HCA Virginia - August 14, 2019

August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, and a good time to learn more about this digestive disorder that’s also known as delayed gastric emptying. If you have gastroparesis, you may wonder how common it is—not very. Though the diagnosis is somewhat rare, symptoms similar to gastroparesis occur in about 1 out of every 4 adults in the U.S.

What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis affects how well the digestive system works. Normally, food passes into the stomach as we eat and the muscles in the stomach wall break it down and move it into the small intestine. When someone has gastroparesis, the stomach muscles don’t work as they should and cause a delay in this emptying process.

The condition is caused by damage to the nerves, especially the vagus nerve which controls the muscles of the stomach and small intestine. Gastroparesis is most common in people who have diabetes or had previous surgery on their esophagus, stomach or small intestine. Radiation treatments for cancer targeting the chest or stomach may also cause gastroparesis.

Symptoms of gastroparesis can include a feeling of fullness soon after starting to eat or

feeling full long after finishing a meal. Nausea and vomiting, bloating, belching, heartburn and poor appetite may also occur.

Living well with gastroparesis is possible. Your doctor may prescribe medicine or gastric electrical stimulation (GES) to improve the function of your stomach muscles. It’s also important to take care of yourself.

  • Change your eating habits. Eat small meals throughout the day that are low in fiber and fat. Choose soft foods that are easy to digest and chew slowly and carefully. Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Watch for dehydration. People living with gastroparesis are at higher risk for dehydration. If you feel dizzy, weak or lightheaded, reach out for help right away.
  • Manage your blood sugar. If you have diabetes, keep a close watch on your blood sugar levels. Gastroparesis can make it harder to predict what your blood sugar levels will be before and after eating.

If you have symptoms of gastroparesis, there are advanced diagnostic tests to determine how well your digestive system is working. Visit our physician directory to find a gastroenterologist.

Sources

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Gastroparesis