August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, which is dedicated to improving understanding and management of the disease. Gastroparesis is also called delayed gastric emptying. The term “gastric” refers to the stomach. Gastroparesis is characterized by the presence of certain long-term symptoms together with delayed stomach emptying in the absence of any observable obstruction or blockage. The delayed stomach emptying is confirmed by a test. Gastroparesis is a long-term condition that can impair quality of life and well-being. Living with gastroparesis affects not only those who suffer but also many others, especially family members and friends. It also touches on relationships in the classroom, in the workplace, or in social interactions.
According to Mayo Clinic (2019) gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach.
Normally, your stomach muscles tighten to move food through your digestive tract. If you have gastroparesis, nerve damage from high blood sugar can cause those muscles to slow down or not work at all. Your stomach doesn’t empty properly, and your food may take a long time to leave your stomach.
Because gastroparesis affects how fast the body absorbs food, it’s hard to match insulin doses to food portions. It also affects how the body absorbs nutrients, which can lead to malnutrition if left untreated. Another symptom of gastroparesis is frequent vomiting. This is dangerous because it can cause dehydration, or extreme thirst.
Have you ever eaten a large meal and then felt “stuffed” afterward? With gastroparesis, you may have that same “stuffed” feeling, bloating, discomfort, or pain after eating even a small amount of food. This can happen soon after you start eating or long after you finish your meal because gastroparesis slows down stomach emptying.
Other symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and poor appetite.
You should talk with your doctor if you have any of these symptoms so you can manage gastroparesis and keep it from worsening.
Tips to Manage Gastroparesis
There is no cure for gastroparesis, but you can lessen symptoms with the following actions:
- Keep your blood sugar levels as close to their target range as possible.
- Eat frequent, small meals that are low in fat and fiber. Fat, fiber, and large meals can delay stomach emptying and make symptoms worse.
- Drink plenty of water. For most adults, that’s 6 to 10 cups per day.
- Let your doctor and pharmacist know about all medicines you’re taking—prescription and over-the-counter, as well as any supplements.
- If medicines you’re taking seem to cause more digestion problems, talk with your doctor.
- Limit or avoid alcohol.
- Stop smoking or don’t start.
- Get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
A registered dietician can help you understand and meet your diet and nutrition needs.
Note: Health experts suggest that you talk to your doctor before you start or change any regimen including diet, medications or exercises.
Diabetes and Digestion | Diabetes | CDC – CDC (2022) What Is Gastroparesis?
Mayo Clinic (2022). Gastroparesis. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gastroparesis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355787