Chronic Ilness Series – Gastroparesis

Chronic Ilness Series – Gastroparesis

Hello Everyone!

Before I get started on today’s post, I need to give a shout out to a very dear friend of mine. This person, who wishes to remain anonymous, gifted me with the software I need to be able to keep blogging and connecting with you dear readers! As many of you know, I am going blind, and it has become far too hard for me to write posts and reply to emails. I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to help people anymore, and out of the blue, my dear friend made sure that I can still write, reach out, and advocate for you dear readers! I am extremely humbled by such a generous donation to my cause. Always remember, there ARE good people in the world who only want the best for others!

I hope you have been following my journey on the Chronic Illness Series. You can read my other posts here and here. For those of you new to my blog, welcome! I am glad you are here 🙂 If you have any questions, I am always available. You can find me on twitter or facebook.

Today’s post is one that has touched a lot of us in the Chiari, thyroid and diabetic community.  (I don’t have diabetes, but gastroparesis, or GP, is seen often in diabetics.)  GP is usually one of two types, idiopathic, (no known cause) or due to damage to the vagus nerve. More often than not, GP is idiopathic unless there is a known nerve damage issue. Many of us with Chiari also have severe nerve damage from years of having our brain stem compressed. GP is considered rare, with fewer than 200,00 cases per year. Naturally, there is no cure, but diet and medication can help milder cases. People can and do die from this disease. There have been cases of patients needing feeding tubes, bypass, or having their stomach removed all together. I know your going to ask, it IS possible to live without a stomach. A feeding tube is inserted straight into the intestines, called a Jejunostomy feeding tube.

So what exactly is GP? 
Gastroparesis, literally translated, means “stomach paralysis”. GP is a digestive disorder in which the motility of the stomach is either abnormal or absent. In healthy people, when the stomach is functioning normally, contractions of the stomach help to crush food and then propel the food into the small intestine where further digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. With GP, the stomach is unable to contract normally, and cannot crush food nor propel food into the small gastrointestine properly. Normal digestion may not occur and can cause a build up of food in the stomach.

What are the symptoms of GP?
Symptoms of GP include bloating, nausea, early fullness while eating meals, heartburn, epigastric pain, stomach pain, and appetite loss. Ingestion of solid foods, high fiber foods such as raw fruits and vegetables, fatty foods or drinks, carbonation, nuts, seeds, coffee, caffeine, peppermint and many other foods may cause symptoms. The most common symptoms are feeling full quickly, nausea, vomiting and pain. A person with gastroparesis may vomit undigested food many hours after their last meal. Weight loss occurs often due to not being able to eat or keep food down. Patients are often afraid to eat any kind of solid food for fear of pain and vomiting.

What are the complications of living with GP?
Some of the complications associated with GP include dehydration, malnutrition, malabsorption, undigested food that remains in the stomach hardens and turns in to a bezoar, and an overall decreased quality of life. GP often comes in flares. One day your fine, the next your can’t eat, your throwing up, and so dehydrated you end up in the hospital! If you think you might have GP, contact a Gastroenterologist. It would be a very good idea to start keeping a food log, and write down the foods that cause you problems.

What foods should I avoid if I have GP?
First and foremost, if you have been diagnosed with GP, see a nutritionist. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover one, appointments usually include a free consult. They can help you get the most nutrition out of the foods you CAN eat. Unfortunatly, GP is different for everyone. While one person can handle rice, rice might be on someone else’s avoid list! There is a general list that most GPer’s adhere to, but as always, do what is best for you. Some GPer’s find an elimination diet helpful to rule out what foods give them the most trouble.  Here is a good resource from my personal gasto doctor, Dr. Jackson. This is also a great resource if you have questions about testing and possible medications.

It may seem that I am falling apart from my posts, and maybe I am, but I hope that my Chronic Illness Series is of some help to you dear readers. I am starting to feel a little bit like a walking WebMD! 🙂

So while I can no longer enjoy the foodie life I once had, I do still enjoy going out with friends to new restaurants, writing and developing new recipes, and baking my heart out!

Thank you for reading, and be on the look out for the next post in the Chronic Illness Series, Chronic Pain.

 

Stay positive!

Christy.

 

Chiari Comorbidity

Chiari Comorbidity

Hello and Happy New Year dear readers!

 

Please excuse my absence, but as most of you reading this know, living with a chronic condition can sometimes put you out of commission! I will update you all on the next post. For now, I think it is important to realize that with Chiari, and many other conditions, its not always the main disease its self that gives us so much trouble, but all the fun extras that go along with it. One symptom that has been giving me a lot of trouble lately is Gastroparesis. Eating is one of those things we take for granted Every. Single. Day. We need to do it to live. Imagine waking up tomorrow, and you can’t eat. You are extremely nauseous, and putting anything in your stomach causes gut wrenching pain.

Gastroparesis – (gastro- from Ancient Greek gaster, “stomach” and -paresis, “partial paralysis”), also called delayed gastric emptying, is a medical condition consisting of a paresis (partial paralysis) of the stomach, resulting in food remaining in the stomach for an abnormally long time. Normally, the stomach contracts to move food down into the small intestine for additional digestion. The vagus nerve controls these contractions. Gastroparesis may occur when the vagus nerve is damaged and the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not properly function. Food then moves slowly or stops moving through the digestive tract.

As you can imagine, this comes with a whole host of its own problems. 

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea ( before, during, and after eating)
  • A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites ( or a few sips)
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in blood sugar levels
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Inability to handle certain foods. – For me, that means raw fruit and veg, dairy of any kind, seeds, nuts, red meat, carbonation, chocolate, peppermint, anything spicy, anything high fat, poultry and fish with skin on, very fatty seafood, high fiber foods, caffeine, and alcohol
  • Alternating between constipation and diarrhea 

These food limitations can vary from person to person. I can’t handle anything on the list, while someone else with GP, could have some of this, and other things they can’t handle. As you can imagine, this can make eating a healthy diet when your already disabled quite hard! There are also days when I have “flares” where I can only handle broth and baby food. I had one of these spells that lasted the whole month of November, and I ended up losing 20 lbs and a good chunk of hair.

Unfortunately, as with Chiari, Gastroparesis is different for everyone. It can be mild, which mine is, or life threatening, where your stomach has to be bypassed completely with a tube into your intestines. I have known others that have been hospitalized for months, and have even died from this disease. Of course, there is no cure, and there really aren’t any medications that can help. There are several tests that can be done to establish if you have GP, but mostly, its diagnosed by talking to a Gastrointerologist about your symptoms. Keeping a food diary is extremely helpful. I keep a log of what I eat, how it makes me feel, ect. When I have a bad flare, I go back to a liquid diet, then baby food, and then I slowly add back in solid food one at a time. It can be quite frustrating.

Have any of you had a problem with GP? What are some of the other issues you come across with your chronic condition?

 

I look forward to hearing from you dear readers!

 

Stay Positive!

 

Christy.