What is gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a condition in which the stomach muscles do not work effectively, leading to a delay in emptying the stomach.
Some common risk factors for gastroparesis include:
Treatment for cancer
Bulimia or anorexia
Medications such as analgesics, medications for high blood pressure, antacids, antidepressants, lithium, etc.
Gastroparesis can also manifest itself after a viral illness such as mononucleosis or influenza.
What causes gastroparesis?
The functioning of the vagus nerve and peristalsis is essential for the correct operations of the digestive tract. Any damage or malfunction can cause gastroparesis.
The vagus nerve is considered to be the most essential nerve in the body. This is due to the fact that it extends from the brainstem to the colon. The whole digestive system is very complicated, and it is the vagus nerve that helps coordinate the signals between the brain and the digestive system. Gastroparesis occurs when the vagus nerve is damaged.
The vagus nerve also controls the process of peristalsis, which is the contraction of the smooth muscles of the stomach. Peristaltic waves are responsible for the contractions in your stomach. When such contractions stop or do not occur enough, food can not move from your stomach to the area of the duodenum, and this condition is known as gastroparesis.
The connection between fibromyalgia and gastroparesis.
Patients with fibromyalgia are highly susceptible to gastric problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or gluten sensitivity. Although there is no scientific evidence to demonstrate the connection between gastroparesis and fibromyalgia, physicians have found an increasing trend in patients with fibromyalgia who test positive for gastroparesis. One theory suggests that fibromyalgia affects the nervous system, which can cause the vagus nerve to malfunction, leading to gastroparesis. Another theory suggests that the use of pain medications for fibromyalgia may also increase the risk of gastroparesis.
Research on this topic continues and we hope to soon understand the link between fibromyalgia and gastroparesis.
How to treat gastroparesis?
There are medications available to stimulate stomach contractions. Consult your doctor if you wish to try this option. However, here are other natural ways to control less severe gastroparesis:
Instead of the 3 conventional large meals, go to 6 small meals at closer intervals
Avoid eating raw foods such as salads. Opt for steamed or sautéed vegetables.
Have smoothies or mixed juices that require less digestion and can be easily absorbed. Mixed soups or mashed potatoes are also good choices.
Avoid unhealthy saturated fats or trans fats that require more work to be digested. Stop eating heavy fried and fatty meats. However, a small portion of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil or avocado can be beneficial if you can tolerate them.
Ginger tea can help with digestion.
Avoid carbonated drinks.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid the cold when possible.
A walk after a meal can help with digestion as well.
For severe cases of gastroparesis with significant weight loss, frequent hospital visits or stomach discomfort, even a liquid diet regardless of medical help, is considered artificial nutrition.