Health

Fact File: Gastroparesis

Feeling bloated or nauseas after meals?
Getty Images

A diabetes-related complication called gastroparesis could be the culprit.

WHAT IS IT?

Gastroparesis is a condition where the muscles of the stomach and intestines don’t work properly. It can occur when the vagus nerve – which controls the emptying of the stomach – is damaged and takes longer to empty food from the stomach, or stops working altogether.

ARE YOU AT RISK?

‘Gastroparesis affects more women than men and diabetes is the most common cause,’ says Diabetic Living dietitian Dr Kate Marsh. ‘While it occurs more frequently in people with type 1, it can also develop in those with type 2. High blood glucose levels blood glucose over a long period can damage the vagus nerve and increase your risk.’

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

Common symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and bloating, a feeling of fullness before you’ve finished eating, weight loss and fluctuating BGLs.

Diagnosis is made via blood tests, medical history, physical examination and tests to see how fast your stomach empties.

HOW TO EASE THE PAIN 

Dr Marsh says there is no cure for gastroparesis, but these steps can bring relief:

1. Eat small, regular meals and chew them well.

2. Cut back on high-fibre foods.

3. Limit fat intake.

4. Stand or walk after eating to help your stomach empty.

5. Speak with your doctor about medications that help with stomach emptying and/or nausea and vomiting.

6. If symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend surgery to implant a device that stimulates the stomach muscles to contract.

Related stories