Sunday, October 25, 2009

Eosinophilic Esophagitis

It's been four weeks, and I've only had beer three times.

Last June, I began noticing that sometimes I felt like I had a lump in my throat. A long time sufferer of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as well as being plagued with seasonal allergies since I was young, I figured it was related these conditions. When it didn't dissipate after several months, my doctor suggested I have an endoscopy to examine it further.

Upon seeing ridges in my esophagus, a biopsy confirmed that I had a disease called eosinophilic esophagitis. While little is known about EE, preliminary research shows that it's generally caused by food allergies, in which your body, sensing that something is wrong with your esophagus, sends white blood cells to take care of the problem. The result is the hardening of your esophagus.

The GI doctor recommended that I use a steroid inhaler to reduce the inflammation, which is proven to correct the symptoms. Reading that food allergies is often to blame, I asked about further testing, and was told that no, they don't typically try to find the cause. I brought this to my primary physician, at which point she ordered the further testing.

You may be wondering at this point what this has to do with beer. Well, 30-odd pricks on my back with various food derivatives showed that I was potentially allergic to three foods: peaches, tomatoes and hops.

Yes, I catch the irony.

To make sure the results weren't a false positive, I was directed to eliminate the foods from my diet for up to 6 weeks, and then introduce them to see how my body reacted. And unfortunately, each time I've had beer, the following day I felt like I had something caught in my throat.

So I've been drinking a lot more wine, cider and spirits, but they don't do to my palate what beer does. Gruits--beer bittered with herbs and spices instead of hops--are pleasant, but there are only a couple in our market and they're pretty spendy to have as a session beer. Soon, I'll be getting in touch with Minnesota's local brewers to urge them to try this style of old once in awhile :)

I'll be discussing the future with my allergist in more detail, and hopefully, be able to come to some resolve that allows me to drink low-hopped beers and the occasional IPA, barley wine or imperial stout. But I know one thing is clear: beer will have to become a less-frequent part of my diet.