ANSWER: Achalasia is a disease of abnormal movement in the esophagus, the muscular tube that carries food from the back of your throat to the stomach. It is caused by damage to the nerves in the esophagus, possibly from destruction by the body’s immune system. Because of the nerve damage, the food gets stuck in the esophagus, leading to difficulty swallowing and vomiting of undigested food. Both solids and liquids are affected, as opposed to esophageal cancer, in which the problem is mostly solids.
Gravity helps us swallow, so being upside down will make gravity work against you, and I would expect the condition to worsen with yoga positions that turn the esophagus upside down. I wouldn’t recommend those types of positions, especially since they may cause or worsen vomiting.
Treatment of achalasia should be done by an expert in the condition, and may include dilation of the esophagus, injection with Botox into the muscle or surgery.
DEAR DR. ROACH: What is the difference between a CT scan and an MRI? — B.
ANSWER: A CT (computerized tomography) scan uses X-rays to create an image that looks like a slice through the body, head or a limb. The quality of the picture is excellent, but it has much more radiation than a regular X-ray. An MRI uses powerful magnetic waves to create an image that also looks like a slice. It uses no radiation. CT scans are cheaper and faster, in general. One isn’t necessarily “better” than the other. MRI tends to be better for looking at soft tissues, like the brain, and CT usually is better for looking at bones. Your doctor, or the consulting radiologist, can tell you which is more likely to be better in your individual situation.