FAQ: Are flare-ups random?

Lots to keep track of...



Katy recently posted this question on my Facebook page:

Why do random GP flares occur even when you are a following a strict diet and taking your medication (Domperidone in my case)? Is it really just that random?

Great question! Based on my experience and my work with other GPers, flare-ups aren’t usually as random as they seem. While you may be adhering to a strict GP-friendly diet and taking your medication regularly, there are many other factors that affect how you feel day-to-day. Your menstrual cycle, stress (both good and bad), travel, other illnesses (even run-of-the-mill colds), changes in activity level (either more or less than usual), lack of sleep (even one night of poor sleep impacts digestion), poor nutrition (certain vitamins and minerals are essential for proper digestion), new medication or supplements, and overextending yourself can all exacerbate GP symptoms.

When I find myself in a flare-up, talking through what’s been going on in all aspects of my comprehensive management plan often helps me identify the cause(s). Many times, it’s related to increased stressed and/or paying less attention to self-care. Sometimes it’s very subtle changes in the diet — more sugar or less fresh food, for example — that I didn’t even realize I was making (a food journal comes in very handy here).

Of course sometimes, even after you’ve consider all of these things, you may not be able to identify the exact cause of a flare-up. While there like is a cause, our guts are very complex and digestion is regulated by many things that we can’t keep track of on our own — neurostransmitters, bacteria, hormones. The best thing you can do in this case is to maintain all aspects of your comprehensive management plan, really prioritize self-care (a biggie when it comes to finding consistency in GP management), and not get too worked up. I know that’s easier said than done, but I can assure you that you will feel better faster if you avoid the “flare-up freak out.”

I used to spiral downward during flare-ups and have a terrible time getting back on-track because I’d become absolutely frantic — incessantly search the internet (again…) for answers, make a bunch of changes, switch to consuming nothing but Boost (which made things worse in hindsight). Eventually I figured out that sticking with my nutrient-rich dietary staples, focusing on self-care, and getting more sleep, mild activity, and nutrition worked much better.

Bottom line: most of the time, flare-ups aren’t random but there are many, many possible causes to consider. Based on the work I’ve done with both individuals and groups, however, the stronger all parts of your comprehensive management are, the more consistent your symptom management will be over time.

For more information about building your own comprehensive management plan, check out Living (Well!) with Gastroparesis.


Related Posts:


  1. 1

    April says

    Crystal – I’ve noticed your spread sheet in a post before. I’d love to know more about that sometime! I know I could probably sit down and figure something out – but it’s hard sometimes to know what you should be keeping track of – and how often maybe you should be taking or doing something. It’s just nice to know what other people do sometimes! 😉

  2. 2

    Crystal says

    April, I’ll break it down in a future blog post. I don’t really keep track as closely these days, as I’m in a comfortable routine and I have a more little wiggle room now thanks to the pregnancy. But it was definitely really helpful when I was trying to optimize the what, how much, and when in terms of the various aspects of my management plan!

  3. 3

    Katy says

    Crystal – Thank you so much for responding to my question! I have had a rough two weeks with flares and am slowly coming out of it. This is my longest flare since diagnosis so I’ve really had a hard time with it. I understand what you mean when you say “the flare-up freak out”. I will try to work harder on self-care and incorporate more walking after dinner. I stopped exercising when I was diagnosed because I needed time to heal and my energy level was below zero. I’ve had to quit my half marathon training team because my body isn’t quite ready for that yet, but I hope to do walking and work my way up to jogging in the coming months! How long do your flares typically last?

  4. 4

    Roz says

    Well, I am in my 6th week of a flare-up!!! I bought your book and it has been very helpful. I am working on getting the nutrients I need and sticking to a GP friendly diet. I am getting very impatient and fearful that I am never going to come out of this again !! I am trying to stay positive, but it is getting harder and harder as th days and weeks go by!!!!

  5. 5

    Adi says

    Good to know that they are a lot of factors that trigger GP flares. My husband and I have a hypothesis. I always get sick when the weather changes; from Spring to Summer, and at the end of Summer going into fall. So no matter what I do, every year I get GP flares during that time. it’s definitely no fun. My flares last from 4 to 6 weeks. I also get small flares lasting for less than 3 days, during my menstrual cycle. It is hard, but I won’t let this disease take control of my life.