August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month
Gastroparesis hits home with us because it is a condition our wonderful Megan Jett has struggled with since she was a teen. Megan has written the following article to help you understand more about this disorder.
What is gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents the stomach from properly emptying. It’s considered to be a motility disorder because there is no evidence of physical obstruction in the stomach. In a large percentage of cases, the cause is unknown.
The Gastroparesis Clinic says it can be related to many underlying health problems, including diabetes and following gastric surgery, with possible damage of the vagus nerve. That is the nerve that controls the stomach muscles and helps push the food into the small intestine.
Symptoms of gastroparesis can range in severity but can be very debilitating. Symptoms can include:
- Feeling full after eating a few bites
- Abdominal pain
- Poor blood sugar control
- Depression and anxiety
The inability to digest and absorb nutrition from foods and liquids properly can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration. Sometimes undigested food can harden into a solid mass called a bezoar, which can be life threatening if they prevent food from passing through the small intestine. Or food that stays in the stomach for too long can become fermented and lead to bacteria.
These symptoms can mimic a number of other health conditions which can be frustrating in the diagnostic department.
I have gastroparesis. I have had symptoms since I was 12 years old and it took seven years to figure out that I was suffering from GP. Multiple trips to doctors and specialists, countless medications and medical testing, to finally have an answer was the biggest relief.
MedicineNet claims the most common method for diagnosing GP is a gastric emptying study, which measures the emptying of food from the stomach. For this study, a patient eats a meal containing a small amount of radioactive material. A scanner is placed over the stomach for several hours to monitor the amount of radioactivity in the stomach and the rate of emptying into the small intestine. This procedure, and inevitably a colonoscopy, is what determined my diagnosis.
There’s currently no cure to GP but Gastroparesis Clinic gives many options to maintain the symptoms that come with this disorder.
- Medications galore: To subside the nausea and vomiting. To diminish bloating. To control blood glucose levels. To stimulate the muscles in the stomach. To make you happy when you’re sad and anxious.
- Surgical procedures: gastric electrical stimulation AKA pace maker for your gut. A jejunostomy tube or a feeding tube that goes straight to your small intestine to bypass parts of the digestive system. Pyloroplasty which is the widening of the valve between the stomach and small intestine.
- Alternative health: Massage, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, nutritional consulting, essential oils, and energy work all can help.
Depending on the severity of the patient, a dietary change is often very helpful. It is the most common and initial treatment for GP and may be used to compliment other approaches. It is important to consult with a health provider to determine any food allergies or intolerances. Every body is different, so every treatment plan is different and every doctor has to work with each patient to determine how to regulate the disorder.
Even with treatment, this is still no cure and I can testify that it’s different day to day, meal to meal. August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, not many people know about this disorder and there is limited research due to the lack of awareness.
Please share this article, because now you know someone with this disorder and you can help bring awareness to it.