If you’ve been experiencing unexplained digestive discomfort, it’s worth looking into in case there is a chronic condition causing your symptoms. For example, gastroparesis is a condition that affects the normal spontaneous movement of your stomach muscles.
We’re here to explain what gastroparesis is, its symptoms, possible causes and treatment methods to help you find relief.
Normally, strong muscle contractions push food through your digestive tract. But if you have gastroparesis, your stomach's motility, or movement, is slowed down or doesn't work at all. This prevents your stomach from properly emptying.
“Gastroparesis can hinder normal digestion,” says AdventHealth Dade City general surgeon Naga Thatimatla, MD. “The most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, early satiety and stomach pain.” Gastroparesis can also cause problems with your nutrition and impact your blood sugar levels.
While some people with gastroparesis don't experience noticeable symptoms, here are signs you may have it. If any of these red flags sound familiar, reach out to your health care provider:
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal pain
- A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites
- Acid reflux
- Changes in blood sugar levels
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
There is currently no cure for gastroparesis, but with changes to your diet, along with medication, you can find relief.
The cause of gastroparesis is typically not known. It can be a diabetes complication or something that develops after a surgery.
Certain medications, such as opioid pain relievers, some antidepressants and high blood pressure and allergy medications can lead to slower gastric emptying and cause similar symptoms. For those who already have gastroparesis, these medications can worsen their condition.
How to Treat Gastroparesis
While it’s not possible to “fix” the damage that causes gastroparesis, your doctor can offer treatments to stimulate muscle contractions in your stomach, encouraging it to empty.
Medication is the first-line treatment. Surgery is reserved for those who don’t respond to medications or can’t take them.
Gastroparesis treatment helps to:
- Stimulate your stomach muscles, allowing your stomach to empty
- Make sure your body has the nutrition and hydration it needs
- Manage symptoms and side effects of the condition
- Manage the cause and prevent it from getting worse
Your treatment plan may include:
- Nutrition and hydration therapy
- Specific treatments for the condition causing your gastroparesis (such as diabetes)
Lifestyle changes can also help your condition, like taking note of your symptoms and what foods or habits improve or worsen them. Little changes can make a big difference in how you feel.
Some people find it helpful to:
- Eat smaller meals more often
- Reduce fat and fiber in your diet, which take longer to digest
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs
- Add physical activity, such as taking a walk after eating
“Your doctor will recommend a tailored approach based on your underlying causes, severity of the disease, symptoms and other related health issues you may have,” says Dr. Thatimatla. You can rest easy knowing you’ll receive a personalized treatment plan to help your needs best.
A New Treatment Option Near You
AdventHealth Dade City is the first hospital in Pasco County with the unique, FDA-approved Enterra™ Therapy device. This device helps patients struggling with nausea and vomiting due to gastroparesis. According to the device manufacturer, Enterra™ Therapy acts as a pacemaker for the stomach and helps when the stomach muscles aren’t working properly, or at all, to digest food. While there’s no cure for gastroparesis, Enterra™ Therapy offers about 80% relief for patients, significantly improving their quality of life and allowing them to return to the lifestyle they love.
Find Expert Digestive Care, Close to Home
If you have concerning stomach symptoms and need expert care, our team is here to help. Our compassionate and experienced health care professionals offer comprehensive care and support for your digestive health.
Learn more about our digestive care and how we can care for you in body, mind and spirit. You deserve to feel whole.