Diabetes Simplified: Gastroparesis (continued)
Eating for gastroparesis
OK. Now what? Now you need to eat in a way that doesn't overload your beat-up stomach. For that, you really need the advice of a specialist dietitian who works with gastro docs, but here's the broad view:
Eat lots of little meals. Like six or more per day. Because your stomach doesn't work well, you want to avoid over-working it. Sometimes patients are also advised to "chew food well," meaning that you should basically use your mouth to puree your food before swallowing it. After your meals, take a walk to get things moving, and never lie down after a meal.
What else? Oh yes, avoid raw foods. So always cook your fruits and veggies. Be careful about fatty foods, drink lots of water, and fer' goodness sake, no carbonated beverages.
On the bright side, you don't have to eat your broccoli anymore. Fruits and veggies of a fibrous nature are more likely to create bezoars.
And if food of any kind still gives you trouble, a heavily liquid diet—I'm talking soups here, not booze—works for some people.
What about meds?
Insulin, insulin, insulin. Diabetes pills, like food, will have a hard time getting into the digestive system, so insulin is the best bet to control your blood sugar. Compared to dFolks without gastroparesis, you'll need to take insulin more often, and in smaller doses. And because your stomach is so slow to empty, you should take your insulin after meals, not before.
For the gastroparesis itself, there are two classes of meds that might help: Anti-nausea dugs and muscle stimulators. The latter of the pair sounds like a great idea on the surface. Hey, the stomach muscles aren't working right, let's kick-start them. Sounds good, but in reality, the side effects of these meds are mind-numbing. Well, actually, they don't numb the mind but they might make your face twitch all the time.
What about scalpels?
How about an operation? Can surgery help a slow stomach? Yes. In three ways: Vents can be installed in the stomach to help keep gases from building up; in some cases bypassing or stapling the bottom part of the stomach can help improve stomach emptying; and electrical stimulators can be surgically implanted to help suppress muscle spasms that trigger vomiting.
Like so many complications, not getting complicated in the first place is the best plan. Failing that, don't get any more complicated than you already are. And that means going the extra mile to keep your blood sugar in the best possible control that you can.
If you have gastroparesis, you've been knocked down, hard. But you are still in the ring. Get back on your feet and fight back. Follow the food rules and become a blood sugar control freak.
Then you'll be the champ again.
Wil Dubois is the author of four multi-award-winning books about diabetes. He is a PWD type 1, and is the diabetes coordinator for a rural non-profit clinic. Visit his blog, LifeAfterDX.
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
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