Gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying)

Gastroparesis is a condition that causes nausea and vomiting. It can even cause you to feel full too soon after you begin eating. It happens because the stomach takes too long to empty and does not move food along through your body fast enough . Gastroparesis is also called “delayed gastric emptying.” (“Gastric” means “having to do with the stomach.”)

Gastroparesis may be a common problem among people with diabetes. It also can happen to people who have had food poisoning (gastroenteritis). But it can sometimes happen to people who have not been sick and who don’t have diabetes.

The symptoms can include:

  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Belly pain
  • Feeling full too soon after you begin eating
  • Bloating (feeling like your stomach is full of air)
  • Weight loss

Yes. If your Gastroenterologist suspects you’ve got gastroparesis, he or she might do 1 or more of those tests:

  • Endoscopy – A Gastroenterologist puts a thin tube down your throat and into your stomach. The tube (called an endoscope) contains a light and a tiny camera on the end, so it allows the Gastroenterologist to see inside your stomach. If he or she still finds food in your stomach even though it’s been more than 8 hours since you ate, that’s a sign that you simply might have gastroparesis.
  • Barium follow through, CT scan, or MRI – For these tests you eat a special substance that shows up on imaging. This can show if there is something blocking the flow of food, keeping it from leaving your stomach.
  • Gastric emptying scintigraphy – For this test you eat food that has a touch of a radioactive material in it. Then you’ve got images taken of the within your body for up to 4 hours. That way, Gastroenterologists can follow where the food goes and the way fast it gets there. If you still have a good amount of food in your stomach after 4 hours, that means you’ve got gastroparesis.
  • Breath test – this is a newer test that measures substances in your breath after you have eaten a special meal. The measurements can sometimes show if you have gastroparesis.

Yes. Some people feel better if they:

  • Eat 4 to 5 small meals during the day instead of 2 or 3 big ones.
  • Put food through the blender before eating it.
  • Cut down on foods that have a lot of fat, such as cheese and fried foods.
  • Cut down on foods that have a lot of “insoluble” fiber, such as some fruits, vegetables, and beans.
  • Avoid fizzy drinks, like soda, as they can cause more bloating and gas
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking

If you have diabetes, it is also very important to stay your blood sugar as near normal as possible.

See your Gastroenterologist if you’ve got ongoing nausea or vomiting, belly pain, trouble eating, or weight loss.

Treatments can include:

  • Treatments to assist you get the food and fluids you need – This might include taking liquid food supplements or – in rare cases – being fed through a tube.
  • Medicines that make the stomach empty faster
  • Medicines that help prevent nausea
  • Emptying the stomach with a tube – to try to do this, Gastroenterologists can put a tube down your throat or directly into your stomach through your skin.
  • Electrical stimulation of the stomach – In very rare cases, Gastroenterologists use electrical stimulation to make the stomach empty.
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Dr. Harsh J Shah