Achalasia is an uncommon disease of the esophagus which makes it tough for individuals to eat or swallow foods. It can be challenging to live with it. While achalasia has no known cure, there are various treatment options available to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. In this article, we will explore the different approaches to treating achalasia, from lifestyle modifications to medical interventions.
Let us first take a short look at Achalasia. An uncommon disorder that affects the operation of muscles in the oesophagus is called achalasia. This refers to the passageway through which food reaches the stomach from the mouth.
The muscles in the esophagus often work involuntarily by expanding or narrowing to move food down into the belly. In contrast, in achalasia, the lower segment of the esophagus is weak or paralyzed; hence LES stays closed.
The exact reasons causing achalasia are not known, however, it’s considered an autoimmune disease when the body’s immune system mistakes the nerves in the oesophagus for foreign bodies and attacks them. Degeneration occurs to this extent and it affects the operation of LES.
Symptoms of achalasia may be different for different people, with the most common being difficulty in swallowing and dysphagia. Such feelings may be experienced with solid and/or liquid foods and a sense of having a lump or obstacle in the chest/throat.
Consequently, people suffering from achalasia often have regurgitation of undigested food or saliva leading to heartburn and chest pains. Individuals may also lose weight because they get fed up with the trouble of swallowing which can come as a result of taking such medications.
Diet Modification for Achalasia
Incorporating dietary modifications for achalasia can alleviate the discomfort and challenges associated with eating. Here are some details on the diet modifications for achalasia:
👉 Eating smaller, frequent meals controls portion sizes and prevents stomach distention. Chewing food thoroughly aids digestion.
👉 Choose softer foods that are easy to chew and swallow to prevent food from getting stuck in the esophagus. Cooked vegetables, tender meats, fish, and soft grains like oatmeal or couscous are good choices. Use a blender or food processor to create smooth and easy-to-eat meals like pureed soups, mashed potatoes, or smoothies.
👉 Drinking liquids with meals aids digestion by moistening food, making it easier to swallow. Sip fluids throughout the meal, but avoid excessive consumption before or after eating, which can cause quicker stomach filling.
👉To manage achalasia symptoms, avoid triggering foods like spicy, acidic, carbonated drinks, and high-fat or high-fiber foods. Use a food diary to identify personal triggers and make informed dietary choices.
Some people with achalasia benefit from adopting some lifestyle changes too. They comprise taking time during mealtimes, sitting upright when eating, staying active for some time after food intake, and keeping body weight in check. Moreover, propelling the head end of the bed while sleeping may minimise heartburns causing night troubles.
Pneumatic Balloon Dilation
Pneumatic Balloon Dilation as a Medical Intervention for Achalasia. The process entails enlarging the esophagus by blowing air into a balloon at the lower esophagal sphincter. It is usually done under a light sleeping or general surgical condition that gives patients up to several months to years of comfort.
For instance, should balloon dilatation be unsuitable or unwanted, botulinum toxin (botox) injection may be an alternative. Here, botulinum toxin is injected into the muscles of LES rendering them paralyzed, letting down the passage of food. Nevertheless, the results obtained can be short-term and hence need repeated treatment.
Other treatment failures and those with severe achalasia, on the other hand, may require the use of surgical interventions including Heller myotomy and robotic-assisted surgery. Heller myotomy cuts the LES muscles to boost the capacity for swallowing. The other method of intervention involves using sophisticated technology through robotic-assisted surgery.
Living with achalasia can be challenging, but with the right treatment approach, individuals can find relief from its distressing symptoms and regain control over their eating habits. From dietary modifications and lifestyle changes to medical interventions like balloon dilation or surgical options, there are various ways to manage achalasia.
Remember, it is essential to consult with a medical professional who specializes in treating achalasia to determine the most suitable treatment plan for your specific needs. With the right treatment, achalasia can be effectively managed, allowing you to enjoy a better quality of life.