Category Archives: gastroparesis

Gastroparesis: Causes, Symptoms and Controls

Gastroparesis is a condition that causes food to empty too slowly from the stomach. When digestion is normal, food remains in the stomach for approximately 2-3 hours before moving into the small intestine. (High fiber foods may remain much longer and take significantly longer to digest.) Gastroparesis delays the normal emptying of the stomach because the muscles in the stomach fail to correctly transport food Gastroparesis stomach paininto the small intestine.

Gastroparesis is a very uncomfortable condition. It can interfere with nutrient absorption and definitely affects quality of life. Unfortunately, Gastroparesis is becoming more common as the incidence of diabetes and degenerative neurological disease increases. In my practice, I have many clients who deal with Gastroparesis on a daily basis.

Causes of Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis can happen when nerves associated with the stomach are damaged or don’t work as they should. The most common causes of Gastroparesis include:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Scleroderma
  • Inflammatory conditions (such as pancreatitis) that interfere with the delivery of nerve messages to the stomach
  • Anorexia and/or bulimia
  • Heavy cigarette smoking
  • Idiopathic (unknown)

Symptoms of Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis may cause one or more of the following symptoms. These symptoms may occur continually but typically intensify in the hours following a meal:

  • Feeling full after eating just a few bites of food
  • Stomach pain, either vague or intense
  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Belching and hiccuping
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite

Controlling Gastroparesis

There is no known cure for Gastroparesis. The most commonly used approaches to address or diminish the symptoms may include:

  • Eating much smaller meals more frequently
  • Blending foods in a blender and switching to much softer foods
  • Using ginger or other digestive aids
  • Using homeopathic remedies known to diminish symptoms and improve digestion
  • Using liquid meal replacements to boost nutrition 
  • Strictly limiting fiber consumption and avoiding certain foods known to cause problems
  • In my practice, I usually recommend the use of supplements known to improve nerve function and slow nerve deterioration

Prescription medications may also be used to diminish the symptoms of Gastroparesis. Many of the most commonly used prescription medications lose effectiveness with continued use and/or have severe side effects.

If muscle and nerve deterioration continues and symptoms worsen, Gastroparesis may also be treated with a device called a Gastric Pacemaker. A Gastric Pacemaker uses electrical stimulation to reduce symptoms. Extreme cases of Gastroparesis are treated with a feeding tube.

Gastroparesis may affect quality of life in horrendous ways. Those who experience it may become weak and malnourished. Some come to dread eating due to the pain and discomfort it can cause. Depression is a very common side effect of Gastroparesis. Many people are able to rise above the symptoms by making lifestyle changes and committing to remaining positive.

Are you affected by Gastroparesis? What techniques do you use to improve your quality of life?

 

Photo courtesy of Peter Gerdes