We’ve all experienced some sort of digestion problems at some point, whether it be difficulty having a bowel movement, upset stomach, or an uncomfortable fullness when eating too much food. While it’s normal and expected to happen every once and awhile, if these problems start to happen frequently and interfere with your normal life, you should contact your gastroenterologist, as you might be dealing with something more serious called gastroparesis.
What Is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a condition that refers to a delayed emptying of your stomach. After being chewed and swallowed, food travels into your stomach and small intestine, with some being absorbed and broken down for nutrition and the rest moving down through the lower GI tract as waste that later exits your body through the anus. If that process isn’t working the way it should, it may be due to a somewhat rare disorder that causes your stomach muscles to not work properly, slowing down the digestive process. In some cases, the muscles don’t work at all.
How Can I Tell If I Have Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis isn’t an extremely common disorder, with about 10 men and 40 women out of 100,000 experiencing it. An actual diagnosis of the disease should be made by your doctor, but it’s important to come in for an exam if you have any of the symptoms. These notable symptoms include nausea and vomiting, a constant feeling of fullness not just surrounding meal times, bloating, excessive belching, upper abdominal pain, heartburn, and a poor appetite. It can also cause dehydration, with symptoms including extreme thirst, infrequent urination, lightheadedness or fainting, and dark colored urine. Some of these symptoms tend to be pretty common amongst multiple GI disorders, so if it’s not gastroparesis, it could be something else that needs attention.
Along with basic patient history, a physical exam, and lab work, our team may use other tests to diagnose gastroparesis, including an upper GI endoscopy or imaging tests to observe how long it’s taking your stomach to empty.
Can Gastroparesis Be Treated?
The treatment for gastroparesis differs based on the cause. In some cases, it can be caused by diabetes or nervous system diseases, in other cases due to certain medications, food poisoning, and in others the cause is unknown. Depending on the cause of the gastroparesis, there are several different treatment routes we may take. In many cases, it can be helped with proper nutrition and eating habits. These include eating low fat and low fiber foods, small, frequent meals instead of three large meals a day, eating slowly and carefully, and staying well hydrated. Light exercise after eating meals can also aid in digestion. There are some medications that can aid in digestion and help build the muscle function in the stomach. In the more severe cases IV nutrition may be necessary. If you’re concerned about any aspects of your digestion, especially if you have any of the above-described issues, make an appointment to see Dr. Sameer Islam and we can get you feeling better and have your digestive system running properly.