August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month. Gastroparesis is a condition wherein your stomach empties its contents into the small intestines very slowly. This condition is not because of some blockage but due to a malfunction in the nerves that serve this region. Here, Gastro refers to our stomach, whereas Paresis refers to nerve-related muscle weakness.
The disease is uncommon among people. Out of every 100,000 people, only ten men and approximately 40 women suffer from the same. However, symptoms similar to gastroparesis occur in about one out of every four adults in the US. The problem can begin at any age, although the average age for the onset of the disease can be around 34-35.
While gastroparesis is an uncommon disorder, it can be draining and exhausting for people suffering from the same. Let’s understand more about the disorder and know what Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2021 holds for people.
Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2021
The month of August is dedicated to improving the understanding and managing the disorder. The disorder is known for delaying gastric emptying affecting the muscles in the stomach, preventing proper movement of food through our stomach and intestines. The muscles in our stomach are controlled by the vagus nerve, which contracts food movement through the gastrointestinal tract. When this nerve gets damaged, muscles in our stomach cannot function the way they usually should, meaning the food starts to move slowly at first, and at later stages, stops movement altogether.
The chronic condition is characterized by different symptoms varying between life-limiting to life-threatening. Some include the feeling of having a paralyzed stomach, often starting during or after consuming a meal, beginning to appear suddenly at times.
Symptoms of gastroparesis disorder include:
- Stomach fullness, even after a normal-sized meal
- Dry heaves or retching
- Inability to finish a meal due to early fullness
What causes Gastroparesis?
Most often, the cause behind gastroparesis is unknown and is sometimes termed “idiopathic.” Symptoms for the problem can begin after a viral infection, as seen in most cases. Other causes can include diabetes, certain medications, surgeries, and different kinds of illnesses.
How do you know if you have Gastroparesis?
Diagnosis is usually done by a doctor, performing a physical exam and specific tests. You can tell your doctor about any previous surgeries or any medications that you are intaking. If the doctor does suspect the chronic disease, tests can further measure how fast your stomach empties into the small intestines to confirm the diagnosis.
How widespread is the disorder?
As per different studies, the disorder affects an alarming number of Americans. However, the numbers can vary for different studies, between 500,000 to 5 million people. The National Institute of Health’s research states this is only the tip of the iceberg, that is, gastroparesis. There are thousands of people experiencing symptoms close to the ones we have discussed above, but they remain undiagnosed owing to the lack of awareness. The symptoms also resemble those of celiac disease and GERD.
Gastroparesis diagnosis and treatment
To diagnose gastroparesis, doctors during the Gastroparesis awareness month 2021 state that several tests need to be undertaken to rule out various conditions that may or may not be related to the problem. Several other issues can cause similar symptoms as we have discussed above.
Experts state that you might have to undertake the following tests:
Gastric Emptying Study Test
To undertake this test, a patient will have to consume a light meal on the lines of toast and eggs containing tiny amounts of radioactive material. Doctors take the help of scanners that will be placed on your abdomen. These scanners can detect the movement of radioactive material in the food. The scanner will monitor the rate and time at which food consumed leaves your stomach.
Upper Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
The procedure helps examine your upper digestive system visually through a small camera.
Ultrasounds help diagnose the problems persisting in a person’s gallbladder and kidneys and to understand if it is causing similar symptoms to gastroparesis.
Upper Gastrointestinal Series
A series of X-rays can also be undertaken wherein you will be made to drink Barium, a white, chalky liquid. The liquid will coat your digestive system, and if there are any forms of abnormalities, they will show up in your X-ray.
Treatment for Gastroparesis includes medication and surgery (only if required). The foremost thing to note here is that if you are actually diagnosed with Gastroparesis, diet is a crucial aspect of managing the condition.
On Gastroparesis awareness month 2021, if you are suffering from the condition, experts state the importance of a nutrient density-based diet that is easy on your digestive system. You will be required to intake small meals consisting of well-cooked meals, stripped of high-fat-based food. High-fat-based food items can delay the emptying of your stomach.
