Living without an esophagus is possible to a certain extent. But life without an esophagus comes with limitations.

There are circumstances in life that require drastic measures. For example, if you suffer from esophageal cancer or a chemical burn in this area, your esophagus may sometimes be removed. Modern medicine has now advanced to the point where the esophagus can be replaced – to a certain extent. This means that life without an esophagus is basically possible for the time being.

If the esophagus has to be removed, the connection to the gastrointestinal tract is interrupted. To close this gap and allow the patient to eat again, the connection is restored during surgery. For example, it is possible to create a replacement esophagus from the stomach. The part from the stomach is formed into a tube. If the stomach is too short due to previous surgery, part of the large intestine or small intestine can alternatively be used as an esophageal replacement.

Life without an esophagus comes with some limitations. Those affected often suffer from difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite or nausea. Patients usually have to learn completely new eating habits. It is not uncommon for those affected to lose a lot of weight in the first few months after surgery.

The (partial) removal of the esophagus often also results in a partial removal of the stomach, which serves as a replacement esophagus. This can lead to nutritional problems, which vary in severity and duration from patient to patient. The reason for the discomfort is the significant organic and physiological changes that occur during the operation.

There are nutritional recommendations for those affected, which should always be tailored to the individual situation. Keeping a food diary is considered useful. In this way, individual intolerances can be found out. There are certain nutritional recommendations that those affected should adhere to. On the one hand, this means that with a conscious diet, many small meals – six to ten spread over the day – are usually better tolerated than three large main meals. These can lead to a feeling of fullness or lumps.

It is also important that those affected eat slowly and chew thoroughly. Food that is too hot and spicy should be avoided. This can lead to discomfort and digestive problems such as diarrhea. Foods rich in fiber should also not be on the menu as they limit energy intake. In addition, some foods rich in fiber such as whole grains, cabbage, legumes, onions or unripe fruit can have a bloating effect, which can lead to pain.

Fibrous foods (e.g. asparagus, tough meat) and grains, nuts, citrus fruits, unpeeled fruits and vegetables as well as fruit seeds (e.g. grapes, cucumbers) should also be avoided. It is important that you drink a lot with every meal, preferably non-carbonated water or unsweetened tea. If you have lost a lot of weight, you can also consume lactose-free, high-calorie drinking foods.

The consumption of MCT fats is recommended because fat digestion is impaired with an “artificial” esophagus and partial removal of the stomach. It is recommended to start with 10 to 20 grams of MCT margarine or oil. It is important to increase the dose slowly so that “side effects” such as nausea and vomiting do not occur. Enzymes can also be taken with meals to support and normalize digestion.