Everything You Need to Know About Esophageal Spasms

Have you ever heard of Esophageal Spasms1? They are one of the most common illnesses, yet many people are unfamiliar with this term. Some studies on patients indicate that they are more common in women than men.

Furthermore, the age group of 60-80 years old has a higher risk of developing esophageal spasms since muscles are considered to weaken with aging.

1. What are Esophagus and Esophageal Spasms?

The esophagus, or the food tube, carries food or liquid from the mouth into the stomach. The liner tissue inside the receiving tube is located at the center of the chest and connects the digestive system from the throat to the stomach.

Esophageal spasms are irregular beating of muscles in the esophagus. The contractions between the esophagus muscles weaken and squeeze, leading to problems such as indigestion, GERD, and other health-related issues. It further causes the shrinking of the esophageal lining in the body.

Esophageal spasm is of two types.

Diffuse esophageal spasms are more common, and there is an issue with the constant flow of food or liquid from the stomach to the mouth. These spasms cause less chest pain and are treated quickly.

Nutcracker esophageal spasms are less common and cause severe pain and heartburn. These are usually associated with an underlying disease and require time to get treated properly.

2. Symptoms of Esophageal Spasms

Although it is better to get esophageal spasm diagnosed under the doctor’s advice but still some signs that might be a symptom of esophageal spasm are:-

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  • A feeling of something blocking your throat which leads to a need to vomit uncontrollably.
  • A person suffering from chronic cough and experiencing unexplained weight loss.
  • Esophageal spasms can also result in voice changes, such as cracking or lower voice pitching.
  • A person is not able to swallow food and drinks due to the shrinking of the esophagus, thereby causing heartburn, which almost feels no less than a heart attack.
  • A feeling of extreme discomfort in the chest is often experienced.
  • Regurgitation is the frequent flow of food and drinks back to the mouth due to excessive acid in the stomach and esophagus. This acid makes it difficult for the person to digest the food and results in heaviness in the chest.

However, esophageal spasms’ symptoms are almost the same as those of indigestion or GERD. Thus, a person should get treated under a doctor’s supervision to avoid unfortunate incidents if symptoms are ignored and left untreated.

3. Causes of Esophageal Spasms

As mentioned earlier, esophageal spasms are rare but can have a high probability of occurring in people suffering from the following problems.

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Source: Pexels

3.1. Stress

Tension is a mental disturbance caused by pressure in daily life. It can make a person angry, sad, and alone for several hours or even days.

Moreover, tension leads to problems related to the stomach and gut, which can be one of the main causes of this problem.

3.2. GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease)

GERD 2is the problem of excessive reflux of acid, which is transported from the stomach into the esophagus and does this again and again, resulting in irritation, discomfort, and pain.

It is a pre-cancerous serious health disorder, and if it is not detected and treated in time, it leads to either stomach or food-pipe cancers.

3.3. Eating Habits

Muscles located throughout the esophagus are affected by abnormal contractions, which lead to tightening of the esophageal lining when eating very cold or hot foods.

Lastly, eating large volumes of food rapidly and swallowing it at the last minute may block the throat, injuring the esophageal muscles inconveniently.

3.4. Achalasia

It is an esophageal disorder that causes food to stop passing from the esophageal pathway and sends recurrent regurgitations, negatively impacting the body’s immune system.

3.5. Hypertension

It is known as high blood pressure. It often leads to a sense of pain in the chest. Hypertension is more common in people who have a sedentary lifestyle and are obese, which results in a high risk of heart attack and type-2 diabetes3.

