Monday, January 9, 2012

Gastroparesis Series - Part I: The Basics

What is gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a condition that reduces the ability of the stomach to empty its contents, despite the fact that there is no mechanical blockage. (1)  When you have GP, the stomach muscles don't work properly so food is not propelled through your digestive tract like it should be. In many cases, it's assumed that this results from damage to the vagus nerve. (2)

How do you get gastroparesis?
The vagus nerve can be damaged by stomach surgery, or diabetes.  Other causes or risk factors for developing GP include infection, eating disorders, sclerodoma, Parkinson's, hypothyroidism, certain cancer treatments and certain medications.  In many cases people develop idiopathic gastroparesis, meaning that the cause is unknown.

What are the treatments for gastroparesis?
The most common treatment for GP is the use of motility drugs, such as Reglan or Motilium.  It is also often recommended that GP sufferers eat a low fat/low fiber diet and consume several small meals throughout the day.

There are more invasive options out there that are usually reserved for those with the more severe cases of GP.  These options include surgery, botox injections, or the use of a stomach pacemaker.  Many GP patients also need anti-emetic drugs (to help control the frequent nausea that often accompanies GP) and pain management drugs (to help control the pain that frequently is associated with GP). (2)
In part II of this series, I will be discussing some natural alternatives that can help to manage symptoms of gastroparesis.

*Note: I am NOT a doctor.  I am sharing information that I've found from my own research and/or personal experience.  Nothing listed here is intended to be or replace medical advice from your doctor.


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