Author Topic: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach  (Read 12495 times)

Offline hi_itsgwen

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I'm starting this tread as a general information thead about Achalasia including diagnosis and treatment options.

I posted on a related thread about achalasia and some herbal options here:
http://www.welltellme.com/discuss/index.php/topic,23588.msg224824.html#msg224824

Quote
According to one site, achalasia is "chronic spasms of the esophagus due to a stricture at the lower end of the esophagus."  It's a condition in which the muscles are overactive.
I would refine this definition a bit to say that it's a hyperactivity of the lower esophageal sphincter.  A person may simultaneously have a hypoactive (underactive) esophagus, which indicates a lack of peristalsis; the involuntary muscle movements of the smooth muscle lining of the esophagus which moves food down to the stomach.   

For a successful swallow, you have to have both the peristalsis and a simultaneous relaxation of the lower sphincter of the esophagus. 
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http://www.medicinenet.com/achalasia/page2.htm "In achalasia there is an inability of the lower sphincter to relax and open to let food pass into the stomach. In at least half of the patients, the lower sphincter resting pressure (the pressure in the lower sphincter when the patient is not swallowing) also is abnormally high. In addition to the abnormalities of the lower sphincter, the muscle of the lower half of the esophagus does not contract normally, that is, peristaltic waves do not occur, and, therefore, food and saliva are not propelled down the esophagus and into the stomach.
  To the medical world, the cause is unknown.

I did some research on the smooth muscles, which line and power the esophagus, digestive system, hollow organs, the arteries...they regulate the blood pressure (fascinating!), and even the irises of the eyes.  Smooth muscles are triggered by calcium entering the cell and a complex enzymatic process takes place that makes the muscles contract.  The muscles relax when the calcium leaves the cell. sources: http://health.howstuffworks.com/muscle4.htm ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smooth_muscle

Since medical science is pretty mum on causes, I turned to homeopathic sources to look for causes or herbal remedies for achalasia.  http://www.marysherbs.com/anatomy/anat-eso.shtml  This site gives some good ideas for supplements to help this condition including herbs, minerals and vitamins.  It's a bit vague IMO, as it's a general 'herbal' site that doesn't specialize in achalasia, but it's a start none the less.

Since the sites that I found that discuss the contraction process of the smooth muscles state that calcium is the 'chemical' that causes them to respond, I would strongly suspect that a mineral defficiency or imbalance is at work here on some level. 

Which leads me to my soap box on sugar.  Processed sugars are stripped of their mineral content.  The minerals were a part of the plant/natural sugar (put there on purpose by God) because they are needed by the body to metabolize the sugars.  A processed sugar still 'needs' those minerals, and will rob the body of it's mineral stores during digestion.  So eating and drinking a bunch of sweets, IMO, will only aggrevate the condition.  Our American diet is so saturated with processed sugars, and years of abuse to our bodies can cause all sorts of neurological short circuits.  Here is a good article on sugar:
http://www.wholebodymed.com/library_education_details.php?pid=70 

The byproduct of refined sugar is the 'waste product' called blackstrap molasses...and that's where all the good minerals end up.  This page shows you what minerals are in the blackstrap molasses...all the good stuff originally found in the sugar cane: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=118
I have started crystalized cane juice, which still has (some of) the natural minerals in tact.  It is pretty much the exact same to use in the kitchen...it's just a cream color with a very faint fruity scent to it.  As far as plant based foods, generally, the closer you can get to the raw, original 'God made' forms of food, the more nutritious it is. (With exceptions being made for some nuts and grains which are high in phytates and benefit from soaking).

As far as bumping up his nutrition, I would suggest a good liquid multi to start.  We like the NOW brand Iron Free Liquid Multivitamin.  It comes in berry or orange flavor.  My kids like it and enjoy taking it.  It's sweetened with Xylitol instead of sugar.

I did find a site that claims to have an 'all natural guaranteed herbal remedy' for achalasia.  They listed the ingredients in latin or french or something, but I translated for you.  They obviously don't give proportions, but it consists of:
anise oil
caraway oil
eucalyptus oil
pine oil
camphor
menthol
thymol (a substance found in the Bee Balm/Monarda Didymus family of herbs...an antifungal/antiseptic and relaxant)
and ginger tincture.

An interesting blend of stimulants and relaxants.  They claim a money back guarantee (achlotab)...who knows.   I would definitely look into researching these ingredients more and maybe including them in his diet if possible, or maybe even as an inhalent.

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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2009, 03:47:01 PM »
This is an excellent article including diagrams and images of the mechanisms and workings of the lower espophageal sphincter area:
http://www.nature.com/gimo/contents/pt1/full/gimo14.html#f1

I'll post more research later after working my way through this article.  I'm wondering if there's a connection with haital hernia...more to come.
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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2009, 10:36:32 AM »
After reading several articles on both conditions, and hearing testimonies of people with achalasia, and how it started, I think it's more of a nerve and structural/mechanical problem than a nutrition problem.  But good nutrition is very critical for a person who is unable to eat variety and quantities of food, so it's still a very valid concern.

