What is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a chronic disorder in which the stomach experiences delayed emptying. When the stomach is functioning correctly, it will contract to crush ingested food. Then, the stomach sends the pulverized food into the small intestine, where further digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. In patients who suffer from gastroparesis, the stomach doesn’t empty contents properly. The partially digested content will remain in the stomach for an extended period.
Symptoms of gastroparesis include:
- Fullness after meals
- Stomach pain
Gastroparesis may occur in some patients who have diabetes, thyroid disease, autoimmune disorders, or post viral infection.
Certain medications, which delay stomach emptying as a side effect, may lead to gastroparesis. These medications include, but aren’t limited to:
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Calcium channel blockers
- Dopamine agonists
- Marijuana (THC)
In some patients with gastroparesis, there is no identifiable cause.
A gastric emptying study is the most common test used to diagnose gastroparesis. A physician will order a nuclear study and then a radiologist will complete the study. The radiologist will use imaging equipment to measure the rate a patient’s stomach empties after eating a meal, and a delay in the stomach emptying will indicate gastroparesis.
Diet is the most effective way to treat gastroparesis. Patients should eat small, frequent meals, and avoid fatty, spicy, acidic, and high fiber foods. In addition, patients should drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and avoid medications that delay stomach emptying. More complex treatments may be needed if a patient doesn’t respond to routine treatments.