Dealing with a Gastroparesis Flare
by Nancy Brown
What is a Gastroparesis Flare?
A medical flare is defined as a temporary worsening of symptoms of a disease or condition. A gastroparesis (GP) flare is a period of time when you continually experience GP symptoms for consecutive days. Symptoms can include vomiting, nausea, early satiety, bloating and abdominal pain. GP flares often persist and are difficult to relieve. If you have other conditions, they may flare-up as well. Overall, you feel horrible.
What causes a Gastroparesis Flare?
You may feel that your GP flare is just one of those things, but there are underlying causes. To check yourself, ask the following questions:
- Have you changed anything in your diet?
- Have you changed medications, including over the counter medications?
- Has something changed in your life (new job, move, relationship changes)?
- Are you under stress at work or home?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you exercising?
- Have you been sick with non-GP illness?
- For women, are you on your menstrual cycle?
- Are you depressed or anxious?
Tips for dealing with a flare
During a GP flare, keep a food diary, tracking what you eat and symptoms that you experience. Tracking this information along with medication changes, may aid in reducing the risk of having future GP flares. If you’re able to exercise, walking after each meal aids digestion and reducing stress. Contact your Gastroenterologist or the doctor who treats your GP if symptoms and/or pain worsens.
Below are actual experiences from our GP community on how you know if you’re having a GP flare and advice for working through a GP flare.
K.B. – I know I’m having a GP flare when I start vomiting up everything. I get really sluggish and have trouble sleeping because I need to vomit or my stomach hurts. I always get dehydrated during this time enough that I need IV fluids. My advice to work through one would be not eat or drink a lot. I usually just drink Pedialyte and ginger ale, and eat Pedialyte popsicles during these times. I do try to eat when I feel up to it even though I know I will vomit; hopefully something will stay down. A heating pad is great for pain.
I can’t take medicine because it makes me sick for some reason, but during flares especially I live on Phenergan suppositories and Zofran ODT. Sometimes I use Pepto chewable tablets. After about 2-3 weeks of a flare, I go to the ER for fluids because my flares usually last around the same time of 3-4 weeks long.
A.B. – I was in a flare the whole month of March and late April. No appetite, nausea every morning but thankfully, I’ve never had much pain. During those 2 months, I ate very little; basically potatoes, eggs, Jell-O, applesauce, (soft foods). I then started juicing and that seemed to help.
My main symptoms during a flare are nausea and early satiety with little appetite. I try to only eat bland foods and juice when I can. I can usually tell I’m starting a flare when I wake up in the mornings and the nausea hits. Thankfully my nausea only lasts until early afternoons but, I’m still not hungry. I also drink fresh ginger tea and take ginger capsules to help with the nausea.
K.H. – I seem to get one extremely bad flare up that lands me in the hospital every month. A few days before the never-ending vomiting starts, I notice that my usual safe foods are no longer tolerable, I become constantly nauseous, bloated so much so I’m asked when I’m due. Drinking water feels like a chore. I’m still new to this disease so I haven’t learned too many ways to gain relief yet, but I found hot showers/baths, ginger candy and sipping on cola help a little bit.
It’s important to remember that people experience GP flares differently. Just as not everyone experiences GP the same, not every solution works for everyone. Work with your Gastroenterologist or doctor who treats your GP to figure out what works best when experiencing a GP flare.
Nancy Brown lives in Virginia with her husband of 38 years, Ed. They’re empty nesters and are enjoying retirement. Prior to retiring, Nancy was a Manager of Requirement Analysis at Navy Federal Credit Union.