This is a great article on self-diagnosis and treatment for a hiatal hernia:
http://www.healthalert.com/t-Article_Archives.aspx

I think this is closely related to achalasia, after seeing the intricately woven together area of the illustrations in the post above.  The stomach and diaphragm are knit together and must perform in unison to push food into the stomach, so a hiatal hernia would defintely cause problems with normal function.

« Last Edit: March 17, 2009, 10:39:43 AM by hi_itsgwen »
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Offline WellTellMommy

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #3 on: March 17, 2009, 11:26:53 AM »
I'm seeing a connection between digestive enzymes, leaky gut, yeast, neurological, and hiatal hernia, do you think this is part of that connection also? 
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Offline healthyinOhio

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2009, 11:30:59 AM »
My mother has had this problem(difficulty swallowing) for a short time.  She was really concerned and went to the doctor's.  He said it looked like Dermatomyositis.  
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dermatomyositis

Now, not everyone who has trouble swallowing will have that, of course.  But there are other symptoms with it that if anyone had as well, they would know it to be dermatomyositis.

Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2009, 03:08:05 PM »
I'm not on the leaky gut train.   ;D  It's not that I don't believe in it at all...it's just that it gets blamed for everything.  IMO, a weak digestive system is something that is passed on physically through touch/handling and breastmilk (and possibly also through heredity) from parent to child.  If the parents have a 'weak' mix of digestive enzyme, &/or if antibiotics are used, the child is more prone to a weak digestive system and weaker immunity.  A weak digestive system is also less efficient at pulling nutrients from food.  Nutrients are the building blocks of our bodies, so overall, it would result in a less vigorous and healthy person, which would make them much more sensative and suceptible to illness and toxicity.

So the connection exists through that type of thinking I suppose, if a person is already pre-disposed to a weaker immunity.  The peristalic movements of the smooth muscles of the digestive system may be altered by swelling/viruses and such, possibly?   ???

But from what I've seen, the causes would more likely be related to mechanical problems which compromise the positioning of the lower esophageal sphincter and the diaphragm: trauma, incorrect breathing habits (chest breathing instead of abdominal breathing), back problems that mess with the diaphragm, etc.  If the two are not lined up, the food can't move down into the stomach.  Both the diaphragm and the esophagus have to be aligned and relax simultaneously for a successful swallow to happen.

When I say neuralogical, I meant that if the nerves that feed/communicate to the lower GI track are compromised then that could throw the system out of whack as well.  But to me, that's also more of an electrical/mechanical problem as opposed to chemical/toxic problem.

Now maybe a person would have Candida growing all up in their esophagus, but I'm thinking that the swallowing would be among a host of other probelms at that point in the spectrum.
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Offline mykidsmom

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2009, 07:18:16 PM »
Gwen,

I am so with you on the leaky gut thing.  It's kind of like candida.  They both get blamed for everything.  I believe you are spot on in terms of digestion being genetic to a certain extent.  It was not until we allergy tested my husband that we discovered he and my son had the exact same issues with their guts.  If it wasn't genetic I don't know what it was because they ate two very different ways in their young years (husband non-organic, etc).  Although, my ND stated the last time I talked to him that he had not seen a family like ours where everyone had the same poor digestion issues I would venture to say parents pass a lot of this stuff on to their kids.  Perhaps what is minimal in the parents becomes worse in the kids as the generations go on.  I can look back several generations in my husband's family and see food allergies that they never saw.  Now that it's gotten down to our kids it's so bad that they have all kinds of symptoms.  Most would say that's leaky gut caused.  But it's actually caused by lack of digestive enzymes passed down from both he and I. 

Well, anyway, just thought I'd throw in that I don't think leaky gut or candida are the cause of all ills either. 

patti
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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2009, 02:01:07 AM »
I had mentioned on the other achalasia thread that I had started this research for a dear lady at our church who has been struggling with this for quite a while.  Her current doctor is just having her come in for baloon stretches of her lower esophagus, which are extremely painful and so far have given her very little if any relief from the symptoms. 

I sent her the links on this thread of the images of the lower esophageal sphincter and how it is connected with the diaphragm, as well as the information on the hiatal hernia. 

It turns out that she has a very large hiatal hernia.  She is going to take the information to her chiropractor and see if they can't make some progress in the direction of fixing the hiatal hernia.  So be in prayer for her if you will, and I'll let you know if she gives me an update.
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Offline mykidsmom

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2009, 05:01:42 AM »
I'll be praying!  It would be fantastic if this could be fixed with chiro!  We've been using chiro for my bladder and have found some success.  Please do keep us posted!
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Offline hi_itsgwen

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Re: Achalasia: food not moving down the esophagus or into the stomach
« Reply #9 on: April 06, 2009, 06:44:35 AM »
Update on my friend with Achalasia:
She read the articles that I sent to her, and took one to her chiropractor.  He told her that he doesn't do the hiatal hernia adjustments, but he has a friend that does that he could refer her to.  He told her that correcting the positioning of the stomach/diaphragm may help with the discomfort, but that the hole (hernia) would still be there even after the adjustments.

So my friend is just doing the adjustments on her own at home, and she says that they are helping.  She looks like she is putting a bit of weight back on, which would be a great thing for her.
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