What is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is known as delayed gastric emptying. The chronic condition affects the muscle contractions that work to pass food along the digestive tract. Gastroparesis is known to be caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the muscles in the stomach. Damage to the nerve results in improper function of the stomach muscles, causing it to empty too slowly or not at all.
- Stomach pain
- Acid reflux
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal bloating
- Changes in blood sugar levels
- Delay in stomach emptying
- Nervous system diseases
- Certain pain medications
- Complications from intestinal surgeries
Diagnosis and Treatment
To help diagnose gastroparesis, your Gastroenterologist may perform several tests to rule out conditions that may cause similar symptoms. The recommended test for diagnosing gastroparesis is the gastric emptying study, which involves consuming a light meal that contains a small amount of radioactive material. A scanner is then used to measure the rate at which food is emptied from the stomach. In patients with gastroparesis, the food will take longer than average to move through the digestive tract. Other common tests include upper GI endoscopy, upper GI series, and ultrasounds – all of which will help to rule out blockage and potential structural problems.
While there is no cure for gastroparesis, changes in diet and lifestyle are the first steps in managing the condition and improving quality of life. Additionally, individuals with diabetes and hypothyroidism should manage their blood glucose levels and thyroid deficiencies to prevent worsening symptoms of gastroparesis. Other changes to diet include:
- Eat small but nutritious meals throughout the day
- Eat well-cooked vegetables rather than raw ones
- Eat foods low in fat and fiber
- Chew your food thoroughly
- Drink plenty of water – 1 to 1.5 liters every day
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid carbonated beverages
- Avoid lying down for at least 2 hours after a meal
- Go for a walk or do some light physical activity after a meal