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):*
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.