6 Causes and Symptoms for Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is the literal paralysis of the stomach, characterized by WebMD.com as a condition that inhibits the stomach from emptying properly. Gastroparesis affects stomach contractions, which move food from the stomach into the large intestine where digested food is emptied. If stomach contractions don’t work to empty the stomach properly, gastro-discomfort can occur (i.e., nausea, bloating, vomiting) and individuals can suffer nutritional deficiencies as a result.

Here are six common causes and symptoms that accompany gastroparesis…

1. Existing Medical Conditions

The most common causes linked to gastroparesis by MedicalNewsToday.com include existing health conditions, such as a viral infection, eating disorder, cancer with radiation and/or chemotherapy, and gastric surgery (or stomach surgery) that causes vagus nerve damage. Specific medications can also trigger gastroparesis (i.e., progesterone, lithium, antidepressants, clonidine, and calcium channel blockers). Use of nicotine, especially smoking over the long term is also common in gastroparesis patients.

Certain chronic diseases—such as uncontrolled diabetes, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease—have also been associated with the development of gastroparesis. Rare conditions that impact the functioning of connective tissues, blood vessels, skin, muscles, and internal organs (i.e., scleroderma and amyloidosis) have also been linked to causing digestive stomach issues.


2. Unknown Cases of Gastropaesis

WebMD.com notes that doctors often have issue pinpointing the exact cause of gastroparesis. Diagnosis with unknown cause is common and known as idiopathic gastroparesis by health professionals.

Even though the cause of idiopathic gastroparesis remains unknown, researchers the Mayo Clinic claim that women ranging from young to middle aged are at highest risk of developing idiopathic gastroparesis.

stomach ache

3. Reduced Appetite and Weight Loss

According to research from the American College of Gastroenterology, due to the hindering of normal digestion, gastroparesis patients often end up feeling very full after just a few bites of food which can lead to rapid weight loss.

With weight loss often comes malnutrition due the the improper digestion and the body not absorbing nutrients. Many gastroparesis patients, particularly those who also suffer with diabetes, have difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels.

Loss of Appetite

4. Nausea and Vomiting

Research from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that because the stomach doesn’t empty properly, the condition causes extreme feelings fullness after just a few bites of food, which can cause gastroesophageal reflux and vomiting back up undigested food.

This vomiting and nausea can last hours following meals. Nausea or vomiting can be worsened if meals consist of rich, fried, greasy, or fiberous (i.e., raw fruits and veggies) foods, as well as carbonated beverages.

nausea gas

5. Abdominal Pain and Bloating

MedicineNet.com points out that along with nausea and vomiting come symptoms of gas and bloating with gastroparesis. Considered primary symptoms, painful gas and bloating often result in uncomfortable abdominal distension.

Although it may sound strange, patients with people with gastroparesis and other conditions that cause delayed stomach emptying when it comes to solid food, often have the opposite reaction to ingested liquid—they empty them rapidly—in a fashion known as dumping syndrome (or abnormally rapid bowel evacuation). Dumping syndrome is often accompanied by painful abdominal bloating and diarrhea.


6. GERD and Heartburn

According to a 2009 report published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), gastroparesis-related GERD (or heartburn) is common due to the prolonged gastric retention of food that may cause acid reflux.

The NIH study explains that “because gastroparesis allows material to remain in the stomach, there is an increase in the gastroesophageal pressure gradient, gastric volume, and the volume of potential refluxate…[in addition] the prolonged exposure of material in the stomach can increase gastric acid secretion”.

heart burn

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