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Barrett's Esophagus: Care Instructions

Esophagus and stomach.


The esophagus is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. Food and liquids go through this tube.

In Barrett's esophagus, the cells that line the tube change. This is usually because of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD causes acid from your stomach to back up into the esophagus.

When you have Barrett's esophagus, you are slightly more likely to get cancer of the esophagus. So regular testing is important to watch for signs of this cancer.

You can treat GERD to control your symptoms and feel better.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • If you take over-the-counter medicine, such as antacids or acid reducers, follow all instructions on the label. If you use these medicines often, talk with your doctor. Be careful when you take over-the-counter antacid medicines. Many of these medicines have aspirin in them. Read the label to make sure that you are not taking more than the recommended dose. Too much aspirin can be harmful.
  • Do not smoke or chew tobacco. Smoking can make gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Avoid foods that make your symptoms worse. These may include chocolate, mint, alcohol, pepper, spicy foods, high-fat foods, or drinks with caffeine in them, such as tea, coffee, colas, or energy drinks. If your symptoms are worse after you eat a certain food, you may want to stop eating it to see if your symptoms get better.
  • Eat smaller meals, and more often. After eating, wait 2 to 3 hours before you lie down.
  • Raise the head of your bed 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in.) by putting blocks under the frame or a foam wedge under the head of the mattress. Adding extra pillows does not work.
  • Do not wear tight clothing around your midsection.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Losing just 2.5 to 4.5 kilograms (5 to 10 pounds) can help.
  • Go to regular follow-up testing, even if you don't have symptoms. It helps your doctor watch for signs of more changes that may lead to cancer.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Food or something sharp is stuck in your esophagus and you can't swallow at all.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse belly pain.
  • You are vomiting.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms of reflux.
  • You have any pain or trouble swallowing.
  • You are losing weight.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.