The esophagus stretches from your throat to your stomach and it is responsible for transporting food when you eat and swallow all the way down so that it can be properly digested. This long tube has a number of sphincter muscles all the way down that help push food and water down, but they are also the way that you regurgitate food when you are sick.
If and when you throw up, you will feel just how powerful these esophageal muscles are, since they have to drag food all the way from your stomach back to your mouth. Esophageal spasms are just like these contractions, although they are not to do with the body needing to throw something up.
They can be extremely powerful and are very often irregular. If you have suffered from esophageal spasms before, you will know just how unpleasant they are and want to take steps to preventing them from happening again. There are a number of ways in which you can do just this.
1- Try to avoid particularly hot or cold foods
Although it is not known exactly what causes esophageal spasms, eating very hot and cold food has been linked to spasmodic episodes. If you suffer a lot from esophageal spasms, try to eat food that is more tepid in temperature to avoid bringing on an episode. This is the first and easiest step to helping prevent esophageal spasms.
2- Eat healthily
Since the causes of esophageal spasms are not actually known, most doctors who deal with patients who suffer from episodes of esophageal spasms will recommend simply taking good care of your body. One of the best ways to ensure that your body is getting everything it needs is by eating healthy.
Make sure that you have enough fruit and vegetables from day to day, limit red meats, cut out very fatty or sugary snacks and drinks and try to stay away from caffeine, for instance. Any licensed physician will be able to advice you on the best diet for you that will suit your lifestyle (for instance, if you are a professional sports person you will need to still consume a good number of calories, so you might need to adjust your diet somewhat to control your esophageal spasms). There is also plenty of help and advice to be found online.
3- Exercise often
As well as ensuring that you are eating well and getting the right nutrients and minerals into your body to keep everything well maintained, most doctors will also recommend that you exercise frequently, too. Exercise can release endorphins in your brain which make you feel better and it can strengthen muscles that need to be strong if you are going to tackle your esophageal spasms.
Focusing your attentions on strengthening your core muscles – i.e. those around your stomach – can have a lasting effect on your esophageal spasms. General fitness all round is also a bonus, especially if you are going to need surgery (see step 10), as you will need to prove to the doctors that you are well enough to go under the knife. Exercising at least three times a week for approximately 90 minutes can really help.
4- Avoid alcohol
Alcohol is well known for being quite bad for you. In small quantities, it is said to not be too unhealthy, but if you want to avoid esophageal spasms, you are going to need to cut it out completely. Do not drink alcohol of any sort.
5- Take calcium channel blockers
Sometimes, calcium channel blockers are given as a treatment for esophageal spasms, but you can also take them preemptively. These can either stop an episode from occurring altogether or they can simply make the spasms less powerful and further between.
6- Take nitroglycerin (but only on your doctor’s say-so!)
Like calcium channel blockers, nitroglycerin under the tongue can help to treat esophageal spasms, but it can also be taken as a prevention step. However, it is essential that you only take nitroglycerin with the advice of your doctor.
7- Ask your doctor for low-dose anti depressants
Although it sounds strange, anti depressants can actually be used for a wide range of problems, including, but not limited to, the symptoms of esophageal spasms. If you suffer or have suffered in the past from chronic esophageal spasms, this may well be an option for your treatment but, of course, you will need to consult your physician. Trazodone or nortriptyline are often prescribed by doctors but you will need to prove that you are having chronic esophageal spasms.
8- Look into acid suppression therapy
If you are starting to get desperate because none of the above steps are working, you might need to start thinking about some more serious ways to avoid esophageal spasms. Acid suppression therapy is the first line of therapy that you should consider.
9- Consider botulinum toxin
If acid suppression therapy does not work, or if your doctor things it is the wrong course of treatment for you, look into botulinum toxin, which prevents as much acetylcholine being released from the nerve endings and can help prevent esophageal spasms.
10- As a last result, your doctor may consider surgery
Although it may seem drastic, anyone with chronic esophageal spasms will almost certainly be willing to give surgery a go. Have a chronic problem with these sorts of spasms can be depressing and get in the way of leading a normal life. If you think you would be a good candidate for surgery, consult and take the advice of a licensed physician.
They may well think that they need to improve the dilation or wideness of your esophagus in surgery. This can help to lessen the symptoms of esophageal spasms, but it is only ever done as a last resort and it is not necessarily a cure: most people will continue to suffer from the spasms, but they will be less severe in nature. Also look into natural treatments for esophageal spasms.