Symptoms and Treatments for Gastroparesis

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Gastroparesis is a medical condition in which the stomach loses some or all of its ability to digest food.  Frequently affecting diabetics and people who have had stomach surgery or an eating disorder, gastroparesis can cause a number of symptoms of discomfort like nausea, bloating, and vomiting.  While it is incurable, gastroparesis and its symptoms can be managed with some dietary changes and medications.

The most frequently recognized symptoms of gastroparesis are nausea, vomiting, and getting full quickly.  With the stomach’s ability to move food through the system, sufferers of gastroparesis can feel full after only a small amount of food and that feeling can linger for hours after food would normally have been processed.  People with gastroparesis often find that they vomit up undigested food long after it has been eaten.  According to the Hershey Medical Center at Penn State University, when this vomiting is frequent, it can cause complications including dehydration and damage to the stomach lining leading to bleeding.

Symptoms of gastroparesis can vary in severity and the symptoms which appear can vary from person to person.  In addition to nausea, vomiting, and early fullness, symptoms of gastroparesis may include bloating and lack of appetite.  These symptoms, along with the stomach’s impaired ability to absorb nutrients, can also lead to weight loss.

Treatments for gastroparesis differ based on the severity of the condition.  For most patients, certain dietary and nutritional changes are the first line of treatment for gastroparesis.  Since gastroparesis causes the stomach experience impaired digestive ability, gastroparesis treatments focus on reducing the pressure and workload on the stomach.  Two nutrients which are difficult for the stomach to digest are fiber and fat.  It is generally recommended that patients limit their intake of fiber and fat to make stomach digestion go more smoothly.

A second dietary treatment for gastroparesis is to spread eating from a few large meals per day into several small sittings.  The National Institutes of Health report that in the some advanced cases of the condition, the diet may be restricted to liquid or pureed foods only.

Beyond dietary restrictions, treatments for gastroparesis include a few medications which can enhance the stomach’s digestive ability.  According to the Hershey Medical Center, metoclopramide is the most effective drug treatment for gastroparesis, though it is generally restricted from patients with Parkinson’s disease.  Other medications which can help the stomach in emptying include erythromycin and domperidone.

If you suspect that you may be suffering from gastroparesis or have any questions about the condition, talk to your doctor.  While incurable, gastroparesis and its symptoms can be contained and, depending on the severity of the condition, may only require dietary adaptations.

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