What Is Gastroparesis? Why Are Diabetics More At Risk?

What Is Gastroparesis?Gastroparesis (also called delayed gastric emptying) is a progressive disorder that causes food to remain in the stomach for longer than normal periods. Because the nerves that move food through the digestive tract are damaged, the muscles do not work as they normally would.  As a result, food often sits in the stomach undigested.  So what are the signs and symptoms of gastroparesis? Lets take a closer look!


Symptoms Of Gastroparesis:

The following are the most common symptoms associated with gastroparesis:

  • vomiting of undigested food
  • early fullness after a small meal
  • weight loss
  • nausea 
  • bloating
  • stomach spasms
  • blood glucose levels that are hard to stabilize
  • heartburn 
  • loss of appetite
  • acid reflux

What Causes Gastroparesis:

While a high percentage of gastroparesis has been reported in people with type 1 diabetes (40%) and type 2 diabetes (10% to 20%), per the Mayo Clinic, it’s not always clear what leads to gastroparesis. In many cases, gastroparesis is believed to be caused by damage to a nerve that controls the stomach muscles (vagus nerve).

The vagus nerve helps manage the complex processes in your digestive tract, including signaling the muscles in your stomach to contract and push food into the small intestine. A damaged vagus nerve can’t send signals normally to your stomach muscles. This may cause food to remain in your stomach longer, rather than move normally into your small intestine to be digested.

The vagus nerve can be damaged by certain diseases (Parkinson’s and MS for example), and diabetes in particular, or by surgery to the stomach or small intestine.  As for diabetics, the fact that we deal with higher than normal blood sugars, over time these high blood glucose levels can damage the vagus nerve.  

Its should also be noted that for reasons that gastroparesis is more commonly found in women than in men. Researchers believe that this is possibly due to the effect of hormones on the GI tract, particularly estrogen and progesterone, and those seem to delay stomach emptying, but more research is still needed.  You can check out the study here.

How Is Gastroparesis Diagnosed:

Gastroparesis is diagnosed by upper gastrointestinal x -rays, and a gastroscopy which allows the doctor to look into the stomach with a scope that contains a tiny camera. Other tests may be initiated.

All of these will help rule out other diseases such as ulcers, gastritis, and stomach cancer.

It is thought that as many as 50% of diabetics may show signs of gastroparesis, but only a small percentage of those people develop symptoms that need intervention.

Gastroparesis Treatments:

Treatment begins with a renewed commitment to tight blood glucose control as hyperglycemia aggravates gastroparesis. As we are all well aware, this is easier said than done as food is absorbed at unpredictable times, making control difficult (story of our lives, right!).

High blood glucose levels can slow stomach emptying and that adds to the problem. If you take insulin, you may be asked to up the number of injections you take daily or even increase your basal rates if you use an insulin pump. You will also have to check your blood glucose levels more frequently after you eat to help bring them down sue to the increase of insulin.

Your doctor may also suggest that you eat small meals throughout the day rather than a What Is Gastroparesis?few larger ones as this helps your stomach from becoming overfilled. You will be told to cut back on fatty foods because fat slows stomach emptying. You may also need to cut back on difficult-to-digest foods such as legumes, lentils, and citrus fruits. Food difficult to digest, may form “tumors of food” known as bezoars. These bezoars will worsen symptoms of fullness, nausea, and abdominal discomfort, and they can be very difficult for a doctor to remove.

Now comes the difficult decision for people with diabetes who suffer from diarrhea or constipation who are advised to eat a high fiber diet. It may seem that the advice to avoid indigestibles contradicts that suggestion. Indigestibles are not exactly the same as high fiber foods, although indigestibles are almost always examples of high-fiber foods. You may have to decide which problem – the stomach symptoms, or the diarrhea and constipation is worse, when deciding whether or not to eat a high-fiber diet.

Medical treatments are also another option that you can discuss with your physician especially for those of you with significant symptoms.

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Category: Diabetes Info

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As a type 1 diabetic, I made the switch to an organic lifestyle several years ago after being diagnosed with Diabetes in 2006. Living with diabetes is hard enough, why make it more difficult by consuming products with chemicals, toxins and other harmful, unhealthy ingredients. To me, the choice was easy and just made sense. We hope you enjoy our blog! Feel free to look around and check out all of our products by clicking through the tabs above! Thanks for stopping by and also please be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter by liking our pages below! You never know what freebies we will be giving away!! Don't forget to check out the website as well at

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