4. Treatment

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Since esophageal spasms are rare to most people, it is advised that they be treated and diagnosed with the help of a doctor’s attention and guidelines. The doctors suggest you get the following tests for the same which includes:-

  • Color Doppler ultrasounds or X-rays of the upper abdomen are done to know more clearly about the shape of the esophagus forming in the body. For further diagnoses, a camera device known as an endoscope is placed inside the esophagus, and an endoscopy is carried out to understand how much irregular contractions are happening in the esophageal muscles. Furthermore, it helps the doctor get a clear picture of the esophagus’s shape and size.
  • Manometry is a medical test or procedure that records the rhythmic contractions of the esophagus per minute. It helps the doctor determine the irregularity in the esophagus when you swallow food or drinks.
  • Moreover, doctors suggest various oral medicines and injections, such as Tiazac and calcium channel blockers, to reduce irregular esophageal beats and numb the pain caused by them.

Based on your symptoms, your doctor will advise you on the best test from above to determine the reasons for esophageal spasms and the treatment to recover from them.

5. Lifestyle Changes to Treat Esophageal Spasms

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Source: Pexels

Some lifestyle changes and home remedies can help treat esophageal spasms, which are less serious. These points can be followed to treat and get relief from these spasms.

  • Some foods and drinks cause esophageal spasms. Thus, knowing what to eat and drink is important to avoid further problems or allergies that can lead to esophageal spasms.
  • You should avoid food rich in spices, as spicy foods increase acid production in the stomach.
  • One should maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising for at least one hour daily, such as swimming, walking, or aerobics. This will help one be active and attentive and maintain a moderate weight, ensuring fewer risk factors for developing diseases.
  • As it is rightly said, overconsumption of alcohol and smoking has adverse effects on health. Thus, you should try to avoid it and, if not possible, consume it in very small quantities.
  • Moreover, you should try to eat small portions every 2-3 hours to keep yourself full and satisfied.
  • Maintain a good time gap of 3-4 hours between eating and sleeping at night.
  • If you are suffering from GERD or indigestion, then you must be extra careful and keep your symptoms under control because any negligence can trigger or worsen your esophageal spasms.
  • Practice power yoga 4and mindful activities like meditation and spirituality to relieve tension and stress.

6. Home Remedies For Esophageal Spasms

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Source: Pexels

Fruits and vegetables: Consuming frozen fruits and vegetables available in packed forms helps decrease the burning in the esophagus. Also, avoid consuming highly salted and sour foods.

Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil is the most popular remedy for esophageal spasms. It helps in relaxing the esophageal lining muscles.

Soft Proteins: Besides the above, you should nourish your esophageal muscles with easily chewable, soft foods such as tofu or cottage cheese, which are also rich in protein.

Egg Whites: Egg whites are high in protein and healthy fat and assist with smooth esophagus operation. You may opt to boil eggs and eat them since their softness makes them easy to eat.

Bananas: Bananas are easily chewable. It helps the digestive system to generate heat in the body to reduce the acid in the stomach and esophagus, relieving chest pain.

Soups: Soups are liquid items consumed at a moderate temperature to help with easy digestion. They also do not trigger any irritation in the esophagus. Soups with carrots and potatoes are often recommended.

Esophageal spasms are rare; thus, if anyone experiences them, they should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible. If the cause is known, the spasm can be treated quickly.

It is better not to leave them untreated as they can turn into cancer in the long run.

  1. Roman, Sabine, et al. “Chicago Classification Update (v4. 0): Technical review on diagnostic criteria for distal esophageal spasm.” Neurogastroenterology & Motility 33.5 (2021): e14119. ↩︎
  2. Maret-Ouda, John, Sheraz R. Markar, and Jesper Lagergren. “Gastroesophageal reflux disease: a review.” Jama 324.24 (2020): 2536-2547. ↩︎
  3. Galicia-Garcia, Unai, et al. “Pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus.” International journal of molecular sciences 21.17 (2020): 6275. ↩︎
  4. Dutta, Abhijit, et al. “A comprehensive review of yoga research in 2020.” Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine 28.2 (2022): 114-123. ↩︎

Last Updated on by Dr. Lehri Srivastava

Authors

NITYA KAKKAR
Dr. Lehri Srivastava

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