What Your Bloated Stomach Could Be Telling You

If you have noticed recent stomach issues, such as nausea, reduced appetite, and abdominal pain, then you might be dealing with gastroparesis. The word ‘gastro’ means stomach, and the word ‘paresis’ defines as partial paralysis. Gastroparesis, also identified as “digestive tract paralysis,” occurs when the food that reaches your stomach does not move into the intestine as quickly as it should. It is delayed, due to the stomach muscles slowing down or not working correctly. About 4% of the population deals with gastroparesis, and the majority also have diabetes. This paralysis is more common among women. If it is not diagnosed in time, it can lead to some major complications such as dehydration and malnutrition. Being aware of the causes and symptoms can help you catch the condition early on, and effectively treat it.

Man in a gray sweater holding his stomach due to gastroparesis.
Gastroparesis is more common among women, and can lead to major complications if gone untreated.

Causes

The cause for gastroparesis is not known in most cases, but in some, it can be linked to other medical conditions. Diabetes type 1, or type 2, are the most common causes of gastroparesis. High levels of glucose can cause changes to the vagus nerve. This nerve connects the brain to the body, carrying sensory information from the internal organs back to the brain, and helps control several muscles. Damage to the vagus nerve can occur from many things such as eating disorders, an opioid medication, and antidepressants. Lupus and bariatric surgery are also linked to the condition due to the damage they cause to the vagus nerve.

Symptoms

Gastroparesis can cause malnutrition and dehydration if overlooked. For people with diabetes and the condition, it can be hard to control their blood sugar levels due to sudden sugar spikes when food passes into the small intestine. In order to avoid complications, some gastroparesis symptoms to look for include:

  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Irregular blood sugar levels

Tips To Ease Symptoms

Dietary changes can help ease some symptoms of gastroparesis. In order to help with digestion so food moves into

eggs benedict on a plate with some leafy greens.
A healthy diet can aid with gastroparesis issues, and will make it easier for your stomach to digest.

the digestive tract easier, there are a couple of things you can try. Eating smaller meals can help the stomach empty quicker. Chewing your food more, and breaking it down, will make it easier for your stomach to digest. Drink liquids in between meals, and take a multivitamin. After you eat, get up and move. Moving around will help your stomach digest easier than when lying down. Lastly, eat a healthy diet consisting of fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, and dairy. Avoid fatty foods, junk food, alcohol, and fiber-filled foods such as apples, oranges, broccoli, cabbage, nuts, seeds, and beans. 

Medications & Surgery

If dietary changes do not work, the next step is medication. Your doctor may prescribe you with medication that enhances stomach emptying and reducing nausea. Avoid taking narcotics, antacids containing aluminum, and anticholinergic agents because these will slow down stomach emptying. 

If your case is severe, then surgery is the last step. Gastric electrical stimulation can be done, in which a device is implanted in the stomach to stimulate the muscles. The other option is a feeding tube, or gastric venting tube to relieve pressure. There has been a more holistic route that people take to help with their digestive tract paralysis. This route is acupuncture, and some have said that this traditional Chinese medicine can help with the flow of pressure points that are clogged. 

Gastroparesis is a chronic condition, but if it is managed, then the person can live a normal life. Diet changes and exercise after meals will significantly help with the management of gastroparesis. Noticing the signs early on can change the outlook for people living with the condition, especially if you have diabetes. Listen to your body, and go to the doctor if you feel like something is not right.

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