What is Gastroparesis? Melissa’s Story

melissa's gp fightFODMAP Life is about bringing people together, supporting one another and educating all about the FODMAP Diet, and what it is like for anyone to have digestive or inflammatory health issues.  There’s a new section on our website called “Your Story” and I am so happy to welcome Melissa to our community as she will continue to share her story about living with Gastroparesis, a condition that reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 5 million Americans live with Gastroparesis.  John Clarke, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine  If you would like to submit your story, please submit at least 200 words, plus a short bio and a photo of yourself to: itsafodmaplife {at} gmail {dot} com.

“I owe it all to the desire for self preservation and listening to my body’s needs.”

Melissa’s Story

I go by Melissa “GP Fight” McElfresh in the GP Community. What is GP? It is the shortened version of the medical term Gastroparesis; which basically means Stomach Paralyzed. This is what I have. It is unknown how I got GP, but my best guess is from the extensive whiplash.

For several years (post-whiplash) I experienced pain when drinking water, abdominal pain when bending over and nausea. The nausea was worse during my period, so my doctor would change the birth control pill every six months. She would have other reasons of ‘common’ reasons why I had the other issues.

During the third year I started to have chest pain. Again, the Dr without testing, told me it was Acid Reflux and gave me GERD medication. The fourth year the chest pain got to the point that I thought I had cracked a rib and the nausea was so intense I was trying not to vomit. This was 24-7, for the past few months! I went to the ER, where they ran a lot of tests, didn’t find anything and gave me a higher GERD Rx. The next day I went to my doctor and she ran a few more tests, which all came back clean. She didn’t know what was wrong and decided to send me to a Gastroenterologist who started off with ordering an Endoscope (yep, clean again).

The specialist then wanted to do a Gastric Emptying Study (GES). I told my husband I am DONE spending money on tests that come back fine, I was not going. This was going to cost us close to $2,000!! He convinced me to go. Good thing I did. This was when I was diagnosed with GP. The GI doctor put me on a low-fat and low-fiber diet (common) for six months and asked that I come back if I was not better. She lacked the GP knowledge I needed, so after one year of gaining no ground, I found a new one.

At this point I was vomiting every morning, couldn’t make it full days at work anymore, hair was falling out, I was blacking out, had no energy and in so much pain (felt like a cracked rib). This lasted for 18 months! The new doctor ran some blood work and I was able to add some supplements to what I was trying to ‘eat’. I could only consume 1 cup of food (soft or liquid) every 3 – 4 hrs. We even tried low dose antidepressant; which is believed to numb the stomach nerve endings, reducing pain and nausea. Six different Rxs later, nothing helped.

I ended up loosing my 15 year-old job and unemployment would not take me. Shortly after, we lost our house on the 5.5 acres. Later I filed for disability and lost that too. Even my GI didn’t have anything left for me, until I needed a feeding tube. I was lost and alone with trying to fight gastroparesis.

One day I decided this was not how I wanted to live my life and began to change. Starting with finding my trigger foods (very hard I must say) and then going Gluten and Dairy Free. I don’t follow FODMAP 100%, but fairly close and I can honestly say that I am much better. The pain and nausea are tolerable, no black-outs, no vomiting, energy is better and the dizzy spells are a sign I need protein. I am working two days a week, I set up an on-line store for GP awareness items, and manage several FB Pages.  I volunteer for a few non-profits and blog on my website. I owe it all to the desire for self preservation and listening to my body’s needs.

If you have a GI Track issue, I fully recommend you look at the food you eat and try a low-FODMAP Diet in stages. Please explore my blog at www.MelissaGPfight.com if you want to know more about GP. Thank you for your time!

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Colleen

I'm Colleen Francioli, a certified nutritionist and author with a focus on helping people with IBS, other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) and food intolerances. I once suffered from IBS and have since found life balance with the low-FODMAP diet, an elimination diet developed in Australia, proven to help relieve symptoms of IBS.

2 thoughts on “What is Gastroparesis? Melissa’s Story”

  1. Is there any forum online for people who need to follow the low-FODMAP diet and the gastroparesis diet (and also the GERD diet)? If not, could this forum be a way for us to “meet” and exchange suggestions? I’d appreciate knowing.

    Thanks for including Melissa’s piece…we should note that gastroparesis is a rather poorly understood and rarely researched subject, with only approx. 1% of the population affected. The green in the photo above is a way of saying I’m green for gastroparesis, which is a rallying cry for those online who have found one another and are seeking greater knowledge about their condition. Some gastroparetics, like me, can live relatively normal lives as long as they keep a tight rein on their food intake and on the state of their bowels; others suffer severe vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, malnutrition, and/or dehydration; others have gastroparesis as a piece of a larger set of digestive problems and/or diabetes and are juggling a great many medical balls at once.

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