After years of gastroparesis breaking me down physically and mentally, I found ways to cope with the condition, and hope others can too!
What Is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is described as "delayed stomach emptying." The Mayo Clinic explains it as such:
Gastroparesis is a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach does not function normally. 
Your vagus nerve is responsible for causing your stomach muscles to move. When it is damaged or stops working, your food remains in the stomach longer than it should. This causes the food in your stomach to spoil and ferment.
Historically, gastroparesis has proven to be difficult to diagnose. Unfortunately, young women suffering from this condition are sometimes misdiagnosed as anorexic—and they are wrongly sent to eating disorder clinics. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another common misdiagnosis.
The most common causes of gastroparesis are:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Stomach surgery with injury to the vagus nerve
- Narcotics and some antidepressants
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Rare conditions such as amyloidosis (deposits of protein fibers in tissues and organs) and scleroderma (a connective tissue disorder that affects the skin, blood vessels, skeletal muscles, and internal organs)
- Idiopathic (relating to or denoting any disease or condition that arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown.) 
Symptoms of Gastroparesis
- Early Satiety (feeling full after eating just a few bites)
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- Changes in blood sugar levels
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss and malnutrition
If You Think You Might Have Gastroparesis
- See a doctor and express your concerns.
- Ask for a gastric emptying scan.
- Have a good support group.
- Learn to breathe.
- Find out what foods you can tolerate and stay away from the foods you cannot.
- Do as much research as possible.
- Never give up!
It All Started After My Gallbladder Removal
On October 31, 2009, I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. The next day, my grandfather (and hero) passed away. Three days later, I was on a flight to California to attend his memorial service. I decided to stay a week to comfort my mother.
About five days into my stay, I caught a nasty virus that was going around and was vomiting uncontrollably. I spent a day on a gurney in the ER hallway. They had no time to treat me with anything other than Zofran, which did not help. I went back to my mother's home, got some rest, and headed home soon after. Thinking it was all behind me.
One month later, I started having stomach pain and a feeling of fullness after eating only a few bites of food. "I thought I would be feeling better after the surgery," I told my doctor. He thought I might have re-injured an old ulcer, so he prescribed me some medicine. One week later, I called and asked him if I should be feeling better because I wasn't.
I Was Diagnosed First With Gastritis, Then Gastroparesis
This prompted my doctor to send me to a GI specialist who, after reviewing my upper endoscopy, diagnosed me with gastritis. I was given new medication, and after a week, I gave her a call asking why I still wasn't feeling better.
My next medical exam was called a gastric emptying test. I ate radiated oatmeal, and the tech reviewed how much time it took to leave my stomach. Two days later, my GI doctor called me with the news that I had gastroparesis. She suggested I do much online research and prescribed me a medication called Reglan.
My doctor also said I would have to stop taking the pain medications because narcotics make the condition worse. I asked her what I could do for the pain. She explained to me that nothing would help me, and I would just have to deal.
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Reglan turned out to be a black box prescription. It has been known to cause permanent neurological damage. Within five days, I was crawling out of my skin. After much research, I found another prescription drug that is not FDA-approved but could be obtained from Canada with a prescription. I called my doctor and asked for a prescription for Motilium.
I Tried to Find More Information and Support
As my illness progressed, so did my fears. I could not eat any solid food without extreme pain. I found myself not only reading but obsessing over my health. Some of the participant forums were frightening. I wasn't losing weight at this time; on the contrary, I was gaining. I was told that my body was in starvation mode.
I would ask the most common question in these groups, "Is this disease progressive?" The answer was, "Sometimes, yes. Not all cases are the same." G-Pact has a support group on Facebook, and this became the most useful group to go to for information. Sometimes it could get depressing. We were all suffering. Occasionally we mourn the loss of someone due to complications.
A few things I gathered from the support group:
- There is, at this time, no cure for gastroparesis.
- Women primarily suffer from this disease, though men do as well. Just not as many men as women.
- The women who usually die from complications seem to be very young.
- Some pregnant women lose all symptoms until their babies are born. Symptoms were known to return afterward.
- Some women say their symptoms are at their worse during their menstrual cycles.
- Some suffer daily, with no reprieve.
- Some suffer occasional flare-ups with no warnings.
- If you caught gastroparesis from a virus, there is a strong chance that you will heal completely—it just takes 2-4 years.
The last two resonated with me greatly. My flare-ups, in the beginning, occurred every three to four weeks, lasting four to five days. With each flare-up, I would have to rebuild my appetite. By the time my appetite was almost back, another flare-up would hit.
I had wondered if the surgeon had nicked my vagus nerve while removing my gallbladder. If so, I was screwed. But what I kept thinking about was that nasty virus I got while healing from my surgery. Could I have damaged my vagus nerve from the violence of that virus?
