Fibromyalgia and Gastroparesis

Pain and bloating may be Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder that affects the digestive system. Normally, the stomach will break down food and contractgastro1 to push the food down to the small intestine; but, with Gastroparesis, the food will move slowly or not at all.

I listened to the “professionals” and I tried to increase the fiber in my diet, tried adding more raw foods and I ended up with worsening digestive complaints —Pain, bloating and an increase in flatulence (gas).  I tend to feel full quickly after starting a meal.

Maybe Gastroparesis, then, may be the reason for my puzzling symptoms?

*****I learned later on…..I feel better with LESS fiber in my diet.  I have learned to listen to what my body was telling me – we are all so very different.

Symptoms of Gastroparesis that may be experienced:

  • Early satiety (feeling full early in a meal)
  • No appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Pain in your abdomen or esophagus
  • Heartburn
  • Weight Loss
  • Palpitations
  • Erratic blood glucose levels
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Spasms of the stomach wall

I do not experience heartburn or vomiting, and wish I could experience a safe weight loss.  Thankfully, my blood sugar tends to run normal.

 Causes of Gastroparesis

In Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, seen many times in people living with Fibromyalgia, the muscles that squeeze food from the stomach into the intestine may be weak.  This can cause symptoms of Gastroparesis, including stomach acid leaking from your stomach to your gullet, causing heartburn.

Gastroparesis is also believed to be caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the stomach muscles.. The vagus nerve helps manage the complex processes in your digestive tract, which includes signaling the muscles in your stomach to contract and push food into the small intestine.

Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve.  High blood sugar can also damage blood vessels that carry nutrients and oxygen to the vagus nerve, preventing it from working properly.

Delayed Gastric Emptying

With delayed gastric emptying, food remains in the stomach for a longer than normal time, which could result in problems such as blockages from hardened stools, (called bezoars), and constipation, leading to a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Nausea and vomiting could be experienced with bacterial growth from the stagnation and fermentation of undigested food.  Blood glucose levels could also become more difficult to control.

Other risk factors for developing Gastroparesis include:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)
  • Surgery to the stomach or vagus nerve
  • Medications
  • Infections
  • Diseases affecting nerves, muscles or hormones (such as Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s)
  • Diseases affecting Metabolism (affecting the body’s ability to make and use energy) (FMS, CFS, etc.)
  • Anorexia, bulimia
  • Radiation or chemotherapy

I believe I may have developed Gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, from an infection when I became ill with mononucleosis, in the early 1980’s.  The doctor called me personally to tell me my test revealed a very high Epstein-Barr titer, eventually leading to a diagnosis of  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  This was the start of my journey, as the CFS led to a myriad of other related disorders.

How to treat Gastroparesis/Delayed Gastric Emptying

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently
  • Instead of raw foods, eat cooked fruits and vegetables.  I choose to steam mine.    You can also use the blender to break down the fruits and vegetables so you can eat these foods without suffering.
  • Eat mostly low-fat foods, but if you can tolerate them, add small servings of fatty foods to your diet.  I love cooking with coconut oil and adding it to my foods.
  • Maybe add more liquids to your diet like soups and pureed foods.  I  have also started to drink ginger tea with my meals to assist with digestion.
  • Drink more water, which also helps with a meal.  I prefer room-temperature.
  • Avoid carbonated beverages.
  • Maybe go for a walk after a meal, or some gentle exercise.
  • There are drugs that make the stomach contract more strongly. Ask your doctor if you are interested in this option.

For more serious cases of Gastroparesis, artificial nutrition may be considered by a doctor when there is significant/uncontrollable weight loss, frequent hospitalizations, or an inability to tolerate even a liquid diet despite other medical interventions.

Stomach pacemakers have been shown to improve stomach emptying and reduce nausea and vomiting in some people with gastroparesis.  The pacemaker, consisting of a tiny generator and two electrodes, is placed in a pocket that surgeons create on the stomach’s outer edge.

 How is Gastroparesis Diagnosed?

