Dizziness & Gastroparesis

Posted in: Personal Stories, Related Conditions ♦ Monday, October 3rd, 2011, 3:19 pm ♦ 13 Comments

My head is spinning today. Or rather, the room is spinning. Either way, I’ve been feeling quite dizzy since yesterday afternoon. About every other month or so I’ll have a day or two (or sometimes longer) where I’m really dizzy for no apparent reason. I’ve seen my primary care doc about it. I’ve even been to an ENT specialist. Nobody has any solid answers, but personally I think it has something to do with living with gastroparesis (not necessarily a result of the gastroparesis itself).

Two reasons. First, I think it’s improbable that random things keep happening within my body with no connection whatsoever to each other. I find it much more likely that seemingly unrelated symptoms that have appeared since I was diagnosed with gastroparesis have something to do with the GP — whether it’s a result of dietary choices, nutritional deficiencies, stress, the dysfunction of the enteric nervous system, or the delayed gastric emptying itself.

Second, I know that recurrent dizziness is something that a lot of other GPers also experience. A lot of people email me about it, a lot of one-on-one clients have ask about it, and the topic came up in one of my group programs just last week.

Here are some of my thoughts as to what might contribute to dizziness among GPers (just like most other things, it’s not likely to be the same for everyone):*

Dehydration

Whether it’s a result of vomiting or not drinking enough due to fullness or other symptoms, some GPers are chronically dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can cause dizziness, as well as other symptoms like headaches, constipation, fatigue, and moodiness. If you’re experiencing the symptoms of even mild dehydration, make an effort to sip on water throughout the whole day (I always have a water bottle with me) and avoid caffeinated beverages, which can contribute to dehydration.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Most people trying to follow a gastroparesis-friendly diet are not getting adequate nutrition (this is a topic I talk a lot about in my upcoming book). Iron and B12 deficiencies in particular can cause dizziness. These are two nutrients that many GPers may not be getting enough of in their diet and/or properly absorbing. Both are found primarily animal products, especially red meat and organ meats, things that most people with gastroparesis don’t eat a lot of.  In addition, adequate stomach acid is required for the absorption of both iron and B12. Many GPers are taking strong prescription medications that reduce or eliminate the production of stomach acid.

Other symptoms of iron deficiency include weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, headache, and pale skin. B12 deficiency has many of the same signs and can also mimic neurologic disorders with symptoms like numbness or tingling in your fingers or toes. If you’re experience dizziness or other symptoms of possible deficiencies, ask your doctor  to check your iron, ferritin, and B12.

Medication

Some drugs, including certain antidepressants and medications for anxiety, can cause dizziness.  If you’ve noticed new or worsening dizziness since starting a medication, talk with your doctor about possible alternatives.

Low Blood Sugar

Blood sugar swings are common among people with GP, even non-diabetics (this is another topic I talk quite a bit about in the new book). Eating unbalanced meals or snacks that are high in refined carbohydrates and very low in protein and fat can lead to reactive hypoglycemia. Aside from dizziness, symptoms may include shakiness, hunger, confusion, sweating, and anxiety. For those of us with non-diabetic gastroparesis, the best way to address this is to eat well-balanced GP-friendly meals every 2-3 hours and limit the amount of empty/sugary foods in the diet. (I always have a tube of glucose tablets in my purse for unexpected dips in blood sugar.)

Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure, which is typically defined as anything lower than than 90 mm Hg systolic or 60 mm Hg diastolic, can cause dizziness, especially upon standing. This is called orthostatic hypotension. This is sometimes a sign of autonomic neuropathy (see below). Testing has ruled out autonomic neuropathy in my case but for whatever reason my blood pressure has decreased over the years that I’ve had gastroparesis. I’ve actually found that adding more salt to my diet, primarily through broth and soups, has helped quite a bit.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can sometimes cause dizziness and is a contributing factor for some people with gastroparesis, as it can slow down all systems within the body including the digestive tract. Along with dizziness and slow digestion, hypothyroidism can also cause constipation, weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, fatigue, and a variety of other symptoms. If these sound familiar to you, you may want to talk with your doctor about evaluating your thyroid.

Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy is a condition that affects non-voluntary processes within the body, such as digestion and blood pressure. Gastroparesis is sometimes the result of autonomic neuropathy in both diabetics and non-diabetics. If you’ve not been evaluated for this and you have other possible symptoms, you might want to ask you doctor about further testing.