The Condition Was Taking Its Toll on Me—Physically and Mentally
With all this information and fear, I found myself suffering panic attacks and depression. I am no stranger to either. I made an appointment with my primary doctor, and he gave me some medicine as long as I committed to seeing a therapist. "You are starving, and this is stressing you out. The stress is adding to the loss of appetite," he said. I agreed.
In addition, I saw an acupuncturist and a naturopath. I had greater results from the naturopath. He treated some scar tissue in my stomach, and almost immediately, the daily pain went away. Then he had me get some "constitutional hydrotherapy," which also provided some relief.
But whenever I experienced a flare-up, nothing could get me to eat. Sometimes, the pain was unbearable, but the main problem was I just could not eat. I had to add a lot of sugar and cream to my coffees to get my calories, I discovered Enlive by Ensure (now known as "Ensure Clear"), and Gatorade was my best friend. Still, there were many trips to the ER due to pain and dehydration.
My weight dropped from 165 lbs to 117 lbs in just six months. I decided to call off my engagement and moved out of the home I shared with my fiancee. It turned out to be a great time for reflection.
Yoga, Breathing, and Meditation for My Sanity
Being a recovering addict, working a 12-step program had totally prepared my mind and spirit for this. I constantly reminded myself, "this too shall pass." I got outside of myself and gave of my time in service as much as physically possible.
I had also been seeing a chiropractor for a while, and the best piece of advice he gave me was a breathing technique to use while the pain felt unbearable. It has been so long since I have had to use this technique that I have almost forgotten how to do it!
Because of the lack of nutrients I was getting, I had to quit my workout program. Even yoga had become too difficult.
I attended a women's retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather, Co. This is where I learned how to journal properly and do walking meditations and yin yoga. Yin yoga is a very slow-paced yoga where you hold your poses for two to five minutes rather than a flow.
Yin yoga became my best outlet for the next couple of years, followed by meditation and breathing. In addition to daily prayer and strong faith, my sanity remained intact due to this new part of my life.
In October 2013, I arrived at a five-year remission. I had been tracking my flare-ups and for the past year, there were only two, but each one lasted 21-days. 21 miserable days. But the good thing was that they were so spread apart that I had time to gain my weight back.
After five years, I considered myself "cured." All I know is that I love food. For three years, I could not eat anything fibrous. Especially apples. I made up for all that.
I traveled around the U.S. and abroad and developed wanderlust. Hawaii, Greece, Croatia, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Peru, are a few of the wonderful places I visited. What a gift!
One thing I learned: I would not trade a good meal for a small waist any day.
I will never stop praying for my dear brothers and sisters who still suffer from gastroparesis. There are many who need a cure, who need prayers and good thoughts. If you have a prayer list, please add them to it.
In April 2018, my GP returned. I have managed it to the best of my ability using the tools I have mapped out in this writing.
Fortunately, it is not as bad as it was at first. However, it is bad enough. Still, I have avoided making any trips to the ER.
My focus is on dietary control and paying close attention to the psycho-somatic symptoms that are part of a scary disease.
Furthermore, I am working on a gastroparesis-based yoga program and writing a book for the mild-to-moderate GP lifestyle.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2015 Elysia Valdivia
Elysia Valdivia on October 07, 2018:
Hey Grandmommy. I totally understand your frustration. I have struggled with all of those issues. I had a lot of progress with alternative health options as well as Western medicine. Either way, when I was in a flare-up, nothing worked. I am so sorry that you have this horrible disease.
Grandmommy51 on October 07, 2018:
I get very frustrated I not only have GP, I also have gurd, IBS, spastic colon, as well as diverticulosis or the one were your intestines look like a maze or tunneled. I apologize I'm not real good at spelling. I'm real frustrated because since being dignosed I've gained almost 50bls and I feel bloated all the time and can't go to the bathroom a lot of the time. Anyone have any suggestions that might help me. Never know what to eat something that didnt bother me one time I eat it will the next. I always feel misserable please any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time and suggstions.
Elysia Valdivia (author) from Loveland, Colorado on August 09, 2018:
I apologize for not answering any questions on this post. For some reason, I did not receive any alerts. It could be due to a spam filter. Namaste.
Jen on August 18, 2017:
Can you share the breathing exercises that helped?
Char on March 01, 2017:
I loved reading your story, however I am sorry for your suffering. I was dx'd with GP in November 2016. I am in misery the majority of the time. I also have Muscular Dystrophy and Type 2 Diabetes on top of the GP. We wonder if the MD contributed to the GP?? Having Diabetes and the foods tolerated with GP make it really hard for me UGH!!! I do the best I can. Thank you for the links and all of your insight. Blessings, Char
Elysia Valdivia (author) from Loveland, Colorado on December 10, 2015:
So sorry that happened Julie. My daughter in law had hyperemesis and was just miserable. Everyone with GP is different I am sure. The few women I discussed pregnancy with were lucky enough to get some relief.
Julie on December 10, 2015:
The GP going away during pregnancy is a misnomer. My GP actually caused Hyperemesis during my second and third trimester with both of my pregnancies.