Gastroparesis (also known as delayed gastric emptying) is a disorder in which the muscles in the stomach don't function properly. The stomach takes longer than normal to move the food into the small intestine.
What Happens with Gastroparesis?Under normal conditions, the muscles in the stomach contract to help move food through the stomach and into the small intestine. With gastroparesis, the nerve that controls the contractions of the stomach (known as the vagus nerve) has been damaged, causing the stomach to either contract poorly or not contract at all. This slows down the stomach's ability to empty and also interferes with digestion.
Possible Complications of GastroparesisBacterial overgrowth: If food moves through the stomach too slowly, fermentation can take place, leading to bacterial growth.
Food remaining in stomach too long: If food stays in the stomach too long, it could harden into a solid mass called a bezoar. These bezoars may cause nausea and vomiting. In worse cases, bezoars can cause a blockage, which could prevent food from passing from the stomach into the small intestine.
Blood glucose problems in diabetics: Gastroparesis can worsen diabetes by making it more difficult to keep blood glucose levels under control. When food stays in the stomach longer, blood glucose levels can rise. The effects of gastroparesis can be unpredictable, so a patient's blood glucose levels can be unpredictable, and more difficult to control.
Malnutrition: Gastroparesis can affect the digestive system's ability to absorb nutrients. When the body can't properly absorb nutrients, it may lead to malnutrition and weight loss.
There is no cure for gastroparesis, and physicians will usually recommend dietary changes to help patients deal with symptoms.
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