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Gastroparesis Awareness Month Week 2

If you missed our introductory Fresh News on this important topic, here is a review of what Gastroparesis is: a parlyzed or partially paralyzed stomach that is a result of damaged nerves, which causes the stomach not to contract when foods need to be digested. So what causes this incurable and painful disease? It has been found that there are several causes, such as chronic disease, surgery, accidents, medications and viruses. Most causes are idiopathic, meaning the exact cause is unknown. Those causes impair, damage or cripple the Autonomic Nervous System. This system consists of the Parasympathetic, Sympathetic and Vagus Nerve. In coordination, they work together to control our involuntary muscles, such as our heart rate, pupillary rate and digestive motility or Peristalsis. The Sympathetic Nervous System operates to save us from a fight or flight situation or danger, which occurs when trauma in our lives contributes to the impairment of our nerves in our digestive system. The focus is on saving ourselves, which therefore stops or slows the digestion of the food eaten. If we are in constant stressful situations, it can lead to Gastroparesis.

Two chronic diseases that are common causes are Diabetes Mellitus and Hypothroid. With Diabetes, people commonly experience neuropathy of their extremities as a result of damage to the long peripheral nerves. It is not until then that the short peripheral nerves can become damaged, which negatively affects the stomach’s nerves ultimately leading to Gastroparesis, according to JJMed.

With Hypothyroid, they found in long term patients edema was present in the mucus lining as a result of build up from mucopolysaccharides and hyaluronic acid. This can slow motility. Patients’ complications were dyspepsia/indigestion, chest pain. Because Hypothyroid slows our metabolism, slows digestion, decreases appetite and causes constipation, in itself, Hypothyroid disease can lead to damage of the digestion process. (Hindawi, “Does Hypothyroid affect Gastroparesis motility”)

Other Autoimmune diseases such as Systemic Lupus and Scleroderma may cause Gastroparesis. Scleroderma is a connective tissue disease in which collagen deposition develops in our internal organs which limits motility.

Neurological diseases such as MS and Parkinson’s can develop motility issues as well. In MS, the Vagus nerve is impaired. The Vagus nerve is crucial for digestion, as it tightens the stomach muscle to contract to move food. If food doesn’t move the food it will ferment or form into a hard ball called a Bezoar. Other Vagus Nerve impairments can be caused by surgery or through an accident.

Medications such as Calcium Channel Blockers, Antidepressants, Opiates, Lithium and other narcotics lead to inmotility.

Viruses such as Norovirus and the Rotavirus are also causes. The Covid Virus was found to exacerbate Gastroparesis flares as well.

Whatever the cause, if the person is experiencing Gastroparesis, there are symptoms or complications that are commonly felt everyday, including pain, nausea, vomiting (some showing undigested food), heartburn, Gerd, stomach spasms, loss of appetite, feeling full (after eating very little), bloating, constipation, diarrhea, weight loss or gain, fluctuating blood sugar levels, depression, anxiety, dehydration, malnutrition, and overall reduced quality of life.

So how do you know if Gastroparesis is the issue? If you have tried everything possible to relieve your symptoms, can’t get relief, experience chronic flares everyday, miss work or school, are losing weight and can’t eat, then it’s time for testing. There are certain tests that can be administered depending on the symptoms, health history and the age of the patient.

Next week I will discuss those tests available and the remedies.

Thank you, and please continue to be curious as we need to educate more people about Gastroparesis Awareness!

Be well,
Sandy, Wellness Coach