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Mar

28

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.
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