Gastroparesis Awareness Month takes place in August. Gastroparesis is also known as delayed gastric emptying. Personalized Cause supports gastroparesis awareness with green pins, green KNOW MORE wristbands, and green fabric ribbons. Advocacy for this disorder, which slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine, is not caused by a blockage of the stomach or intestines. Gastroparesis Awareness Month is an important time each year to educate yourself if you or a loved-one suffer from this condition.
Symptoms of Gastroparesis
When you have gastroparesis, symptoms can present as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In addition, there can also be trouble with nutrition absorption and blood sugar levels. A person with gastroparesis typically feels full after taking just a few bites of food, experiences abdominal bloating, and has a lack of appetite. Many people who experience gastroparesis have additional factors that contribute to the condition. These include diabetes and abdominal or esophageal surgery. They can also be from a viral infection and certain medications that slow the stomach’s emptying process such as narcotic pain medications. Further, delayed emptying can be from a connective tissue disease called scleroderma, Parkinson’s disease, or MS. An underactive thyroid can also cause this problem.
What are Some Causes of Gastroparesis?
Sometimes, gastroparesis can be caused by damage to the vagus nerve. The vegus nerve is a nerve that controls the stomach muscles and helps manage the complex process of digesting food. This nerve tells the stomach when to contract to push food into the small intestine. When the nerve is damaged, the signals are not transmitted properly. This causes food to stay in the stomach for longer than it typically would. Rather than moving into the small intestine where food is digested, the food stays longer in the stomach.
It is important to call attention to gastroparesis during Gastroparesis Awareness Month in August. Gastroparesis can contribute to health problems. Green is chosen for the awareness color, and raising awareness helps those who suffer to be aware of this condition. There are tests that can be performed when issues such as these arise. It is only through awareness that sufferers will know to contact their doctor when symptoms occur.
What Are the Tests for Patients?
There are people who have struggled with this problem for years. Recently, we interviewed one patient who had been diagnosed with gastroparesis. We asked what she would want others to know about this condition, and why it is important to be aware of it. She told us that, more than anything, it’s hard to eat a “normal” quantity of food. Even with a few bites, she is full. Her doctor suspected that this was the cause of her nausea and stomach pain, and asked that she take a “scrambled egg” test to evaluate her digestion.
The technical name for this “scrambled egg” test is a gastric emptying scan. This test is a painless procedure. It is used to identify abnormalities related to emptying the stomach. Motility disorders (the way the stomach contracts and empties) are diagnosed with this scan. The patient is given scrambled eggs to eat that are mixed with a radioactive material.
A Gastroparesis Interview
Once this was detected, the woman we interviewed told us that she felt much more confident that her problem could be corrected. Why she suffered was a mystery to her doctors, and yet, it didn’t have an impact on her care. Her physician offered her treatment for the problem. While gastroparesis is still something she has to manage, she feels that her nutrition has improved. She also has more energy and stamina than she did prior to seeing her gastroenterologist. Not all situations are the same when someone has gastroparesis, but there are ways to work with the condition to correct some of the problems that occur.
For instance, the woman was instructed to change her diet. This reduced her symptoms and increased her energy level. And, her nausea subsided. She also recommended the following: eat small, frequent meals during the day; sit up for an hour after eating; chew your food well; limit fats and fiber; puree nuts and seeds, and eat these in moderation; avoid drinks with a high alcohol concentration because they can delay gastric emptying.
Raising Awareness for Gastroparesis
With the proper care, gastroparesis can be identified and the correct approach implemented to make symptoms more manageable and improve a patient’s quality of life. If you or someone you know has gastroparesis, wear the green awareness ribbon pin during August, tell your story, and help raise awareness and funding for research. Not everyone knows about gastroparesis, and educating one person may help someone get the care they need.