Ever had a good meal that just stayed with you?

If you happen to have gastroparesis you’ve probably had plenty of good meals that stuck around long after the party was over. Delayed Gastric Emptying is another name for the truculent disease which slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestines.

Affecting many patients with conditions like Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and other autonomic nervous system disorders—Gastroparesis is affected by the vagus nerve, which controls the muscles which contract to break up the food and move it throughout the GI tract.

Those with idiopathic gastroparesis cannot identify the cause of their disease. Though it is often found in diabetes patients, it can also be brought on by intestinal surgery, parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.


What are the Symptoms of Gastroparesis?

  • Acid reflux. GERD
  • Stomach pain
  • A feeling of fullness after eating even small meals
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting undigested food
  • Poor control of blood sugar
  • Chronic constipation
  • Malnutrition

Because these symptoms are so similar to other GI conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, and Acid Reflux, many patients are not aware they have the condition.


How Do I Know If I Have Gastroparesis?

The best test for diagnosing this condition is called a gastric emptying study. This measures the emptying of food from the stomach. During the study, a patient will eat a meal in which the solid food, liquid food or both contain a minute amount of radioactive material. This is tracked by a scanner as it moves through the GI system. If a patient takes longer than normal, usually more than several hours, to digest the food—they are diagnosed with gastroparesis.

Other tests include the antro-duodenal motility study, the electrogastrogram, and endoscopy.


What Diet Should a Gastroparesis Patient Be On?

Smaller meals throughout the day are recommend for the gastroparesis patient—the theory being that the less food that is consumed at one time means the less effort it will take to digest it.  Thoroughly chewing food and consuming meals with fluids is recommended.

While you may have heard that vegetables are an essential force behind a balanced diet—there are some fibrous foods patients should steer clear of. These include broccoli, artichokes, peas, brussel sprouts, and corn. Raw vegetables should be avoided entirely.

Some staples of a diet for gastroparesis include Cream of Wheat, pasta, white rice, egg noodles, low-fat crackers, well-cooked vegetables without skin, yogurts and low fat cheeses, soups and pureed meals. Patients may also add nutritional supplement drinks to their diets, such as Ensure.


What is the Treatment for Gastroparesis?

Medications such as Domperidone and Propulsid can help stimulate muscle activity. Erythromycin is a commonly used antiobiotc that can help to contract stomach muscles. Zofran can be used to treat nausea associated with eating. Drinking more fluids can also help move food that becomes stuck and painful.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help. Low dose tricyclic medications, such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and desipramine, have been shown to reduce pain in other functional GI conditions and may reduce pain associated with gastroparesis. Other drugs found useful in treating neuropathic pain may be tried. Opiates, or narcotics, should be avoided.

Learn more about Gastroparesis at the following links:

* As mentioned above, Gastroparesis is a very complex disease with many new and emerging treatments, medications and studies. You can stay updated, read patient stories, and learn more about the progression of the disease at the links above.