Trouble Swallowing?
Better Nutrition|February 2021
If you experience difficulty swallowing, you might have a recently recognized condition called eosinophilic esophagitis, which may be caused by food allergies.
MELISSA DIANE SMITH

Q I make the meals for myself and my 58-year-old husband, who has just been diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis. Can you tell me more about this condition, and if there is anything I can do, nutritionally speaking, to help my husband alleviate it?

In the early 1990s, doctors began describing a new condition affecting the esophagus, the muscular tube connecting the throat with the stomach. This issue seems to afflict patients who are predisposed to allergies, including food allergies, asthma, and eczema. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing and/or feeling like food is moving too slowly through the esophagus. Known as eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), this condition has become increasingly prevalent since the early 2000s.

Those who suffer from EoE have a large number of eosinophils—a type of white blood cell—and inflammation of the esophagus. The condition can cause difficulty in swallowing and heartburn, and in severe cases it can lead to food becoming stuck in the esophagus. In children, it can lead to problems with feeding, poor growth, or weight loss. If it’s not properly diagnosed and treated, EoE may lead to permanent scarring or narrowing of the esophagus. Patients with this condition also have an increased risk of multiple autoimmune diseases.

The good news is that simple dietary changes can often help. There’s a strong food allergy connection to EoE, and elimination diets that remove common allergens from the diet are a key treatment for the condition.

Why Is EoE on the Rise?

EoE can affect both males and females of any age, but is most common in men in their 30s and 40s. It’s estimated to affect up to one in 2,000 adults in the U.S., and evidence suggests that those numbers have been growing. A review published in 2019 of nearly 30 studies in Europe and North America found that there has been a progressive increase in the number of new EoE cases since the early 2000s.

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