What is Digestive Tract Paralysis/Gastroparesis?

Posted on August 22, 2019 by kerri
August is Digestive Tract Paralysis Awareness Month. Gastroparesis is a form of digestive tract paralysis, in which the normal contractions of the stomach that help to digest food are either abnormal (insufficient to properly digest food) or absent. [1] This means food cannot be easily digested—as in, further crushed up by the stomach—or pushed adequately into the small intestine.
Symptoms of gastroparesis
Gastroparesis symptoms can look like other common conditions—they include nauseousness, feeling full quickly when eating, getting bloated, experiencing heartburn, and having “epigastric pain”—pain in the esophagus or stomach. [1] Vomiting or regurgitation of undigested food may occur, and weight loss is common due to poor nutrient absorption or not eating enough due to symptoms.
What foods are more likely to cause gastroparesis symptoms? [1]
  • Solid, high fiber foods (raw fruits and vegetables)
  • High fat foods or drinks
  • Carbonated drinks
What causes gastroparesis?
Sometimes, gastroparesis does not have a known cause. In other cases, it is caused by [1]:
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Infections
  • Cancer or cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Neuromuscular diseases
  • Psychological conditons
  • Eating disorders
  • Injury during surgery on the esophagus, stomach or duodenum (small intestine) causing injury to the nerve that contracts the stomach
  • Medications can cause delayed gastric emptying, which may cause further issues in those with gastroparesis.
Treating gastroparesis
Understanding the foods that contribute to gastroparesis symptoms is important to managing the condition. It may be necessary to alter a person’s diet, and ensure enough liquids or very soft foods are consumed so that even if solids are not digested adequately, energy and nutrients are still absorbed which can pass around any “stuck” food.
The American College of Gastroenterology states that thick and thin liquids, including pudding and nutrient drinks, as well as nutrition drinks or pureed food, can usually be tolerated by people with gastroparesis.  [1]
If adequate nutrition from food is not possible, a feeding tube may be required which allows food to bypass the stomach. Different types of surgically inserted tubes may be options to help with symptoms and nutrient supplementation. [1] Another surgical option is implantation of a neurostimulator to help the stomach contract; it may not help the underlying cause of gastroparesis but can help resolve symptoms.
Few medications are available to treat gastroparesis; which can have difficult side effects or poor efficacy. [1]
Medical ID for Gastroparesis
Gastroparesis may need to be included on your medical ID bracelet or necklace if you have a feeding tube or implanted gastric stimulator device. As well, if you live with any of the conditions that are more likely to cause gastroparesis, these are important to identify on your medical ID necklace or bracelet. You can find custom medical ID jewelry on our website.

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