When I started this blog I vowed I would do my best to pass on information that I thought might be helpful to others. In my mind, I kept the topics pretty broad to include anything health and wellness with a smattering of beauty favs and products I love. Well, I have REALLY slipped on giving any information for the past few months. Truth is, it was hard to blog about health and wellness when I was feeling neither healthy nor well. I was experiencing nausea on nearly a daily basis. And, I was really quite scared about seeing a gastroenterologist. I think part of my hang-up was that I somehow believed that as a dietitian I should be able to fix my digestive problems. Obviously this is a ridiculous notion. And, I finally bit the bullet and scheduled an appointment.
Fearing I would have to face some invasive procedure, I was very relieved that the initial plan involved simple blood tests checking for H Pylori, Celiac disease, anemia (folate, b 12, and iron) and immunoglobulins (which indicate food allergy). It was also recommended that I have a simple study done to see how quickly my food is moving through my GI tract – mainly my stomach. Since my primary complaint was nausea with bloating and a feeling of fullness, the doctor suspected s a condition called gastroparesis in which the stomach does not receive the correct stimulation telling it to push food on to the small intestine. I also later learned in talking with the test technician that having thyroid disease also put me at risk, since according to her 90% of people with thyroid problems also have GI problems.
GASTRIC EMPTYING SCAN
In order to determine if I did have gastroparesis, I went to have a gastric emptying scan. I was very nervous about the test – although I really didn’t need to be. So, I would like to share with you the specifics so that should you ever need to have this study done you will be fully prepared:
The night before the test I was not allowed to eat or drink (even water) after midnight, since my test was at 8:00a.m. this translated to 8 hours. Although I never eat that late anyway, I did drink some water just before bed since I suffer from dry mouth and I knew that would be a long stretch with no liquids.
The morning of the exam I dressed in loose sweats and a t-shirt. I kind of wish I had also brought a removable sweatshirt or sweater.
I checked in with the front desk and was taken to the exam room. There I was asked to sit down while the technician prepared my special “meal”. She explained that the food contained a substance that would help them watch the food as it traveled through my stomach (I later learned it was a radioisotope). The special substance was concealed in a meal of beef stew which I was instructed to eat. As I began picking at the potatoes and carrots the technician warned that I needed to eat it all – even the grayish, mystery meat. I told her I was pacing myself because I wasn’t much of a meat eater and she reminded me that I only had 5 minutes to finish – I think I must have missed that part of her initial explanation. But, her warnings did force me to pick up the pace. I was able to drink water which really helped everything go down. All and all, it really wasn’t that bad. After I finished I told the technician that I normally eat like a vegetarian, so the meat was no picnic for me. She kind of laughed and told me that the vegetarian version is much worse – 3 eggs with lots of mayonnaise. UGGGHH!!! I hate mayo, so if that was my meal I would have lost it for sure. After hearing that I was actually loving the beef stew.
I was then instructed to hop up on a long table that was covered with a soft sheet and had a fluffy pillow at the end. I asked if I could remove my shoes knowing that I was basically settling in for a long pseudo-nap. The technician was all for that move.
Once comfortable on the table – and it was surprisingly comfortable. The tech pushed a button which made the entire table move down toward a giant x-ray machine. When my stomach was just under the machine, the table stopped. My head was outside of the machine leaving me free to stare mindlessly at the ceiling. Then the countdown began. Although the tech initially told me that I would be able to get up after an hour, because I had my eyes closed the entire time she thought I was sleeping. I was not actually sleeping – instead I was trying very hard to relax, taking deep breaths, and listening attentively to the music that was playing in the room. Although I was covered with several blankets, I did get a little chilly after the first hour. And, while I did get a bit fidgety at times, the ability to just lie still gave me a lot of time to think. In fact, it gave me lots of creative inspiration for upcoming topics to write about (like this lengthy post)!
After nearly 2 hours passed, I was able to get off the table and go to the bathroom. Then I waited in a waiting area where I stayed for about 30 mins before returning to the table. I used that time to read a magazine I had brought along – I had also brought my MP3 player, but wouldn’t have been able to comfortably use that during the exam since my arms needed to remain by my sides at all times.
I was asked to return to the table, but this time I was only under the machine for around 5 mins, and afterwards I was allowed to leave the office completely with instructions to return in a few hours.
When I returned I had just 5 more minutes on the table and I was free to go. At that point my fear was completely gone and my inquisitive nature took hold. I then asked the tech exactly what had just transpired. She explained that they were taking pictures of my stomach at 1 hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, and 4 hours – with some time in between. Afterwards she would be piecing those pictures together to determine how much of my beef stew had left my stomach. The goal is that by the 2 hour mark 60% of the stew should have left my stomach, and by the 4 hour mark, there really shouldn’t have been any traces left.
So, long story short, if you ever have to have a gastric emptying scan – fear not. It is easy and pain free!