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15 People With Gastroparesis Describe What It Feels Like

Article updated March 5, 2020. 

Gathering with loved ones for a rich dinner is nearly a social right of passage. Your friends may love experimenting with new foods, but you may have an entirely different, even painful, experience. If you live with gastroparesis, sitting down to a meal isn’t always the joyful event it is for many others.

What Is Gastroparesis?

“Gastroparesis is when there is delayed emptying of solids from the stomach in the absence of a fixed obstruction in the stomach,” Arvind Trindade, M.D., associate professor at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, told The Mighty. “Patients experience nausea, vomiting, early satiety, belching, bloating or abdominal pain.”

The cause of the condition is often unknown. Gastroparesis may be diagnosed using a combination of procedures, including scans to make sure you don’t have a stomach blockage, a gastric emptying study or an endoscopy. While there isn’t a cure, Dr. Trindade said treatments such as diet modifications and medications can help reduce your gastroparesis symptoms.

Common drugs your doctor might prescribe include prokinetics, which help your stomach empty faster, or antiemetic drugs to reduce nausea and vomiting. “For patients that do not respond to this conservative management there are other therapies like gastric electrical stimulation and gastric peroral endoscopic myotomy (known as G-POEM),” Trindade added.

What Does Gastroparesis Feel Like?

You may be uncomfortably familiar with how gastroparesis impacts your daily life. But the pain and discomfort may not be easily understood by loved ones and acquaintances, so we asked our Mighty community with gastroparesis to describe what it really feels like. Living with gastroparesis isn’t easy, and a little empathy for its challenges would go a long way.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “It’s a daily battle of ‘Do I eat and be in pain, or do I not eat and be nauseous?’” — Em Hawkings

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2. “With my gastroparesis, I feel like throwing up 24/7. I get severely nauseous, and that feeling is always there.” — Heather Beldo

3. “Per my 3-year-old old: It feels ‘icky, my tummy feels angry at me. Food makes it angry.’ It breaks my heart.” — Jackie Henning

4. “It feels like I ate glass shards… the nausea is so bad I try to throw up to get some relief.” — Diane Doman

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5. “It comes in shifts: completely full, worst stomach flu ever, post-stomach-flu, satisfied and not hungry, hunger pains that lead to cramping and vomiting bile; those are the only feelings I have. That is without any food at all on total parenteral nutrition (TPN).” — Kate Sytsma

6. “I constantly feel like I have the stomach flu. The nausea is a constant, too, with waves of stomach cramps and pain.” — Jodi Duke

7. “It feels like there is a lake in my stomach. When I eat, I feel like I can’t breath because of the pressure pushing upwards.” — Patricia Chamberlain

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8. “It’s ‘I ate way to much food’ fullness, plus ‘I drank too much alcohol’ nausea and vomiting, plus what feels like a muscle cramp in your abdomen that you can’t stretch out. On the emotional side, it feels isolating and frustrating because society is so centered around food and eating. Not being able to eat can really mess with your head after awhile.” — Amanda Baldassari

9. “After I eat I feel like rocks are in my stomach, and the nausea is like having a never-ending stomach bug.” —  Joan Elizabeth

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10. “It feels like being a balloon that’s being filled with water… except the tap never turns off. The water keeps running, the balloon keeps getting bigger until it bursts. That happens every single day.” — Sabrina Cannella

11. “When I eat, it feels like I swallowed a brick of cement, like it sticks to my system for days. Then I have the pain, and it feels like someone is punching me in the gut over and over and over.” — Laura Vago

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12. “It feels like living in the Twilight Zone. You have doctors telling you to do one thing and your body telling you another, and you think it’s all in your head. Then a complication pops up… it’s never-ending.” — Taylor Schmitz

13. “It feels like your belly is a glass constantly full of water, and if you try to put anything else in the glass, it will overflow. Even just the smallest amounts of food can send you overflowing into nausea, pain, vomiting, etc.” — Grace Shockey

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14. “For me it’s constant pain, nausea, vomiting and abdominal bloating that makes me [look] pregnant. The pain is unbearable, [there is] nausea whether you eat or not. Go days without food. It’s hell!” — Rachel Price

15. “It’s like not knowing what to do and always having to deal with pain.” — Tammy Branch

If you have gastroparesis, how would you describe what it feels like? Let us know in the comments.