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What is Gastroparesis?

Posted Jan 06 2010 4:32pm
Tuesday morning, I woke up nauseous. My stomach felt full, as if I just finished a full 3 course meal, even thought I had nothing to eat for almost 12 hours. These are some of the joys of gastroparesis, otherwise known as delayed gastric emptying.

Gastroparesis is a disorder of the vagus nerve in the stomach. The vague nerve is the longest cranial nerve, as it goes from the brain stem down into the abdomen. It can effect any organ along that path, such as the heart, lungs, esophagus, stomach, and transverse colon. Just because a person has problems with the vagus nerve in relation to the stomach, it does not mean they will have problems with any other vagus nerve organ.

There are two types of gastroparesis: diabetic and idiopathic. Diabetic gastroparesis is caused as a result of nerve damage due diabetes mellitus. What causes the damage and neuropathy in diabetes mellitus is not entirely understood. Idiopathic gastroparesis is even less understood. In this case, the cause of gastroparesis is unknown. However, risk factors for gastroparesis include abdominal surgery, side effect of medications, disordered eating, metabolic disorders, smooth muscle diseases, and nervous system disorders. Food can also affect gastroparesis. Solid foods, fiber-rich foods, raw fruits and vegetables, high fat foods, carbonated drinks, and drinking too much at one time.

Regardless of the type of gastroparesis, the effects are the same. In either case, the vague nerve in the stomach does not work properly. In the stomach, the nerve controls the muscles and the movement of food through the stomach and into the intestinal track. When the nerve doesn't work, food moves slowly or not at all.

As I mentioned nausea and a full feeling are two symptoms, but other symptoms include: vomiting; malnutrition; lack of an appetite; feeling full after eating only a few bites; bloating; pain; spasms; unstable glucose levels; burping; and weight loss. It also plays a factor in other digestive disorders, such as GERD and acid reflux. I do think it also plays a role in gastritis, IBS, and certain types of colitis.

Gastroparesis is diagnosed in several ways: patient history; upper endoscopy; ultrasound; barium x-ray; smartpill; gastric emptying scintigraphy; and a breath test.

Treatments for gastroparesis include medications, like metoclopramide(reglan), erythromycin, domperidone, and antiemetics. Herbal remedies, such as ginger, can help symptoms. Dietary changes and adjustments can also help, such as eating six small meals a day, a liquid diet, low-fat diet, low-fiber diet, and in severe cases, a feeding tube or parenteral nutrition. Gastric electrical stimulation is also used. In GES, a neurostimulator is implanted. it gives off impulses that help stimulate the stomach muscles to move. Injecting the botulinum toxin is shown to help with symptoms, but it still being tested.

I hope this article helps shed some light on an uncommon digestive illness. If you know someone else with gastroparesis, please share the article with them. If you have gastroparesis and want others to understand what you're facing, share this article with them. Information is the greatest tool in dealing with the disease.

If you have any additions, corrections, or comments, please post them. I gratefully accept feedback.
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