Gastroparesis is a digestive disorder that affects the stomach. This disorder is characterized by the stomach’s inability to contract as needed to process ingested foods, which often leads to symptoms of nausea, heartburn, a sensation of extreme fullness after eating very little, and epigastric pain.
After being diagnosed with gastroparesis by Dr. Kolachalam, many of our patients have questions regarding their condition, such as life-long management and whether they may need gastroparesis surgery. For this reason, Dr. Kolachalam has provided insight into some of the most frequently asked questions they receive about gastroparesis.
Will Gastroparesis Get Worse Over Time?
There is no guarantee as to how an individual will react to ongoing symptoms of gastroparesis or methods used to treat this disorder. A large number of patients will notice that their symptoms improve over time, though it is also possible for gastroparesis to progress into a worsened state. If this is the case, more comprehensive treatments such as the implementation of a feeding tube may need to be considered to ensure that the patient is able to obtain and process vital nutrients.
Is It Normal to Have Anxiety About Eating?
Yes! Many individuals with gastroparesis will become worried and anxious over mealtimes either on their own or especially around others. If these worries begin to cause large amounts of stress, it may begin to make symptoms worse, which is why patients should seek counseling for their concerns regarding gastroparesis as soon as they are aware that it is a recurring issue.
It can be difficult for family and friends to completely understand gastroparesis. Many people with this condition will bring their own dish to a communal meal, or simply eat beforehand on their own to avoid accidentally consuming a triggering food that will disrupt their digestive tract. If you feel uneasy while everyone else is eating and you are not, try to distract yourself by engaging other people in polite conversation or helping the host of the event with whatever they might need.
What Is a Bezoar?
A bezoar is a hardened lump of undigested food that can form in the stomach when the contents of the stomach are not moving quickly enough (low motility). This mass of food can be dangerous, as it has the potential to grow large enough to block the outlet of the stomach and cause symptoms of extreme fullness or even vomiting.
While bezoars are somewhat common among those with gastroparesis, it is not absolutely true that everyone diagnosed with this disorder will experience problems with one or multiple bezoars. Avoiding certain foods can help, as particular substances like corn, berries, and potato peels are known to cause bezoars.
Is Gastroparesis Hereditary?
This particular question can be a bit tricky, as gastroparesis is not explicitly hereditary, though hereditary medical conditions are known to cause gastroparesis. For example, diabetes is one such common cause of gastroparesis and is also commonly passed from parents to their offspring. It is important for individuals with a family history of gastroparesis and other related medical conditions to be aware of their own health, as this history can significantly impact their health risks.
How Can Diet Improve/Worsen Symptoms of Gastroparesis?
Nutrition is incredibly important for those diagnosed with gastroparesis because certain foods can promote healthy motility of the stomach and small intestine while others can severely hinder these functions. Foods to avoid primarily include those that take a longer time to digest, which include those that have a high fat or fiber content, such as:
- Raw vegetables
- Brussel sprouts
Additional dietary tips should include avoiding red meat, seeds and skins from fruit or vegetables, and heavy meals. Instead, patients should aim to consume 5-6 small meals each day that often include supplemental liquids like Ensure or Carnation Instant Breakfast so that individuals are able to absorb all the nutrients their body needs in a given day. Make sure that all solid foods are thoroughly cooked until softened as well.
What Medications Can Be Used to Treat Gastroparesis?
Some of the most common medications prescribed by Dr. Kolachalam to improve symptoms of gastroparesis are:
- Domperidone: A medication that targets dopamine receptors in the stomach and intestine to better translate signals and stimulations to and from the brain to improve needed contractions of these organs. This particular substance is heavily regulated by the FDA, and so an investigational new drug application (IND) will need to be completed by the patient and Dr. Kolachalam prior to obtaining domperidone.
- Metoclopramide: Similar to domperidone, this substance also acts on the patient’s dopamine receptors to improve mobility of the stomach and small intestine. Side effects such as agitation and muscle twitching (tardive dyskinesia) are fairly common, so this solution may not be suitable for every patient depending on how their body responds.
- Erythromycin: This medication is ideal for those who experience sudden, acute worsening of gastroparesis since long-term use typically results in a resistance to erythromycin. As with domperidone and metoclopramide, this substance is designed to stimulate muscle contractions of the stomach. Erythromycin is unique in that it causes these contractions by targeting motilin receptors in the stomach rather than the previously discussed dopamine receptors.
- Cisapride: It is also possible to promote smooth muscle contractions of the stomach by taking cisapride, which targets serotonin receptors that reside in the walls of the stomach. Use of cisapride is restricted as it has been associated with serious side effects that are particularly harmful to patients with kidney or heart disease.
Schedule an Appointment
For more information on these various medications or other treatment options for gastroparesis, please contact Dr. Kolachalam today to set up a consultation with one of our specialists. New patients may request an appointment by calling (248) 662-4272, or by filling out our online form.