 Gastroparesis is diagnosed through a physical exam, medical history, blood tests, tests to rule out blockage or structural problems in the GI tract, and gastric emptying tests. Tests may also identify a nutritional disorder or underlying disease. To rule out any blockage or other structural problems, the health care provider may perform one or more of the following tests:

  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy. This procedure involves using an endoscope—a small, flexible tube with a light—to see the upper GI tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum—the first part of the small intestine.
  • Upper GI series. An upper GI series may be done to look at the small intestine. The test is performed at a hospital or outpatient center by an x-ray technician, and the images are interpreted by a radiologist—a doctor who specializes in medical imaging. Anesthesia is not needed.
  • Ultrasound. Ultrasound uses a device, called a transducer, that bounces safe, painless sound waves off organs to create an image of their structure. The procedure is performed in a health care provider’s office, outpatient center, or hospital by a specially trained technician, and the images are interpreted by a radiologist; anesthesia is not needed. The images can show whether gallbladder disease and pancreatitis could be the cause of a person’s digestive symptoms, rather than gastroparesis.
  • Gastric emptying scintigraphy. The test involves eating a bland meal—such as eggs or an egg substitute—that contains a small amount of radioactive material. The test is performed in a radiology center or hospital by a specially trained technician and interpreted by a radiologist; anesthesia is not needed.
  • SmartPill. The SmartPill is a small electronic device in capsule form. The SmartPill test is available at specialized outpatient centers. The images are interpreted by a radiologist. The device is swallowed and moves through the entire digestive tract, sending information to a cell-phone-sized receiver worn around the person’s waist or neck.

The most important thing to remember is that while there are general dietary guidelines for Gastroparesis, every patient responds differently to specific foods and supplements. In addition, a patient’s tolerance and symptoms may vary from day-to-day. For these reasons, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all dietary plan.  Some careful trial-and-error – within the boundary of the general guidelines — is necessary to figure out what works best for each person.

A Simple Digestive Wellness Program

Most of the immune system lies in the digestive tract, even known as “the second brain”.   By our gut having a part in determining our mental state and playing  key roles in certain diseases throughout the body, it is vitally important to keep our digestive tract healthy.  1. Probiotics 2. Digestive Enzymes 3. A nutritionally-complete, whole-food supplement.

  • Probiotics—You have a garden within you! The human body contains a vast internal ecosystem consisting of thousands of billions of living microorganisms. This vast internal ecosystem, also known as intestinal flora, dramatically influences the body’s metabolism, physical health, and mental well-being. Offering positive assistance, probiotics scatter in the digestive tract to compete against the harmful bacteria that invade the intestinal environment.
  • Digestive Enzymes—Consider adding high-quality, potent, plant-based enzymes to your diet to maximize the nutrition you get from your food. Digestive Enzymes break down food so that it is in the best possible form for proper processing in the intestine. Enzyme supplements do not replace the body’s naturally secreted enzymes. They are needed simply to replace the enzymes that are destroyed by the cooking, storing, and processing of food.
  • Wild Blue-Green Algae—Algae is the basis of the entire food chain—the foundational nutrient source for creating and renewing all life on earth. Aphanizomenon flos-aquae is the crème de la crème of all algae, one of the planet’s most powerful foods. This single-celled organism is richly endowed with a vast array of easily assimilated nutrients including: essential fatty acids, active enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, minerals, proteins, complex sugars, and phytonutrients.

Vitamin D helps to digest food?

A study at the University of Mississippi Medical Center found fully 100% of gastroparesis sufferers were found to be low in vitamin D.  The participants with the highest D levels digested meals 36%  better than those with the lowest levels. Vitamin D activates cells in the stomach’s lining that prod muscles to move food out of the stomach.  Besides going out into the sunlight, it is suggested to take a supplement that delivers 2000 IU, especially if you live in the northern states.

I would love to hear from you!

Today, besides being an active grandmother, I am a volunteer with community organizations, and love spreading the word of  foundational nutrition.  You can read more of my journey living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia by clicking here.   You can also email me at

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For a simple nutritional wellness program, click here.


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