The arrival of summer means more outdoor fun for most of us. For people with gastroparesis, it’s a lot more challenging to enjoy all that summer has to offer. Something as simple as grilling out in the backyard can lead to intrusive symptoms that bring summer fun to a halt.
What Is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a chronic condition that causes the delayed emptying of food from the stomach to the small intestine without any obstruction. Diabetes is the most common cause but other medical conditions, bariatric surgery, cancer treatments, long-term smoking, and some medications can also cause gastroparesis. Sometimes the exact cause is never determined but gastroparesis usually results when there is a disruption to the nerve signals in the stomach.
Nausea is the hallmark symptom of gastroparesis, followed by other symptoms of vomiting, feeling full after eating a small amount, feeling full longer, bloating, and/or upper abdominal pain. When nausea is absent, your doctor will consider other causes.
If your doctor suspects gastroparesis based on your symptoms, a gastric emptying scan is most often used to make an accurate diagnosis. This test measures how long it takes food to empty out of your stomach. Your doctor might use additional tests to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms.
What Is The Treatment?
Once the doctor makes a positive diagnosis of gastroparesis, they will talk to you about your treatment options. To determine the best treatment plan for you, they will first attempt to identify and treat the underlying condition. Your doctor will also recommend changes to your diet that will help prevent the onset of gastroparesis symptoms.
A number of medications are available to treat the symptoms of gastroparesis including those that stimulate the stomach muscles or help control nausea and vomiting. If treatment is not effective or your symptoms are so severe that you can’t tolerate any food or liquids, you may require surgery. Discuss the pros and cons of surgery with your doctor to determine if it’s the best option for you.
What Can I Do?
The symptoms of gastroparesis come and go. Don’t assume that once your treatment begins to make you feel better that you are cured, the condition is chronic for most patients. You should always follow the treatment plan that your doctor gives you. Unexpected weight loss is often a side effect of gastroparesis. Reducing the foods you can tolerate makes it difficult to get the number of calories you need to maintain your weight. That’s why you need to get as much nutrition and as many calories as possible from the foods you can eat.
Eating several smaller meals each day helps reduce complications with digestion that trigger gastroparesis symptoms. It also gives you more opportunities to eat high-calorie foods that you need to avoid weight loss.
There are different variations of a gastroparesis diet that depend on the severity of symptoms. The best way to increase your calorie intake is by looking at the calorie content of the foods you can eat. For you, that might include adding a milkshake or low-fat pudding to your meals.
The calories and nutrients you consume in liquid form are the most effective. Even if you are permitted to eat solid or semi-solid foods, liquids are much easier to digest. Ask your doctor about adding liquid nutritional supplements like Boost or Ensure to your diet.
Going on vacation with gastroparesis also poses a unique set of challenges. To avoid the limited food choices you have on an airplane or in restaurants, take along some foods and/or snacks that you can safely eat. Research your options at hotels and restaurants and tell family members or friends about your dietary restrictions before you arrive.
Also, keep plenty of water with you at all times. Severe dehydration is a common concern with gastroparesis, especially during hot weather. Some people with gastroparesis find that Gatorade is a better option for preventing dehydration.
If you are experiencing the ongoing symptoms of gastroparesis, it’s time to find a gastroenterologist in Jackson, MS, who can confirm a diagnosis and explain your options. GI Associates makes it easy to get the help you need. If you’re wondering “Where can I find a gastroenterologist near me?” we have the solution. We have locations in Flowood, Vicksburg, and Madison for more options to see a GI specialist close to home. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and get the help you need to control your gastroparesis this summer and beyond.