Understanding Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, is a condition in which the muscles in the stomach do not function the way they are not supposed to. People who have gastroparesis experience symptoms of abdominal bloating, feeling full after a few bites, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, heartburn, and weight loss. These symptoms may be aggravated by diet. High fat, greasy or high fiber foods aggravate the symptoms in someone who has gastroparesis. Drinking beverages high in fat or carbonation can also aggravate these symptoms. It can be difficult to diagnosis gastroparesis because the symptoms that are found in someone with gastroparesis are also found in other digestive disorders.

The causes of gastroparesis are not completely known. Diabetes is the most common cause of gastroparesis. Diabetes creates high blood glucose levels which over time can damage the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls the muscles in the stomach and tells them to contract to break down food in the stomach. If the vagus nerve is damaged the stomach muscles will stop working normally. When the stomach muscles are not working properly, food will move slowly from the stomach to the small intestines. Other identifiable causes of gastroparesis are intestinal surgeries or nervous system disease such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.

Gastroparesis is usually treated with diet changes and medications. Your provider will most likely recommend that you eat six small meals per day. It may also be recommended that you drink a non-carbonated drink with each meal and avoid lying down for at least two hours after eating. In cases of severe gastroparesis it may be recommend consuming a pureed diet.

1. “Gastroparesis.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 04 Jan 2012. Web. 4 Feb 2013. 
2. “Gastroparesis.” National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 15 Jun 2012. Web. 4 Feb 2013.