With the holidays around the corner, many people with digestive issues are experiencing increased levels of stress when thinking of eating a multi-course meal at the family holiday table. It can be rather upsetting to commit to invitations to big family gatherings with a wide variety of foods at the table.
One common condition, a disorder of the stomach clinically known as “gastroparesis”, where the stomach empties abnormally slowly, often causes patients to experience recurrent nausea or vomiting, feeling overly full, excessive bloating, belching, stomach pain, and abdominal discomfort. Even just a little bit of food can cause these symptoms, leaving the sufferer feeling helpless and left out of enjoying the holiday table.
More than five million people suffer from gastroparesis. Many cases of this malady are of unknown origin (idiopathic). Gastroparesis occurs most frequently in diabetics – both Type 1 and Type 2. It can also occur after viral infections, post-surgery, in some neurological diseases like Parkinson’s disease, and in response to some medications (such as opioids). Interestingly, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that gastroparesis occurs four times more frequently in women than in men; ten men and 40 women per 100,000 people in the United States are sufferers.
What can those suffering from the disease do to take back control and enjoy a seat at the table? Talk to a healthcare provider about their symptoms! Don’t suffer quietly at the dinner table. Healthcare providers can offer a variety of tools and testing methods to determine if gastroparesis is the issue. Treatment plans for gastroparesis are well documented for healthcare providers in “Clinical Guidelines for Gastroparesis.” Some treatments are as simple as modifying diet or improving glycemic control of those who are diabetic. There are also medications available to improve the gastric emptying rate and reduce or eliminate symptoms.
There are a number of tools available to measure the gastric emptying rate and determine if an individual has slow gastric emptying. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends two well-validated and reliable tests for determining slow gastric emptying.
(1). Historically, gastric emptying studies have been conducted at nuclear medicine centers specially licensed to handle and administer radioactive materials. With this test, the patient consumes a radioactive meal and is subsequently scanned over a four-hour period to record the decline in radiation in the stomach as the meal empties. A patient’s gastric emptying rate can be calculated from these measurements.
(2). Recently, a new, FDA-approved, non-radioactive method of measuring a patient’s gastric emptying rate has become available. This test is conducted by simply consuming a test meal containing a special, safe and non-radioactive form of carbon. Just before and after consuming the food, breath samples are collected from the patient. The breath samples are analyzed in a special laboratory from which the patient’s gastric emptying can be calculated. This test is known as the “Gastric Emptying Breath Test”, or simply a “GEBT.”
The new GEBT test is especially convenient because it is FDA-approved for administration in a healthcare provider’s office, or now, in the convenience of a person’s home via Telehealth. Most patients refer to this test as the “gastroparesis test at home.” Patients report several key advantages of the breath test; that a non-invasive, non-radioactive material was used to conduct the test, at-home convenience and ready accessibility versus having to schedule and travel to a specially licensed nuclear medicine facility in a hospital or major metropolitan area.
A Cairn Diagnostics’ at-home gastroparesis test can be obtained by a patient after scheduling a visit with their PCP or gastroenterologist who can then determine if a gastric emptying evaluation is needed to obtain a definitive diagnosis for gastroparesis. Once the order for the at-home test is placed with Cairn Diagnostics, the at-home breath test can be scheduled at the patient’s earliest convenience.
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