Un-Complicating Gastroparesis (And the Rest of the Complications)
Speeding up a super-slow stomach.
By Wil Dubois
The most complicated thing about diabetes complications is their Greek and Latin names. Take Gastroparesis Diabeticorum for instance. It hardly sounds like something that can happen to the human body. It sounds more like the name of a Roman history written in the First Century AD. Or maybe an obscure Renaissance scientific text. Or perhaps a 17th Century treatise on ancient politics or even table manners. It's hard to say just looking at the words.
But, in fact, it's a "diabetes complication." And a damn nasty one at that. In plain English, gastroparesis is a super-slow stomach. Picture a car stuck in first gear. At the Indy 500. Gastroparesis is hard to treat and worse to live with. More on that, and how to speed that sucker back up, in a minute.
Off Message and Onto My Soapbox
But first, pardon me while I go on a rant about the whole subject of "diabetes complications." I don't believe in diabetes complications. They're a myth, and I think science bears me out on this. All the nasty things that can happen to those of us with diabetes: damage to eyes, nerves, heart, kidneys, and more, aren't from diabetes; they're from high blood sugar. Now, of course, diabetes can cause high blood sugar. And, of course, high blood sugar does cause damage to the body. But diabetes, in a vacuum, doesn't cause much of anything at all. It's high blood sugar that complicates diabetes. Diabetes itself is simple.
A semantic game? An over-simplification? A bait and switch? Accuse me of all of the above if you want to, but hear me out.
Diabetes is like a nuclear reactor. When it's working right, you hardly notice it. But if an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a fire comes along and the reactor goes out of control, a lot of bad things happen. Blood sugar is the same way. Kept nicely in its containment vessel, not much happens. But if you have a breach...
The reason I'm harping on this today, rather than talking about what I'm supposed to be talking about, is that I get upset when people talk about "diabetes complications." The use of those two words makes them sound inevitable. Unavoidable. Fate, destiny, and karma all wrapped into one. And that's a fiction. A falsehood. Perhaps, even, a lie. "Diabetes complications" are fully avoidable because they aren't a complication of diabetes at all. Instead, they're the result of long-term high blood sugar. They aren't a guaranteed outcome of diabetes. Control your blood sugar and control your health destiny.
I believe we need to start thinking in terms of "high blood sugar complications," not "diabetes complications" because, frankly, we can't do diddly-squat about our diabetes. That's here to stay. But our blood sugar? Now that we can do something about. And I believe that language has power. If we talk about "diabetes complications" we may begin to give up hope. We may begin to believe in the inevitability of damage to our bodies. On the other hand, if we talk about "high blood sugar complications" it'll be easier to remember that we're the masters of our illness.
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Because I wear my Dexcom on my arm, I’ve slowly adjusted to the fact that people will ask me about it. Sometimes it’s the rude and inquisitive “What’s that?” and sometimes it’s somewhat sincere curiosity “Is that a (insert random type of medical device that they assume)?” Sometimes it bothers me more than others depending on how they ask and how they respond once I’ve told them what it is. I have limits to how much myth-busting I want to do in everyday conversation and how much rudeness I can...