You’ve just been diagnosed with a stomach condition that has an ominous ring to its name: gastroparesis. Your doctor has explained that your stomach muscles aren’t working right, and that makes sense. After all, you went to the gastroenterologist in the first place because you felt full after just a few bites of food, and were experiencing nausea and vomiting. But now you’re wondering if there could be a connection between this newest diagnosis and your fibromyalgia syndrome. The answer is a qualified maybe.
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), as you have learned, is a composite of various conditions all rolled into one, with the common connection being pain and fatigue. In your quest for relief, you’ve done a significant amount of research on the web and have discovered that many fibromyalgia patients suffer from gastric issues such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), but you don’t recall seeing anything about gastroparesis as one of the myriad conditions linked to FMS. Though there’s been no proof as yet of an absolute connection, but there is a suggestion that diseases affecting the nervous system, for instance Parkinson’s disease, can damage the vagus nerve, which in turn, can cause gastroparesis. More and more, doctors are finding that fibromyalgia stems from a malfunctioning of the nervous system, so it only takes a short leap of the imagination to make the connection between gastroparesis and fibromyalgia.
The vagus nerve is thought by many to be the most important nerve in your body. This nerve reaches all the way from your brainstem to your colon. The digestive process is very complex and the vagus nerve helps to coordinate all the signals between your brain and your digestive tract. This would include the contraction of the smooth stomach muscles, which is called peristalsis. Peristaltic waves tend to occur at a rate of some three contractions every minute. When such contractions don’t come often enough or stop altogether, your food can’t move from your stomach into your duodenum as it is meant to do. This is the definition of gastroparesis.
The leading cause of gastroparesis is damage to the vagus nerve, though sometimes this condition occurs due to damage of the muscles of the stomach. Some of the conditions that can cause gastroparesis are diabetes, gastric surgery, cancer treatment, anorexia or bulimia, scleroderma, Parkinson’s disease, metabolic diseases like hypothyroidism, and medications such as: narcotic pain relievers, tricyclic antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, antacids, high blood pressure drugs, and lithium. Sometimes a person gets gastroparesis after a bout of the flu or other viral illness, for instance, mononucleosis. More and more fibromyalgia patients, it seems, are testing positive for this condition as well.