Friday, August 10, 2018

When Nausea Takes Over - Creating the Alternative Tummy Toolkit

Note: This is one of my most viewed posts, originally shared in 2012. It has been updated with some tips and products that I have found helpful over the years and hope you do too!  

One of the most unsettling and tough to manage symptoms of gastroparesis is nausea. It can be hard to explain why we are fine one moment and the next sick with the stomach/body spins. Yesterday, as my husband and I were out running errands and laughing about something on the radio, it hit me like an unforeseen tsunami. I could only compare it to the feeling of just stepping off the tilt-a-whirl at the amusement park, wobbly and unstable as though the blood had actually rushed out of my body.

So, what can we do in these unplanned, insufferable situations?

My best advice is to, one, be prepared with a "tummy toolkit," and two, practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Yes, I know, I see the eyes rolling, but trust me that it may at least bring a bit of relief. Here are some tips and tools to prevent nausea from taking over.

1. Tummy Toolkit
Think of it as a first aid kit for the belly. Nausea can be soothed through many of our senses like smell, taste, touch, sound, and sight. Here are some of my favorite tips for each:

The aromas of peppermint, ginger, and lavender have been shown to help ease symptoms. You can find these essential oils in single bottles or look for combos with other blends to help fight nausea. 

  • Essential7 oils, created by someone who has lived with digestive trouble and specifically made for those living with GP. She carries one I love called Queeze Away that has been thoroughly researched and proven to help reduce these challenges. Apply a few drops to the bottoms of your feet or inside wrists for best results or simply inhale. 
  • Quease Ease Aromatic Inhaler is another product that can be used and easy to take on the go.
  • Ginger tea, ginger chews and ginger candy may help to calm the belly as well as indigestion. My favorite products are made by The Ginger People, wich most stores and Amazon carry. I've even found ginger salt that is not only great for nausea but for those of us who need the extra salt to help with the symptoms of dysautonomia. I carry the Ginger Rescue Strong tablets, which trust me they are not joking when they say strong but they have been the best when it comes to severe nausea hits, especially when I'm on a long car ride or flying! 
  • Lavender tea is not always thought of but I've found it helpful as well, not to mention calming at bedtime. 
  • If you are able to eat, though it may seem counterintuitive, finding something small to snack on can be very helpful. Protein is ideal but even a couple of crackers can make quite the difference to help things settle. 
  • Acupressure wristband - These are often used when going on a cruise or a boat for seasickness. The band gently stimulates a point on the wrist known in Chinese medicine as nei-kuan. A big fan of acupuncture and previous student of it, I really believe this can be helpful. If you don't have the band you can massage the point yourself. To learn more check out this video and simple instructions from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. 
Music therapy and guided imagery - Both have been shown to reduce nausea and anxiety. If its an option, keep a playlist on your phone, music player, or CD with tunes that make you feel calm and relaxed. Just Google "nausea and sound therapy" for endless videos and information!

  • Binaural beats are an emerging form of soundwave therapy in which the right and left ears listen to two slightly different frequency tones yet perceive the tone as one. Search for samples online to try, there is a lot of research linking this type of sound with nausea relief as well as other challenges like anxiety and stress.

Or rather the opposite! Keep reading to learn more about closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths to help calm many of the challenges we live with like nausea, pain, and trauma. 

2. Breathing Techniques

When nauseous, or in any pain for that matter, its easy to sort of freeze up, focus on the pain and forget what the body naturally wants to do...breathe. So, I encourage you to make this a habit whenever that unpleasant feeling starts to take over and begin to make this a daily practice. This can be done anywhere you go so its one of the best "items" in your toolkit!

Alternate Nostril Breathing
" can improve sleep, encourage a calmer emotional state, boost your thinking power and soothe your nervous system."

"...when practiced regularly, lead to the relief or prevention of symptoms commonly associated with stress, which may include...stomach conditions, depression, anxiety, and others."

If you want to learn more about tips and tools for living with gastroparesis, hear interviews stories from others who understand, join my friend and co-author Chalyce Macoskey and I as we dive into these topics and more on our new live (and recorded radio) show beginning Friday, August 17th!
Episode One - What Does Healing Truly Mean?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Lonely Together

"Part of what makes pain "painful" is its privacy and unsharability, the feeling of aloneness."
David Biro M.D., Ph.D., Listening to Pain

“Morning Sun” Painting by Edward Hooper (1952). Image courtesy of Columbus Museum of Art

Lonely and together, these words seem like they contradict each other. Lonely refers to solidarity, without companions, together is more about being with other people. But its possible to experience both at the same time, as I've come to realize more and more lately. 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

PTSD Live Talk

Last month I shared an update on my return to TPN, IV nutrition, due to severe weight loss, despite making huge strides in food intake and what we thought was a life beyond GP. Not only did this feel like a big, fat blow to my confidence and hope, but a physical and emotional roller coaster of once again accepting that my body does not function properly. Followed by hospital visits, procedures and once again managing daily medical intervention has been challenging to say the least. Enough to cause random panic attacks out of nowhere, fear of what might go wrong next and confusion about how to plan for the future. 

Why is this happening?
How did I get here? 
What can I possibly do?

Monday, March 19, 2018

When Eating is Not Enough - Hanging On and Letting Go

Are you familiar with John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars? If not I highly recommend a number of his books including this one as well as his newest, Turtles All the Way Down. The latter was a pretty good story but what I love most is his ability to put complex feelings, that can seem so impossible to describe at times, into a mere few sentences. Like the part below which helps me to share my most current state of mind and body:

"That sounds really scary," he said. I just nodded. "Do you feel like you're getting better?" Everyone wanted me to feed them that story--darkness to light, weakness to strength, broken to whole. I wanted it, too.
"Maybe," I said. "Honestly, I feel really fragile. I feel like I've been taped back together."

Saturday, July 29, 2017

6th Annual A-Wear-Ness Walk for GP - Tees

It's that time again and we have chosen the colors for this year's Awareness Walk for Gastroparesis and Digestive Health. The event will take place on Saturday, September 9th here in Bellingham, WA, down the trail along the bay that connects the downtown farmer's market and Boulevard Park, with its beautiful island views. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

13 Reasons Why I Can

Ok, so I probably should have shared this when I started the #13reasonswhyIcan, but you know how life gets so here I am on day 14...after the fact. Better late than never!

If you read the book 13 Reasons Why, written back in 2007 by Jay Asher, or watched the recent Netflix series adaptation, you will get the reference here. I had only heard of the story and didn't catch on until a few months back when I binge-watched the series like a bad train wreck; I could not stop despite how painful and heartbreaking each episode became. While there is a lot of controversy happening over the story of the 13 recorded confessions (and ultimate decision to take her own life) shared by the protagonist, Hannah, her teenage experiences are not uncommon. In fact, it took me a couple weeks to really recover from the raw reality of this show.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What Does Healing Truly Mean?

“It is better to believe than to disbelieve; in so doing you bring everything to the realm of possibility.” 
-Albert Einstein 

I've been sharing quite a bit lately about "healing" in reference to gastroparesis. It honestly feels like a double-edged sword at times, using these terms together. Your reaction may be one of hope and excitement. Or you might feel that healing is impossible and want to laugh at the idea of that word used with the awfulness of what you are dealing with. That's totally understandable. It's all very confusing, I know. So I'm going to shed some light on what healing truly means and how this has impacted my own life, when dealing with nearly a decade of living with a pretty severe case of gastroparesis and health challenges.