Gastroparesis and Diabetics
by Jenni J., http://www.fitnessandfreebies.com
What is it?
Gastroparesis is a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty
its contents. Gastroparesis is most often a complication of type 1
diabetes. At least 20 percent of people with type 1 diabetes develop
gastroparesis. It also occurs in people with type 2 diabetes, although
Gastroparesis happens when nerves to the stomach are damaged or stop
working. The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the
digestive tract. If the vagus nerve is damaged, the muscles of the stomach
and intestines do not work normally, and the movement of food is slowed or
Diabetes can damage the vagus nerve if blood glucose (sugar) levels remain
high over a long period of time. High blood glucose causes chemical
changes in nerves and damages the blood vessels that carry oxygen and
nutrients to the nerves.
Symptoms of gastroparesis are:
An early feeling of fullness when eating
These symptoms may be mild or severe, depending on the person
Complications of Gastroparesis
If food lingers too long in the stomach, it can cause problems like
bacterial overgrowth from the fermentation of food. Also, the food can
harden into solid masses called bezoars that may cause nausea, vomiting,
and obstruction in the stomach. Bezoars can be dangerous if they block the
passage of food into the small intestine.
Gastroparesis can make diabetes worse by adding to the difficulty of
controlling blood glucose. When food that has been delayed in the stomach
finally enters the small intestine and is absorbed, blood glucose levels
rise. Since gastroparesis makes stomach emptying unpredictable, a person's
blood glucose levels can be erratic and difficult to control.
Major Causes of Gastroparesis
Surgery on the stomach or vagus nerve.
Medications, particularly anticholinergics and narcotics (drugs that slow
contractions in the intestine).
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (rarely). Smooth muscle disorders such as
amyloidosis and scleroderma. Nervous system diseases, including abdominal
migraine and Parkinson's disease. Metabolic disorders, including
The primary treatment goal for gastroparesis related to diabetes is to
regain control of blood glucose levels. Treatments include insulin, oral
medications, changes in what and when you eat, and, in severe cases,
feeding tubes and intravenous feeding. It is important to note that in
most cases treatment does not cure gastroparesis--it is usually a chronic
condition. Treatment helps you manage the condition so that you can be as
healthy and comfortable as possible.
Meal and food changes
Changing your eating habits can help control gastroparesis. Your doctor or
dietitian will give you specific instructions, but you may be asked to eat
six small meals a day instead of three large ones. If less food enters the
stomach each time you eat, it may not become overly full. Or the doctor or
dietitian may suggest that you try several liquid meals a day until your
blood glucose levels are stable and the gastroparesis is corrected. Liquid
meals provide all the nutrients found in solid foods, but can pass through
the stomach more easily and quickly.
The doctor may also recommend that you avoid fatty and high-fiber foods.
Fat naturally slows digestion--a problem you do not need if you have
gastroparesis--and fiber is difficult to digest. Some high-fiber foods
like oranges and broccoli contain material that cannot be digested. Avoid
these foods because the indigestible part will remain in the stomach too
long and possibly form bezoars.