There’s a common misconception that gastroparesis cannot or does not get better. The fact is, it can and often does. I’ve received countless emails and messages over the past six years from people who were diagnosed with gastroparesis, some of whom were VERY sick, whose conditions have since dramatically improved or even resolved. I’ve decided to share some of these stories — exactly as written, with permission — to illustrate that it IS possible to get better and even recover after a GP diagnosis.
In the past, the question has come up whether these people have proof that their gastric emptying has improved or normalized, or whether they “just” feel better. Some have had follow-up gastric emptying scans, some have not. To my mind, it doesn’t really matter. If they are free of physical symptoms, eating and living as they wish, and they feel that they are better… that’s good enough for me.
These stories are meant to illustrate that gastroparesis is not necessarily a “forever” diagnosis. They are not meant as medical advice or a template for your own healing. Each person’s journey toward living well and/or getting well is unique. However, having worked with hundreds of GPers on this path, there are certainly common themes and practices that come up and I will point those out below each story.
May 27, 2015
I’ve followed Crystal’s blogs, Facebook page, and videos for over two years now. I was diagnosed with GP in January of 2013 after a viral illness (probably mono I contracted from my teenager). I had almost all the symptoms, mostly bloating, pain, nausea and severe GERD – I just never vomited. At the time I was 55 years old.
I’ve been followed at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, all along, and over the last 8 months, especially after having my gallbladder removed after severe pancreatitis, my symptoms have almost completely resolved. I no longer have nausea whatsoever. No more pain, and only occasionally do I have slight reflux or bloating.
I still avoid large amounts of fiber and I avoid acidic foods, but I’m tolerating salads and even small amounts of nuts and fresh fruits and veggies. I have different eating habits now, I will admit. I stick to organic foods as much as possible, I juice regularly, and I enjoy healthy smoothies often.
I wanted to let you know this because there’s so much controversy about GP being able to resolve. My Mayo GI doctor in April told me that they at Mayo are discovering that it is indeed possible for GP to get better and better and even to resolve. The damaged nerves, he said, were probably healing after the virus had attacked them. He didn’t want to retest me with the gastric emptying scan because he said it would expose me to unnecessary radiation and regardless of the result, there would be no treatment recommended. I agreed with this.
I’m feeling really well now, but I still remain cautious. I have better nutritional habits now, and I certainly don’t want to go back to my old ways of eating (no fast food for over two years now, and hardly any beef ever). I also practice yoga several times weekly, and I walk every day. Exercise has been one of my most important healing tools.
I hope this can encourage someone else. I know that I constantly looked for encouragement that one day I’d have improvement or resolution, and I hope and pray this is the case for many others. I also hope and pray I have no relapses!
Thanks so much to Crystal for all her help. I know she’s heard it over and over, but she has truly been a godsend. On days I thought I was probably close to giving it all up, I could put on her videos or read her blog and see a young woman who was determined to live well with this disease, and that gave me so much hope and so much information to continue striving to heal. Please pass that along to her.
Living Well Take-Aways
While the treatment that Ellen received for issues related to her gallbladder and pancreas may have played a role in her turnaround, there are three self-care “take-aways” that stand out to me as nearly universal keys to living WELL (and getting well!): nutrient-rich diet, stress-reducing exercise, and a sense of hope.
Though we don’t have the details, it sounds as if Ellen shifted her diet significantly, from things like fast food to more nutrient-rich, GP-friendly choices like fresh juices and smoothies. While dietary choices themselves do not cause or cure a delay in gastric emptying, providing the body with a variety of nutrients, in a way that is easy to digest and absorb, helps every system to function more effectively and healing to happen to more readily. Poor nutrition stresses on the body. We cannot expect it to function properly, let alone fix things that have gone wrong, when it’s not provided the basic building blocks.
Regular mild to moderate exercise is equally important. I’ve even called walking my “secret weapon” when it comes to managing GP symptoms, for all of the reasons mentioned in this post. Ellen walks daily and practices yoga several times a week. Though she doesn’t explicitly say that this helped her stress levels, having just completed a course in Clinical Mind-Body Techniques through Massachusetts General Hospital, I can’t imagine that it hasn’t.
Together walking and yoga are likely lowering Ellen’s stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, allowing her digestive system to function more effectively and her body to spend more time in “rest and digest” mode (where that healing that her doctor’s were talking about takes place).
Lastly, Ellen’s choice to focus on positive, empowering messaging, even when she was feeling defeated, is important on a number of levels. The messages that we choose to consume impact our thoughts. Stressful thoughts, such as “things will never get better,” produce a physiological stress response that negatively impacts our digestion and has a wide variety of other effects on the body. As I mentioned above, healing only happens when our body is in the “rest and digest” state.
If you find yourself reading posts on message boards, Facebook groups, etc. that scare you or otherwise stress you out, consider finding other groups/alternative ways to obtain information and support. Ones that build you up and leave you feeling more hopeful and empowered.
Start Your Own Living WELL Journey
The Living (Well!) with Gastroparesis Program is a web-based, self-guided program that will teach you how to manage every aspect of life with gastroparesis and help you create and implement your own comprehensive management plan. Past participants have called the program “life changing” and credited it for significant turnarounds in symptom management, overall health, and quality of life. You can begin right now from anywhere in the world — all you need is an internet connection and a desire for change.
More Living Well & Getting Well Stories coming soon!