In response to last week’s article How Worried Should You Be About Your Underweight Child, Cara shared her struggle with her son’s slow growth and weight gain due to gastroparesis. In her comment, she explained that it means delayed gastric emptying which keeps her son’s stomach full so he never feels hungry. This obviously leads to malnutrition and poor weight gain.
I did some research on this topic because I did not know anything about it. In this article I want to share a few facts and links to several good resources with you:
- Gastroparesis results from damage to the vagus nerve which controls the movement of food from stomach to the intestines.
- Typically, this condition is seen in people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. However, there are many cases where the exact cause is not known. Cara’s son, unfortunately, happens to be in this situation where the cause cannot be determined even after extensive medical tests.
- Gastroparesis can also be caused by surgery in the stomach area, viral infections, several medications, bulimia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), nervous system diseases and metabolic disorders.
- It can be acute or chronic. Symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, pain in the abdomen, irregular blood glucose levels, lack of appetite, feeling of fullness and reflux. Lately, there is a recognition that the diagnosis of gastroparesis be reserved for patients where it is prolonged and grossly delayed. Symptoms in many cases are modest and temporary.
- New techniques for evaluation of symptoms are now available, including the SmartPill GI Monitoring System. Medications are also available – talk to your doctor if you are concerned about these symptoms.
- Other treatment options include dietary changes in terms of amount, frequency and type of food. Avoiding high fat and high fiber foods may help. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before making any changes.
- In extreme, and very unfortunate, situations a feeding tube may need to be used. The feeding tube bypasses the stomach to deliver nutrients and medications directly to the small intestine. In some other cases, liquid nutrients may need to be directly injected into blood bypassing the digestive system entirely.
Here are a few good links for further reading:
Gastroparesis – a 6-page primer from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Living with diabetes and gastroparesis – American Diabetes Association
gastroparesis-prevalence – article from Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology (warning: very technical!)
Overview and treatment options at the Mayo Clinic
Resource page on Cara’s blog
Please feel free to share your own experience if you or someone else in your family and friends is facing this unfortunate situation.