Un-Complicating Gastroparesis (Continued)
Meanwhile... Back in the Stomach...
But back to Gastroparesis Diabeticorum, which I've now re-christened a "high blood sugar complication," not a "diabetes complication." In gastroparesis, high blood sugar has damaged, or is damaging, the command and control nerves that drive stomach motility — the nature and speed of how the stomach moves. The stomach muscles no longer work right. Digestion comes to a screeching halt. The bottom line is that the bottom of the stomach stagnates. Although there's no blockage, food can't move from the stomach downstream into the intestines. The results are pain, bloating, nausea, and worse.
People who suffer gastroparesis are beset with wacky blood sugars, a lack of appetite, weight loss from malnutrition, heartburn, and quickly feeling full or over-stuffed after just a few bites of food.
Tests Confirm the Diagnosis
If you're plagued with this set of symptoms, your doc has a number of tests to choose from to confirm the bad news, such as an upper endoscopy where a camera is shoved down your throat to look at the inside of your stomach. Or a gastric emptying study where you eat radioactive food and the white coats use a scanner to see how fast (or if) the food moves through your digestive system. Or your doc might break out the more exotic scintigraphic gastric accommodation, where scanners are once again used with radioactive material, but this time to measure stomach volume and stomach relaxation. Another alternative is gastroduodenal manometry, where a sensitive tube is slid down your gullet and placed at the top of the intestines to measure its contractions.
And right out of science fiction's Fantastic Voyage, the latest and greatest way to diagnose gastroparesis is wireless capsule monitoring. Seriously, they have you swallow a tracking-device-in-a-pill that records its speed of movement — as well as the pH, temperature, and pressure changes it encounters as it travels through your digestive system.
Treatment Options... In the Kitchen
OK. Worst case scenario: You had a blood sugar meltdown and you've been diagnosed with gastroparesis. Now what? Well, like all high blood sugar complications, getting the reactor back under control is Job One. Regaining normal blood sugar keeps things from getting worse, and sometimes the body can heal itself once sugar is normal again.
But if you have some permanent damage, you may have to change how you eat. A little bit. Or a lot. Read on.
Just how do you eat for a sugar-damaged stomach? Well, the experts say to avoid fatty foods, as they take longer to digest. And to avoid high fiber foods, as they're more difficult to digest. So raw veggies and pizza are, quite literally, off the table.
The American College of Gastroenterology states that patients suffering even from severe gastroparesis can "live a relatively normal life with the aid of supplemental nutritional drinks, soft foods the consistency of pudding and by pureeing solid food in a blender." They go on to say feeding tubes placed into the intestines, bypassing the stomach, may be required.
Uhh... I guess a gastroenterologist's idea of a "relatively normal life" and my idea of a "relatively normal life" are a bit different.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the benefits that made it cost-effective for me to go with the real healthcare (HSA) plan rather than the phony (HRA) plan is that my company is now covering "preventative" medicines at $0 copay. The formulary for these, as stated by CVS/Caremark (my pharmacy benefits provider), covers all test strips, lancets, and control solutions. I dutifully get my doctor to write up prescriptions for all of my testing needs, submit...