Unrelated Factors

Of course dizziness can be caused by completely unrelated factors, like migraines, inner ear inflammation, or even sinus infections. It’s always best to contact your doctor if you’re concerned of if you have new or worsening symptoms.

*Please note: I am not a doctor. The information presented on this website is for educational purposes only and is in no way intended as medical advice. Always contact your doctor or other qualified medical practitioner for advice regarding any symptoms you’re experiencing. 

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13 Responses to “Dizziness & Gastroparesis”

  1. Posted by: Christina
    October 3rd, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I too have the SAME problem! It’s good to know that I’m not the only one out there! Along with the dizziness and generalized weakness, I also have periods of what I refer to as “flare-ups”. They happen once, maybe twice a month and consist of increased stomach pain after I eat (more so than the normal GP issues after eating). Sometimes they get so bad that I have trouble eating more than one meal a day. My flare-ups last for a couple of days and then it’s back to normal (well as normal as it can be for GP). Anyone else have this issue or have some light they can shed on this?

  2. Posted by: April
    October 3rd, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Wow – and I just thought it was ‘me’. I don’t get really dizzy, but often have feelings of ‘weirdness’……… it’s sort of like a sensation of movement, hard to describe. It happens pretty frequently, but not enough that it effects anything I do.

  3. Posted by: Crystal
    October 3rd, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Christina, gastroparesis tends to be a very dynamic condition with ebbs and flows. Symptom flare ups are common, in fact I’d say that most people experience GP that way. So many things can contribute to flare ups, including changes in stress or sleeping habits, as well as hormonal changes. Many women noticed increased symptoms around their menstrual cycles, for example. Hope that helps a little!

  4. Posted by: Karen Gould
    October 3rd, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Wow- I was just doing research on B12 today and then I read your posting. Is it just a simple blood test for B12 deficiency? Based on my research, it sounds like a B12 deficiency can actually damage the vagas nerve. Do you think this might be an explanation for idiopathic GP?

  5. Posted by: Tracy
    October 3rd, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I experience similar symptoms. I call them mini-releapses. After tracking them, I have chalked it up to hormones. They occur mid cycle within my menstrual cycle. It took awhile to catch it. I think other factors weigh in, but I do think that mid month bloating and my insides fighting for their own special space attributes to the ‘flare ups / mini-relapses” If I am at the top of my game (no stress, great sleep, good nutrition) then I might skip a month but those are few and far between.

  6. Posted by: Crystal
    October 4th, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Karen, while my understanding is that B12 deficiency may contribute to delayed gastric emptying, my thought is that it may be more likely to contribute to worsening symptoms than to be causing a lot of cases on it’s own. Just my opinion, of course. As far as I know symptoms caused by deficiency usually subside after levels have been raised for a while. (For example, I have a client who was experiencing blindness in one eye. It turned out to be vitamin b12 deficiency and after several months of treatment her sight returned.)

  7. Posted by: lisa
    October 5th, 2011 at 8:56 am

    Hello!
    I have had problems with dizziness and little “black out” seconds. I had a feeling it was related to my GP – good to know i am not alone here but sad to hear others have to deal with it also. i have had blood work done and it showed iron, folate, and other deficiencies. hard to balance everything in, isn’t it? i understand how its difficult to fit more that one meal in a day. i try but it is difficult. it is amazing how the body and mind work as a whole unit. an imbalance here or there can effect things in many ways. all of need to keep hanging in there and take one day at a time and treasure the gifts we’re given everyday! thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences crystal because it helps immensely!

  8. Posted by: Tessa
    February 17th, 2012 at 3:31 am

    I had gastroparesis in April thru mid August when they said it looked better. Then within the last two months I’ve begun having problems againToday we got testing back and I have gastroparesis a second time. I had at least three months where I didn’t have to eat everything puréed. Your story’s have helped a lot.

  9. Posted by: Genevieve Parks
    February 22nd, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Hello!

    I’ve just been diagnosed with gastroparesis, though I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism for a year and a half. Would I still be classified as having idiopathic gastroparesis or is there different terminology since I have hypothyroidism?

