“Lazy Stomach” article written by a doctor, makes them sound out of touch regarding gastroparesis & patient’s needs.

I am not sure why I didn’t see this earlier, but there was an article posted on DrOz.com about Gastroparesis by Robynne K. Chutkan, MD titled “Lazy Stomach”. The article belittles & seems to make light of Gastroparesis.

The technical term for Deborah’s condition is “gastroparesis” which means paralysis of the stomach – affectionately referred to as a “lazy stomach”.

Who in their right mind actually refers to Gastroparesis affectionately and uses the term “lazy stomach”? Oh “my stomach is just lazy!”, wrong! How about we just leave it at “my stomach is partially paralyzed and/or malfunctioning” which doesn’t sound quite as cute…

In the article it’s explained that the patient “Deborah” still had food in her stomach from ten hours previous to her endoscopy. This is not a minor issue! As also stated in the article the stomach normally empties about half it’s contents within 90 minutes of eating. To still have a large quantity of food in your stomach after 600 minutes have passed is a pretty big deal, regardless of what she ate or when she ate it.

But why are we seeing gastroparesis in so many non-diabetics like Deborah? Because we’re spending the majority of our day sitting at a desk hunched over a computer and that couldn’t be more at odds with our hunter-gatherer ancestry and design.

A nice jab at the patient, shifting blame on to them because if their body isn’t working perfectly it must be their fault right? As posted in the comments there were plenty of people who chimed in that they were very active until they were struck with Gastroparesis.

The facts are that you can go spend 30 – 60 minutes a day exercising & still end up spending 10 hours in a day sitting down. It could be at a computer, in a car, on a train or in front of your TV. There is no way we’re going to suddenly run out into the forests and start tackling wild boar, this is why saying something is against our “hunter-gatherer ancestry” is basically saying something while not really saying anything of use at all. What’s our option? Dismantle society? Guess what, people would still get Gastroparesis because many of the people with GP got it out of the blue with very little warning & from something outside of their control.

I am interested in her ideas about stomach motility being a major issue & a contributor to things like chronic heartburn & indigestion, but I don’t like her downplaying people suffering from GERD / acid reflux either.

My first thought had been acid reflux, which, as I like to tell my patients, is not really a disease. Reflux is your body knocking on your door saying, “I don’t like how you’ve been treating me. All that caffeine and alcohol and cheesecake and burgers is making me sick.”

Can she do anything other than blame the patient? Let’s ignore people who have a malformed or diseased esophagus, a dysfunctional lower esophageal sphincter or someone who really does have an overproduction or underproduction of stomach acids. It’s easier to lump everyone in the “lazy pool” & not have to qualify your statements with the exceptions that are actually quite common compared to her narrow assumptions.

While I think the articles intentions were to give people a wake-up call about unhealthy lifestyles, Dr Chutkan made a poor choice in “attacking” those with Gastroparesis as people who have brought it upon themselves with their unhealthy choices in life. There is a way to bring awareness to a disease that may be controllable by the patient, without outright insulting the patient. Bring awareness to things like not smoking to help prevent lung cancer, that’s fine. Don’t write articles saying “Everyone gets lung cancer because they smoked and aren’t listening to their bodies”, ignoring that there are many who got lung cancer from something totally unrelated. The tone of the article seems flippant in nature & comes off like a mother tapping her foot scolding a child.

In her clarification she attempts to differentiate between mild & severe gastroparesis & includes a  few sentences which gloss over treatment options for those more severe cases. I am not sure why she didn’t make mention of the severity with which Gastroparesis could affect people in the first article.

As a gastroenterologist who regularly sees patients with the more severe form of GP described by some of the commenters, I understand how life-altering and devastating this condition can be, and it never was my intention to marginalize the challenges this chronic condition presents.

Then why did she spend an entire article belittling those with Gastroparesis? If that wasn’t her intent then her original article should have never graced the Dr Oz website. Her article may have been the first time someone had ever read about Gastroparesis. Making Gastroparesis out to be less severe than it actually is was a great disservice to those who have to deal with it day in & day out. The fact is, Gastroparesis can be debilitating even for those with “mild” Gastroparesis.

Overall she sounds like a doctor who lacks compassion & perhaps enjoys a body that is well within her control while ignoring the fact that there are many people out there with less than perfect bodies which breakdown out of no fault of their own. Even if someone is partially at fault for their situation, a lack of compassion for the pain that person is now in, is not helpful. Gastroparesis needs more advocates, not adversaries, especially from those within the healthcare profession.