwestern University, lead author of the study on the six-food elimination diet, said it could help identify food triggers when the patient has no history of food allergy or intolerance.

“By first eliminating, then systematically reintroducing foods in our adult patients, we were able to identify the specific food triggers that caused their symptoms, such as heartburn, chest pain and difficulty swallowing, or the sensation of food being stuck in their throat,” said Gonsalves.

She added that by undergoing the elimination diet, adult EoE patients would be in a position to receive better information for tailoring their individual diet and managing their symptoms for the long-term.

The elimination diet studied at Northwestern involved six common culprits -- milk, soy, egg, wheat, peanuts/tree nuts and shellfish/fish.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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