Gastroparesis, a disease of the stomach

Gastroparesis, a disease of the stomach

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Gastroparesis is a disease that affects the stomach muscles, whose contractions can no longer push the contents of the stomach into the small intestine. Also known as gastric atony or delayed gastric emptying, gastroparesis is caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the alimentary contractions of the muscles of the stomach and intestine.
The ingested foods move slower in the digestive tract and, when they stay too much in the stomach, can cause nausea and vomiting, but also other dangerous complications.

Causes and risk factors for gastroparesis

The vagus nerve injury can be caused by:

  • diabetes;
  • surgery;
  • diseases such as anorexia, bulimia, hypothyroidism, etc.

However, the symptoms of gastroparesis can also appear as a side effect to a drug treatment, in which case they disappear with the cessation of the treatment.
Risk factors include certain treatments for cancer, autoimmune diseases (lupus, scleroderma), Parkinson's disease and ulcer, which can drain the stomach from fibrous tissue.

Symptoms of gastroparesis

The first symptoms that are observed in the case of gastroparosis are:

  • vomiting;
  • nausea;
  • bloating and heartburn;
  • the feeling of satiety.

Complications include weight loss, which can be accompanied by malnutrition and anemia and overpopulation with stomach bacteria, due to the disrupted digestive process.
Undigested foods can remain in the stomach forming a bevel, a solid mass that further impairs the ability of the stomach to push food digested in the small intestine.

Blood sugar fluctuations are another complication of gastroparesis, worsening diabetes for those suffering from this disease and requiring better control of blood glucose and insulin levels.

Diagnosis and treatment for gastroparesis

The most commonly used tests for the diagnosis of gastroenteritis are ultrasound investigations and barium radiography. Endoscopy, visual exploration of the esophagus and stomach can confirm the diagnosis.
Other tests used for the correct diagnosis of gastropathy are gastric emptying scintigraphy and endoscopic capsule, an endoscopy performed with a capsule that crosses the entire digestive tract.
Once diagnosed, gastroparesis is most often treated by changing the diet. But there is also drug treatment, which must be given at least half an hour before the meal or intravenously. It may be aimed at controlling vomiting or directly stimulating the contractions of the stomach muscles.
In very serious cases, bypass surgery of the lower stomach becomes the only option, but also presents high risks of complication.
Other treatments recently used for gastroparesis are the administration of botulinum toxin, which relaxes the sphincter of the skin, the place where the food passes from the stomach to the intestine, and the electrical stimulation of the stomach muscles to obtain the necessary contractions.

The right diet for gastroparesis

The improvement of the symptoms can be observed quickly in case of the improvement of the eating habits. To make digestion even easier, some doctors may recommend up to 8 smaller meals a day for the treatment of gastropathy.
Avoiding copious meals is the first step, but patients with gastroparesis should avoid contraindicated foods, those high in fiber and fat.
Vegetable oils make digestion difficult and can cause problems for those suffering from gastroparesis, but vegetables, fruits and whole grains high in fiber can have the same effect. Fats can be consumed in small quantities, between meals.
Food can be consumed and passed out or liquefied when the symptoms are acute. The consumption of large quantities of water is recommended by doctors to prevent the risk of dehydration caused by vomiting.
Regular tests are important for those who suffer from gastroparesis, because they present a high risk of deficiencies of important nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron or calcium.

Tags Diet Voma Diabetes children Vomiting children