In 2016, Gastroparesis was officially recognized and given the month of August as its official awareness month. Although, it has been recognized, there is a long way to go till there is enough awareness surrounding it. Majority of people out there have no idea what GP is. If you are one of those people, please take a look at my diagnosis blog post – it defines what Gastroparesis is. Please click here to view it.
Here are TEN facts you may not have known about Gastroparesis:
It is caused my damage to your nerve/muscles.
The largest nerve in your body called the Vagus nerve to be exact. Gastroparesis is the scientific term for Stomach Paralysis. There was damage done to your vagus nerve and it is causing your digestive system to impaired. Some people can have this happen to them if they are diabetic, others remain wondering why it is happening to them…. which brings me to my next fact…
There is barely any research on Gastroparesis.
There is not nearly enough research on GP to know why it begins to happen to some people. When I was diagnosed, I asked the doctor what could have caused it. She listed me about ten different reasons and at the end stated, but we really do not know why. The stress of not knowing why something terrible is happening to your body is extremely frustrating. If you take a look at the data on the internet, you could probably go through every article posted on GP within a day.
Compare that to articles on cancer, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, etc. and you will notice a dramatic difference. It would take you years to read every piece on those disorders. Rightfully so since there has been so much research done on them. Gastroparesis is overlooked because of the complexity of the disorder. They choose not to research it because they deem it as not as important as the others. Yet over a million people are impacted by it in the United States alone. Many die every year from GP because of malnutrition.
You are actually told to eat white bread OVER whole wheat.
We all know white bread is not the greatest thing to eat. However, since the body has a harder time digesting, you are strongly advised to stay away from whole wheat. As someone who is super health conscious this was a major switch for me. Having the knowledge of the different ingredients and their impact in white bread makes it hard to eat it. Whole wheat was always a staple in my diet until I was told I could not eat it anymore. It is probably the only time you will ever be advised to eat the less healthier option sadly.
If you do not eat every 2-3 hours, you risk ruining your day.
Literally…ruining your day! If your body does not intake food every 2-3 hours, even an apple, you will risk ruining your whole day. If I decide to skip a meal and eat after 6 hours, that food becomes almost impossible to digest. I snack a lot because of this. You have to be extremely strict on your eating schedule, otherwise, you will immediately regret it! I can be great on proper schedule for weeks and if I even mess up for one day, I am in excruciating pain.
One night of alcohol means a week of bed rest.
You think your hangover is bad? Imagine this… if I have one night of drinking, I can barely eat anything for at least 3-6 days after. I eat even smaller portions and get nauseas off of almost everything for almost a week after. A really fun night out could just end up being your biggest regret. This can just cause you to not want to go out and always stay at home. You can never really fully enjoy yourself because you know that it is just going to end in disaster.
Most people who have GP also suffer from depression.
This is an extremely sad fact. People with GP are most likely depressed. This is due to not being able to eat what they want, their disorder being overlooked and not really having anyone there to understand them. There is less support systems for Gastroparesis than there are for other disorders out there. This is similar to most digestive disorders. There is barely anyone to talk to about your disorder that can relate. The worst part is when you tell someone you have it and can not eat certain foods. Then they go ahead and make you feel small for your disorder and act like you are doing it to yourself. The amount of times I have said I can not eat a certain food and still being offered it. It becomes difficult to stay positive in a world that is so cold and ignorant.
Say goodbye to movie theater popcorn!
Your favorite snack in the theaters is now your worst enemy. Corn is known to be impossible to digest. For a normal stomach, it would just pass through the body. With Gastroparesis, it stays there and does not want to pass, which ends up irritating your stomach. I used to be SO excited to go watch a movie and get that buttered up popcorn. Those days are gone. Unless I wanna risk it and regret it for about two days. When it comes to your body, you do not want to mess with it. It will put you through misery for a lot longer than your drunken nights regrets.
There is no treatment.
You can take pain killers and you can take nausea medication. However, as for an actual fix or something that can relieve you for longer, there is none yet. I have high hopes that more research will be conducted on GP and some treatments will be released. Once you are diagnosed, you know that it is stuck with you. There is nothing you can do about it other than temporary reliefs. If you are anything you like me and do not take any medication unless absolutely necessary, you are probably just living in pain. I just deal with all the symptoms and keep my mouth shut normally.
Say goodbye to the peels on your fruits and vegetables!
As most people know, the healthiest part of a fruit and vegetable is the peel. Unfortunately with Gastroparesis, you can not intake the peel since it is usually high in fibre. Fibre is a lot more difficult to break down in the body, making it toxic to GP patients. I am a lover of my apple peels so giving those up has made me give up apples altogether. It is unfortunate that sometimes not being able to have something can actually result in you not eating as healthy as you used to. Normally different disorders have extremely healthy diets. With Gastroparesis, the diet is actually not that healthy.
It is diagnosed by using a Gastric Emptying Scan test.
Now, this was probably the most interesting test I have ever had done to me. Even more interesting than a mammogram. I got to the hospital and they fed me eggs with some nuclear chemical in them. I sat in a room by myself and just ate scrambled eggs with toast and jam. It was a very lonely day. They scanned my stomach at different points of digestion to see where the food has gone. You just sit in the hospital for hours randomly getting a photo taken every 1-2 hours. If you ever have to go for one of these tests, download a very long movie or read a book. You will definitely need some sort of entertainment.
There you go.
Those are the ten facts you may not have known about GP. You also may have known them already because you are awesome. If someone you love suffers from a digestive disorder, please do support them and love them. Never question their pain or discomfort. You do not know how much their illness is causing suffering both physically and mentally. Be kind always.