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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Barrett syndrome


* Not a rare disease
Other Names for this Disease
  • Barrett esophagus
  • Barrett ulcer
  • Chronic peptic ulcer and esophagitis syndrome
  • Columnar-like esophagus
  • Esophagitis-peptic ulcer
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Your Question

What are the dietary recommendations for individuals with Barrett syndrome?

Our Answer

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What is Barrett syndrome?

Barrett syndrome, also known as Barrett esophagus, is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus (the tube that carries food from the throat to the stomach) is replaced by tissue that is similar to the lining of the intestine. This process is called intestinal metaplasia.[1] The exact cause of Barrett syndrome is not known, but gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a risk factor for the condition.[1] While Barrett syndrome itself does not cause symptoms, the acid reflux associated with GERD often leads to symptoms of heartburn.[2]  Less than 1% of people with Barrett syndrome develop a rare type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma.[1] Treatment of GERD should improve symptoms, and may keep Barrett syndrome from getting worse.[2] Endoscopic or surgical treatments can be used to treat Barrett syndrome with severe dysplasia or cancer.[1]

Last updated: 3/5/2010

How might Barrett syndrome be managed?

Treating GERD should improve symptoms and may keep Barrett syndrome from getting worse.[2] Since most people who are diagnosed with Barrett syndrome have frequent heartburn and acid reflux, medication may be prescribed to help control these symptoms. The following lifestyle modifications may also be helpful:[2][3]

  • Maintaining a healthy weight (or losing weight if needed) 
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Avoiding tight fitting clothes
  • Eliminating heartburn triggers
  • Avoiding stooping or bending
  • Avoiding lying down after meals
  • Sleeping with the head of the bed elevated 
  • Avoiding alcohol and tobacco

Surgery or other procedures may be recommended if a biopsy shows cell changes that are very likely to lead to cancer. Such changes are called severe or high-grade dysplasia. Some of these procedures remove the harmful tissue in the esophagus where the cancer is most likely to develop.[2]

  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT) involves the use of a special laser device, called an esophageal balloon, along with a drug called Photofrin.
  • Other procedures use different types of high energy to destroy the precancerous tissue.
  • Surgery to remove the abnormal lining
Last updated: 3/4/2010

What are the dietary recommendations for individuals with Barrett syndrome?

The diet for patients with Barrett syndrome is the same as that recommended for patients with GERD.[4] To prevent heartburn, individuals with Barrett syndrome should avoid foods and beverages that may trigger their symptoms. For many people, these include:[3][4][5] 

  • Caffeine
  • Spicy, fried or fatty foods
  • Chocolate
  • Full-fat dairy products
  • Peppermint
  • Spearmint
  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Citrus fruits or juices
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Vinegar
  • Aspirin
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Individuals with Barrett syndrome should also decrease the size of portions at mealtime, avoid eating 3 hours prior to bedtime, elevate the head of the bed 6 inches, lose weight (if overweight), and stop smoking.[3][4][5]

Last updated: 3/4/2010