Foods rich in fiber are somewhat difficult to digest and are also limited and sometimes completely eliminated in such conditions. Fruits and vegetables with naturally present nondigestible fiber content need to be cooked well to be served. In some cases, these foods might also be required to be converted into a puree for better absorption.
Carbonated and fizzy beverages must be avoided at all costs, including alcoholic beverages.
Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2021 promotes the importance of maintaining the vitality of our health as far as this condition is concerned. Pinpointing the diagnosis can sometimes be a little difficult, but once rightly done, it can help improve the overall life quality and other issues connected to this chronic disorder. Therefore, it is essential that you get screened for the conditions presented above, especially as you get older.
In addition to these treatment options, there are multiple prescription medicines that can help treat the symptoms of gastroparesis. Medicines like Prokinetic or promotility agents can help your stomach empty easily and quickly and can also improve nausea, bloating, and vomiting. However, you need to consult your physician before intaking such medicines.
Dietary and lifestyle measures
Nutritionists will help design a specific dietary plan to meet your personal requirements. If you have diabetes along with gastroparesis, your blood glucose level requires controlling as well. If your blood glucose levels go up after your stomach contents are emptied into the small intestines, this means you do not have gastroparesis since it is irregular in disorder.
When a person has severe symptoms of gastroparesis, it can result in extreme dehydration. This can further lead to loss of essential nutrients and minerals from the body, often leading to an imbalance of electrolytes. Malnutrition is another consequence of the disorder getting severe, which can sometimes require hospitalization. Special treatment measures can help manage the disorder. These treatment measures can include:
- Enteral nutrition
- Parenteral nutrition
- Gastric Electrical Stimulation
- Other surgical procedures
Tips for living with Gastroparesis
In celebration of Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2021 this August, we have contacted experts and advocates to share some of their best tips for people living with the disorder. Gastroparesis is a terrible disorder, which often sees no cure. However, we hope that this article finds you and helps you navigate through your diagnosis process with the right advice.
Read these tips to live a better life if you are suffering from this chronic disorder:
Suffering from Gastroparesis is overwhelming, especially when you are recently diagnosed. It might take many hits and trials to find out what you can include in your diet and what you cannot. Experts recommend keeping a small food journal to start your journey. You can write down the items you eat and see how your body reacts to them. You can start with either a paper and ink journal or download an app for the same.
When you are writing and keeping track of the foods you consume, please also note down your symptoms.
Every person is different, and everybody type is different. One thing that one person can tolerate might cause issues to the other person.
Like, foods high in fiber content are not tolerated well by the digestive system of people with gastroparesis. They can cause serious health issues to people with the disorder. It will take some time, but you need to take baby steps to understand what your body can or cannot tolerate.
Keep a check on your electrolytes.
Another thing you need to ensure is to keep a check on your electrolytes. Experts state that one way you can do this is to make your own electrolyte-based drinks instead of relying on Gatorade or Powerade. Other alternatives to these drinks can be Ensure or Boost, only if your body can tolerate them.
Try to learn and make your own broth. It is essential to have it with you at all times when you are not able to digest your food properly. Broth can easily boost your electrolyte level by offering your body with necessary vitamins and minerals.
Ginger candies can also help people suffering from nausea as a symptom, along with the drinks mentioned above.
Find the proper medication.
There are hundreds of medicines available as an option for treatment. However, you do not have to give up on finding the right one that suits your body. If your prescribed medication does not work out for you, talk to your doctor about the same. You might find a new medication or find a combination of different medicines that work for your case.
If traditional medicines are not working out for you, and in fact, nothing is working in your case, don’t be scared. Medical cannabis is another possible treatment option. Medical cannabis can help ease the symptoms; of course, the consumption of the same should be in control and limitation and with proper strains and terpenes. This method has helped people control nausea and vomiting and increase their appetite as well. Moreover, this also helps relieve the abdominal pain that comes along with the disorder.
In 2015, Congresswoman Gwen Moore introduced the problem that affected thousands of Americans to the US House of Representatives. So, in honor of the National Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2021, let’s learn more about the disorder and curtail it so it does not affect more people’s lives every day.
Remember, if you have queries and questions about the disorder and other personal health conditions, talk with your physician. Take that first step and address your problems.
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