Hello my Zebras and Spoonies! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I am going to me talking about my experiences with Gastroparesis as an installment in the “my diagnosis” series.
Well, let’s start by talking about what gastroparesis (GP) is. Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach. Ordinarily, strong muscular contractions propel food through your digestive tract. So, when you have gastroparesis your stomach doesn’t empty the way that it should and the contents remain there much longer then normal. This can cause a lot of problems.
Nausea and vomiting sometimes feel like a life style when you have GP. There was a time in my life that I was vomiting several times a day, every day of my life. It didn’t help that I also had untreated abdominal migraines at that time as well, but I will talk about those in another post. When your stomach is too full and it cannot empty the contents into the duodenum the only other option is for you to vomit. Not doing so would put your stomach at risk for injuries like tearing or even rupturing. Our stomachs are very stretchy and can hold a good amount of stuff, but there are limits to that capacity. Rather then test that capacity and risk injury, our bodies cause us to vomit up excessive quantities.
When your stomach takes a really long time to empty out that means that you often vomit when you try to eat. Because of this, there were times in my life that people thought that I had bulimia. I’d eat and then they’d see me vomiting about ten or fifteen minutes later. And being a young female, people just assumed the cause was an eating disorder. I hate vomiting so much and do everything that I can to avoid vomiting. I cannot imagine inducing it. Yet, that’s what people thought was happening. The thing about that is that these adults (I was a preteen and teen at the time) never thought to talk to me about what was going on. It was very frustrating to be accused of having an eating disorder and then to be completely dismissed when you tried to explain that there was something wrong with your body.
I have never felt hungry in my life. Not once. The hunger sensation happens when your stomach empties and is ready for you to put more into it. Well, if your stomach never empties or does this very slowly, you are not going to get that cue to put more food into your stomach. My not feeling hunger could also be related to impaired interoception which is our ability to sense what is happening inside of our bodies. It is common for people with ADHD or autism to have impaired interoception. So, that’s a possibility for me.
GP also effects the way that you absorb nutrients and how you process medications. Some medications are designed to be broken down in the duodenum so if they remain in your stomach your body isn’t going to be able to process that medication well. Because of this, I have struggled to maintain many nutrients at appropriate levels in my body. I have to take numerous supplements to maintain the appropriate blood levels of many electrolytes and vitamins. But is also has made medication management of anything difficult. Because the medications are hanging out in my stomach, it can slow their effects. If I’m taking multiple doses a day it is possible that I’m taking another dose when the first dose is still hanging out in my stomach. Then these two doses get processed together when my stomach finally does empty. This can mean getting a bigger dose of medications at times. This is a factor that I have had to discuss with pharmacists on more then one occasion. It makes managing my other chronic illnesses a real challenge.
Nausea and vomiting is more then an annoyance. When you are vomiting every day, multiple times a day there are serious risks. Dehydration being the most common. But loosing your stomach acid like this can also cause your body to have a metabolic imbalance due to a shift in your ph. We need that acid in our bodies to maintain our balance. Vomiting can also damage your teeth. But I think the single factor that people don’t think about is how completely disabling it is. There is no doing other things while you are bent over the toileting trying to eject everything you have ever consumed. This means that you cannot work. You can’t sleep. You can’t take care of any of the things that you need to do on a daily basis to be a good high functioning adult. Then after you’re done with the vomiting you are left with pain and fatigue. You’ve just had a major work out. This means that it is still hard to do all those adulting things even in between the vomiting episodes.
I sometimes have stomach pain. This feels like a spike has been stabbed into me just below my sternum. There is a sharp sensation of pressure as though something inside me is going to tear open. It is awful and I have never found anything that makes this pain stop. It most often happens after I eat something and my stomach is now too full. This is easy to happen because my stomach doesn’t empty like it should. I can also get this pain after I have been vomiting. Then there are the times that I get this pain and I have no idea what has made my stomach angry.
Because of my GP, I struggle to eat enough food every day. There are times that it is a struggle to get my medications in me. My GP effects every other chronic illness that I have because it effects my medication regime. It has a huge impact on my POTS because of the way it impacts fluids and electrolytes. This makes my GP one of the more difficult and more important diagnoses on my list. If I’m not taking good care of my GP, I cannot take good care of anything else.
Sometimes, I get GP flares. This is times when my stomach is more irritable and sensitive then it normally is. When these flares happen it is almost impossible to keep things down and to stay on schedule with my medications. A GP flare almost always results in one of my other chronic illnesses flaring. Usually my POTS which then triggers my migraines. And the migraines increase the nausea and vomiting problem. It is an incredibly difficult cycle to get to settle down once it gets going.
There is another thing about GP that many people don’t think about. When eating causes such negative physical reactions your body it becomes very easy to develop unhealthy or even pathological relationships with your food. There are times that I just don’t want to eat anything any more so that I can avoid the GP symptoms. But then I have remind myself that this isn’t going to work out in the long run. I have a lot of anxiety around eating and my food. Is this meal going to cause me pain? Will it cause me to spend the next few hours vomiting? It doesn’t matter that my GP symptoms are way better managed now then they ever have been, that emotional baggage doesn’t just go away. While it isn’t the same as having an eating disorder, I can see how someone with GP could easily fall into the trap of having one. There is no way for food to have such a profoundly negative effect on your body and on your life and not have some emotional baggage around food and eating. It is part of the illness and it is the part that is almost always ignored. It is also this anxiety with food that often makes people believe that those with GP have an eating disorder even when they don’t.
And even though I don’t have an eating disorder, I found that the only person that was ever able to really hear and understand my food and eating baggage was a psychologist that specialized in eating disorders. So, if you have GP, consider going and seeing someone that specializes in eating disorders to help you work through the psychological stuff that we all struggle with.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!