The month of August is devoted to raising awareness about gastroparesis – a misunderstood condition that can have a devastating effect on your quality of life.
The word ‘gastroparesis’ is derived from the Greek terms ‘gastro’ meaning stomach and ‘paresis’ meaning paralysis. The movement of food through your stomach starts slowing down and could eventually stop altogether. You start feeling full and bloated even though you have hardly eaten anything. Forcing yourself to eat can cause stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
Damage to the vagus nerve that causes the powerful muscles of the stomach wall to contract and help in the digestion of food is thought to be a primary cause for this condition. You may be at a higher risk for developing gastroparesis if you have the following conditions:
- Uncontrolled Diabetes: High blood glucose levels can change the chemicalcomposition of nerves and impair their function.
- Eating Disorders: Conditions such as bulimia and anorexia can have a detrimentaleffect on the gastrointestinal system and may contribute to the development of gastroparesis.
- Abdominal Surgery: Any type of gastric surgery that can potentially cause damageto the vagus nerve increases your risk.
- Medications: Certain medications such as some antidepressants and narcotics havebeen known to adversely affect gastric motility.
- Scleroderma: A connective tissue disorder that causes decreased blood supply tothe nerves and weakens the stomach muscles.
- Parkinson’s Disease: A chronic degenerative disorder of the nervous system.
- Hypothyroidism: An endocrine disorder that has been linked to the development of
- Infections: Patients may occasionally develop gastroparesis after a bout of flu or viral
Symptoms of gastroparesis can be quite scary. However, working with a gastroenterologist, a nutritionist, and a healthcare team will help improve gastric motility while keeping you well nourished. If you have been experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms, you should to talk to your doctor about being tested for gastroparesis.