Imagine not being able to eat a simple meal without getting sick to your stomach. That's what happens to patients with gastroparesis, a condition that paralyzes the stomach.
“Most people who have the condition don’t ever get over it. This is something they have their whole life and what we do is try and get their life as tolerable as possible,” says Dr. Michael Bays, gastroenterologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
Ordinarily, muscle contractions propel food through your digestive tract. But in gastroparesis, the muscles in your stomach don’t work properly. It can interfere with digestion, cause nausea and vomiting, and problems with nutrition. Most people get it as a complication of a more common health condition.
“There’s a number of reasons, diabetes would be the most common. I would say that a good 70-80 of all the gastroparesis patients I have are diabetics,” says Dr. Bays.
“Yes, I am diabetic,” says Angela Crider, gastroparesis patient.
Crider is managing both disorders.
“When you look at what you can eat as a diabetic and you look at what you can eat for gastroparesis, that leaves very little, so I do a lot of liquid things,” says Crider.
If you have diabetes, one of the best ways to help control gastroparesis symptoms is to vary when and how you eat.
“Small amounts, more frequently, 5-6-7 meals a day things that are easy to digest. As unhealthy as it sounds no fruits and no fresh fruits or vegetable. If you want those, put them in a juicer,” says Dr. Bays.
A number of medications stimulate the nerves damaged by the diabetes, but don’t work on everyone. Others benefit from a surgically implanted device.
“Most medications are neurostimulators. What’s also used for this is a pacemaker. The pacemaker electrically stimulates the nerve and the medication chemically stimulates the nerve,” says Dr. Bays.
Crider resorted to a newer technique, Botox injections around the pyloric valve.
“We give it a couple of weeks to work and then if they’re emptying more appropriately, or more quickly then it’s done the job,” says Dr. Bays.
“It’s allowed me to somewhat carry on a normal life even with this pretty serious diagnosis,” says Crider.
Not an easy task with two chronic conditions.