The stomach is a hollow internal organ which is primarily muscle. It is where food begins to be digested through the constant rhythmic movements of the stomach muscles.
When solid food has been ground small enough and has been mixed well with the stomach’s natural gastric juices, it moves to the small intestine for further processing through the digestive system. However, when the stomach muscles are weakened, solid food will not be properly digested into smaller pieces. Hence, it will take a longer time for the stomach to empty the partially digested food into the intestines.
When the stomach is not digesting food properly, you might be experiencing gastroparesis.
Causes of Gastroparesis
The cause of gastroparesis is believed to be damage to the vagus nerve, which regulates the digestive system. When the vagus nerve is damaged, the stomach muscles cannot function normally – thereby preventing food from being properly digested.
The vagus nerve may be injured during surgery on the esophagus or the stomach, and also when patients have diabetes or pancreatitis. Specific imbalances in the minerals of the blood may also cause gastroparesis.
Symptoms of Gastroparesis
Some of the most common symptoms of gastroparesis include the following:
- Easily feeling full
- Unexplained weight loss
- Abdominal pain
The vomiting caused by gastroparesis usually happens after meals. However, in severe cases, a person may vomit even without having eaten recently.
Complications of This Digestive Issue
Since food which should have already been processed through the small intestine remains in the stomach, this can cause the food to ferment and could lead to bacterial growth. Alternatively, the food in the stomach can harden into what is called a bezoar.
A bezoar is a solid collection of undigested food which can cause obstructions in the stomach. It prevents food from passing through to the small intestine, and it can cause vomiting and nausea. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening because of malnutrition and blockage issues.
Who Is at Risk of Gastroparesis?
People with certain existing health conditions tend to be more susceptible to this condition, including those who have:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Previous abdominal surgery
- Viral infection
- Narcotics and other medications that slow down stomach reactions
In those with diabetes, the unpredictability of the digestion pattern makes it more difficult to control blood sugar levels. Your gastroenterologist will explain how to monitor this to keep you healthy.
Treatment and Prevention of Gastroparesis
Since gastroparesis is a chronic condition, treatments can help manage and control it, but they do not usually cure the disease once and for all. Medications are available such as metoclopramide and erythromycin.
There are a number of dietary habits that can help control the effects and instances of gastroparesis, including eating the following types of foods:
- White bread
- Egg bagels
- English muffins
- White crackers
- Rice and rice cereals
- Lean beef
- Cooked or juiced vegetables
- Fruit juices
- Smooth yogurt
- Frozen yogurt
Gastroenterology in Cleveland
If you are experiencing gastroparesis or digestive issues of any kind, our medical team at North Shore Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Centers is here to help you. We have convenient locations in Westlake and Brooklyn, Ohio.
Call us today at (440) 808-1212 or request a consultation via our easy-to-use online form. We look forward to helping you get on the path to total health and wellness!