    Thanks,

    Genevieve

  10. Posted by: Carey Ann
    March 6th, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve been stuck home the last 2 days from work from being dizzy and my gp symptoms are flaring. Happens about once a month, but usually not this bad. I originally thought it was from a new med my GI prescribed last week but I have stopped taking it so thinking it’s gp. Hate missing time from work…also not a fan of being dizzy.
    Thanks for the great info!!

  11. Posted by: Myra
    October 17th, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Wow you folks are a wealth of information!! I also have gp and it did take awhile to diagnose it. I also have had Crohn’s disease for over 40 yrs and every so often get bowel obstructions. Every 3 months I get a botox injection into the Pyloric valve and that allows me to eat my version of a gp diet. I’ve been reseaching on what medications might help the Pyloric valve and read that B12 can help repair nerve damage and I immediate thought of the Vegas Nerve so after speaking with druggist he said give it a try. Even though I’ve only been taking it for about 1/12 months I have noticed a difference. I’m also trying to cut out gluten and foods that are hard to digest. I keep a diary of what I eat each day and this lets me know what I can or can’t tolerate. What I can’t figure out is what sets the gp off. I’ll be fine one day and the next day it starts to flare up. I realize the botox is wearing off but there has to be something else that my body is low on. What triggers a flare up, I just can’t seem to pin point it to anything and it’s getting frustrating. One of my biggest problems is staying hydrated when I’m in a flare up. I try and drink fluids like gaterade, water and milk but I can take only small amounts at a time. My last flare up I was vomiting so much that I passed out 3 times one afternoon. After looking at my journal I came to the conclusion I was dehydrated. Another trip to the ER to get some fluids into me and I felt a bit better. My magnesion was low, potassium high and sodium low so now I take magnesion 4 times a day and add salt to foods. Now a month later I had a very high temperature for a day and managed to get it down with tylenol but it would go back up soon after. I had no other symptoms so I was a bit confused as to what was going on. Something told me I should have this checked out so back to the ER. I had a staph infection so that kept me in for 2 weeks and was also low in iron so I had to have 3 units of it. The doc said that somewhere I am losing blood. After about 10 days in there my gp flared up but it was just in the early stages so I managed to get home. Once again I can’t figure out what set it off. It’s different this time as usually I have a lot of pain but not this time, I’m just really nauseated 24/7. I’ve just been able to get small amount of fluids in each day so I know I’m dehydrated. Today I forced myself to go out as I have been house bound for the last 6 days. It made me feel better for a few hrs but tonight I have no energy. My doc phones me every day to see how I’m doing and today he said I need to be back in hospital. If anyone has any helpful ideas I would really appreciate them. I have this feeling I’m missing something important that would make me feel much better and out of the hospital. Sorry to have written a lengthy note but it’s so nice to talk with folks who also have gp. I don’t know anyone who has it and I’m the only one in my GP’s practice with it so it is a bit of a challenge for him. My gastro is good and I’ve been seeing him for many years but it’s very hard to get hold of him. Thanks very much for listening and lets hope there will be a cure for this nasty problem soon, Myra

  12. Posted by: Jane Hall
    March 18th, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    On Dec. 18,after having what my GP thought was a month long session of BPPV Vertigo not being helped by Antivert (meclazine) and Physical Therapy, I was referred to an ENT. He said I was having Vestibular Migraines! I’ve had severe Migraines for 12 years but never with the dizziness included to the point of actually falling to the floor on several occasions and not being able to drive. I went to the Vestibular Clinic at Duke University and saw their specialist who confirmed the diagnosis and has referred me to their Migraine specialist for an April appointment. IF I can hold on that long. Having GP and am on my 2nd pacemaker is just about enough, but now I’m dizzy almost all the time now and having about 3 migraines a week. I KNOW for certain that the migraines and GP are related now if I can convince the drs and get proper treatment. I also have autonomic autoimmune neurophy but so far it was only in the stomach and not in my blood stream. I’ll write more o the subject after I see the dr at Duke. Good luck to all of you who are suffering with the dizziness. Jane

  13. Posted by: Jane Hall
    March 18th, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    This is Jane again: I forgot to say that I’ve been getting B-12 shots for 10 years each month and get Iron Infusions every few years as I’ve always been anemic and had a hysterectomy in 1982. I went to get 2 bags of IV fluids each week for 3 years until I got my pacer implanted in 2010, because I was dehydrated all the time. I may need to start doing that again,too.

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