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Digestive-Health

Updated 12 March 2019

How gastroparesis 'paralyses' your stomach

Gastroparesis is a rare, incurable disease that leads to constipation, erratic blood sugar levels and malnutrition, to name but a few symptoms.

Gastroparesis (GP) translates to "paralysed stomach", a condition that affects the usual spontaneous movement of the muscles in your stomach.

Generally, these strong muscular contractions push food through your digestive tract. However, if you struggle with GP, your stomach's muscles are slowed down or they do not function at all, which prevents your stomach from emptying properly. 

No cure

Many people with GP either cannot eat at all or they receive nutrition via a feeding tube or total parenteral nutrition (TPN). Some GP patients are, however, able to tolerate a short list of foods, such as liquid nutritional supplements, fruit juices, crackers and cereals. 

GP interferes with normal digestion, resulting in nausea and vomiting, and can cause problems with blood sugar levels and nutrition.

Unfortunately there's no cure for GP but changes to your diet and medication can offer some relief.

If you have gastroparesis you can probably relate to the following:

1. Feeling misunderstood and dealing with people's ignorance 

Many people have never even heard of gastroparesis, so if you're you're a sufferer you may be confronted with ignorance around every corner. Symptoms that you have to deal with every day include:

  • Vomiting undigested food eaten a few hours earlier
  • Feeling full after eating only a few bites of food
  • Acid reflux
  • Lack of appetite
  • Bloating
  • Malnutrition
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea    

People tend to underestimate the severity of the condition, and so those who suffer from it often feel isolated and struggle to open up as a result. 

2. The constant struggle of 'to eat or not to eat'

For many GP patients, one bite of food can result in intense stomach pains and vomiting.

Picture this: It is a hot sunny day and you really want a scoop of ice cream, so you buy it and eat it all up – immediately you are buckled over in pain and unable to keep the ice cream down. Someone who suffers from GP has to decide between food and no pain each time.  

3. Dealing with excruciating pain but being a pro at hiding it

Dealing with pain is something a person with GP knows all too well. While the stomach pain might be unbearable, many GP patients have mastered the art of concealing their pain.

Reading forums written and run by GP patients prove the strength of those who manage to survive this difficult condition. 

As one patient wrote, “Sometimes I bend over in gut pain and just suffer through because going to an ER never helps.” 

4. Feeling both hungry and stuffed at the same time

Even a few tiny bites of food can make you feel like you physically cannot eat anymore. Your body will, however, still crave food and you'll end up feeling both stuffed and hungry. 

Feeling nauseous from hunger even though you've just eaten is something GP patients deal with every day.

Image credit: iStock