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What is Gastroparesis?

Until a hospital admission last year I had never heard of the condition 'gastroparesis'. I was in hospital for a week looking for answers. I had every scan and test you can imagine and on my last day as an inpatient my doctor floated the idea of gastroparesis, "I think you might have something called 'gastroparesis'. It's delayed gastric emptying, your stomach is being lazy." I did some googling after this visit and was started on a medication to give my stomach a little bit of help in the ole digesting game.

The definitive test for gastroparesis, a gastric emptying study, had to be done outpatient anyway so I was trialled on a few medications and diet modification (goodbye fats and fibre) to see if they made any difference before undergoing the study.

In November, after some outpatient scans and testing it was finally time to try the gastric emptying study. I had to be off all anti-nausea and gastric emptying medications in the week leading up the test which was... interesting. For the scan you eat a breakfast (normally eggs and toast) with a radioactive tracer in it, over the next four hours you will intermittently lie between two scanners that will detect the gamma radiation from your meal and see how fast/slow your stomach empties in comparison to the normal rate.

What Google shows me a gastric emptying study looks like...

A week after this scan I actually ended up in the emergency department again. Before being admitted for another week, to trial a medication and get me feeling more like a human, it was confirmed that I do have gastroparesis.

It's been an ongoing journey since before I even heard of gastroparesis back in September and I'm not 100% sure when/if I'll get some sort of normality back. Gastroparesis is a spectrum and affects people in so many different ways. Common symptoms include: vomiting, nausea, abdominal bloating and pain, feeling full after a small amount of food or drink, acid reflux, lack of appetite, malnutrition, weight loss and weight gain.

The most common cause of gastroparesis is damage to the vagus nerve either through diabetes or some sort of surgery, although there are other risk factors. Idiopathic gastroparesis (where there is no known cause) is also possible and what we think is happening with me at the moment.

Gastroparesis affects about 4% of the population so there is limited research and knowledge around treatments and cures. If I had a dollar for every time a nurse or doctor has said to me "I've never actually met someone with gastroparesis", I'd be at least a tenaire.

But you know what? Sloths also have super slow tummies so it ain't all bad. I'm just a sloth.

Told ya.

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