What is Gastroparesis?

If you have been following me for a while, you would have heard me talk about Gastroparesis many times. I might have dropped a few bits about what it’s like and how to handle it, and I have even talked about my Thrive With Gastroparesis program, but I have never done a proper explanation of it.

Some of you might not care what it is, but I remember years ago being really sick and not being able to get any answers from doctors and then I found 1 small article about Gastroparesis and knew immediately that’s what I had. It gave me some relief and hope that I would be able to get an answer. How to treat it was another story, but I am hoping that this will help those who are currently struggling and stumble upon this, find relief.

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What is Gastroparesis?

By definition, Gastroparesis is a stomach condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper stomach emptying, according to the Mayo Clinic. There are two types, Diabetic and Idiopathic. For the sake of this blog, we are mostly talking about Idiopathic, although, a lot applies to both.

By my definition, it sucks. But truthfully, the nerves that are connected to the stomach muscles, don’t fire properly and so the stomach muscles don’t get the message to move food along. This then allows the food to sit in the stomach and go rancid and that’s when you see a lot of the symptoms pop up.

Symptoms typically include:

  • bloating

  • nausea

  • heartburn

  • feeling full very quickly

  • vomiting

  • abdominal pain

  • unbalanced blood sugar

  • lack of appetite

  • malnutrition due to lack of nutrient absorption

  • major weight gain or loss

  • and these don’t include all of the mental and emotional side effects

What Does Gastroparesis Look Like?

Unfortunately, GP is one of those hidden conditions. To most people, I look perfectly healthy. In its beginning stages, Gastroparesis doesn’t cause you to be in the hospital or anything like that. You can function, maybe not optimally, but you can. It feels like a constant, severe stomach ache. However, no one takes that seriously, so you just have to keep going.

Left untreated, it can lead to such severe malnutrition that you end up in the hospital on a feeding tube. Sadly, there have been a few who lost their lives because of it, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t have to let it get this far.

How Do You Diagnose Gastroparesis?

Usually before you get diagnosed with GP, you will have run the mill of different digestive tests. It looks something like this

  1. Weird and not fitting to GP, elimination diet. This diet they give you would be helpful if you didn’t have GP, so yes, it does eliminate other possible conditions, but unfortunately, could make your GP symptoms worse.

  2. Some type of reflux or IBS medication

  3. Endoscopy and colonoscopy. They will usually do a biopsy to rule out many different conditions and cancer

  4. Stool test. That one is always fun.

  5. Nothing else has worked, so maybe some other random medication.

  6. A good doctor continues to dig and eventually suggests the Gastric Emptying Test. This is the only way to diagnose GP.

The test involves you going in and they give you a meal that typically consists of eggs, toast, orange juice, and water. In the food is a minuscule amount of radioactive material that they can watch on a scan leave your stomach.

You just lay there and they watch for certain time intervals to indicate what percentage has left your stomach. There is a standard for how much you should have emptied at each time frame, being 1 hour, 2 hours and then 4 hours.

In mine and most people’s cases, if you haven’t emptied more than 40% after the second hour, they let you leave, because you didn’t pass the benchmark and it will be considered delayed. Sometimes, they will make you stay the full 4 hours, though.

You have the Diagnosis, now what?

So, now you have the diagnosis, how do you go about treating it?

Well, I have a lot of thoughts on how it is technically treated and how it should be treated, so we will save that for another blog.

In the meantime, I hope this is helpful for those of you who are in the searching for answers phase. One thing I want to make sure you remember, is to advocate for yourself. You know your own body better than anyone else, and it is okay to ask the doctor for different tests, even if they stop believing you. And if they won’t do it, find another one who will, until you get your answers.

Until next time,

Keep it Fresh. Keep it Simple. Keep it Real.

Love, Aubrey