Demystifying Gastroparesis: Busting Common Misconceptions
Updated: Sep 13
August is Gastroparesis Awareness month, so in this blog post we're delving into the world of Gastroparesis, a little-known condition that often hides behind a curtain of confusion and misinformation. Let's dive in and set the record straight!
1. Myth: Everyone with Gastroparesis is Underweight
Gastroparesis is not a one-size-fits-all condition. Symptoms and their impact on body weight can vary greatly. Contrary to the misconception, not everyone with Gastroparesis experiences weight loss. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that a significant number of individuals with Gastroparesis are overweight, with one UK study estimating that around 60% of those with gastroparesis are overweight (1). Therefore, the presence of overweight should not mean that a diagnosis of gastroparesis is disregarded.
2. Myth: Gastroparesis is an Eating Disorder
Gastroparesis and eating disorders are distinct entities. While both can involve gastrointestinal discomfort and dietary modifications, they are two totally different conditions. Eating disorders are psychological conditions affecting eating behaviors, while Gastroparesis is a condition in which the functioning of the stomach is impaired and slowed down. Understanding this distinction is crucial in offering appropriate support and care.
3. Myth: Only People with Diabetes Get Gastroparesis
Although diabetes is a known cause of Gastroparesis, it's essential to recognise that this condition isn't exclusive to diabetic individuals. Other factors, such as post-surgical complications, neurological conditions, and use of opioid painkillers, are all possible risk factors for the development of Gastroparesis (2,3). In some cases, the cause of Gastroparesis cannot be identified, which is termed as ‘idiopathic’ - in the UK, this accounts for around 39% of all cases (1). Gastroparesis may also be seen in patients with connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hypermobility type) (4, 5), but more research is needed to understand the possible link.
4. Myth: Changing Your Diet Will Cure Gastroparesis
Diet plays a pivotal role in managing Gastroparesis symptoms, but it's not a magic wand for a complete cure. Altering your dietary habits can certainly help ease discomfort and improve quality of life, but Gastroparesis is a complex condition with various underlying factors. A holistic approach, including dietary changes, medical interventions, and lifestyle adjustments, is usually necessary for comprehensive management. See our previous blog post, ‘Everything you need to know about Gastroparesis’, for more information about the dietary management of the condition.
5. Myth: Gastroparesis Isn't a Big Deal
Let's be crystal clear – Gastroparesis is indeed a big deal for the individuals that have it. Whilst symptoms vary in severity, it is often more than just a minor inconvenience. The symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a disrupted quality of life, can be hugely challenging. The impact on mental, emotional, and physical well-being should not be underestimated. Furthermore, severe complications can arise in those with Gastroparesis, including dehydration and malnutrition. Recognising the significance of Gastroparesis is essential in providing the support and understanding that individuals with the condition truly deserve.
At CityDietitians, we're passionate about dispelling myths and providing accurate information to empower individuals struggling with various health conditions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in the management of Gastroparesis, and individuals will often need specialised input from a team of multi-disciplinary experts, including dietitians and gastroenterologists.
Need more support in the management of gastroparesis?
Our gastroenterology specialist dietitians, Sophie Medlin, Dr Bridgette Wilson, Pooja Dhir, and Alice Twomey, can all help! You can book an appointment here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.