Gastroparesis is a condition that can degrade the effectiveness of the nerves and muscles in your stomach, thus inhibiting the normal digestive process. Typically, there will be strong muscular contractions that serve to advance food on its way through the digestive tract and on into the lower intestine. In Hernando and elsewhere, someone troubled with gastroparesis lacks these strong stomach muscle contractions, so food tends to sit in a certain area and does not get eliminated as it should. Because gastroparesis interferes with the normal digestive process, a person afflicted by it may have frequent bouts of nausea or vomiting, as well as abdominal pain. The disease can also wreak havoc with blood sugar levels and your normal nutrition. Senior home care professionals can help suffering patients by encouraging dietary changes, or by ensuring that the senior patient takes their prescribed medications. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the causes, symptoms, and treatments available for individuals suffering from gastroparesis.
Causes of gastroparesis
It can be very difficult to pin down exactly what causes a situation that leads to gastroparesis, but one of the main causes occurs when the vagus nerve in the stomach becomes damaged somehow. This nerve runs the entire length of the stomach and helps to stimulate the contractions that take place to move food along and continue the digestive process. The vagus nerve also signals muscles in your stomach to make these contractions and push processed food toward the small intestine.
When this nerve becomes damaged, it can’t send those signals to the stomach muscles, so food tends to sit in place. The vagus nerve and many of its supporting tributary nerves can be damaged by diseases like diabetes. It’s also possible for the vagus nerve to be damaged whenever you have stomach surgery or small intestine surgery since this is a very delicate nerve that can easily be disrupted by external factors.
Symptoms of gastroparesis
There are quite a few symptoms associated with gastroparesis, most of which could easily be misinterpreted as being standalone symptoms or symptoms associated with some other disease. However, when you have a number of these symptoms at the same time, it becomes more likely that gastroparesis is the culprit, especially if you notice that your bowels have not been eliminating food according to your normal schedule. Some of the most obvious symptoms of gastroparesis are nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, weight loss and malnutrition, and quite often severe abdominal pain.
Many people suffering from gastroparesis have a feeling of fullness after eating very little because their system is still full of undigested food. Some of the vomiting that a gastroparesis victim might exhibit is often attributable to undigested food being expelled by a different method. Because food tends to sit in your system for quite a while, it’s very possible to have acid reflux and abdominal bloating quite frequently. Many people who are bothered by gastroparesis also have significant changes in the level of their blood sugar, and steps have to be taken to manage the change in blood sugar levels.
There are several treatments available to patients suffering from gastroparesis, and many of them don’t involve any major effort on the part of the patient. For instance, one of the best things you can do to handle gastroparesis is to make certain dietary changes that will improve the digestive functionality of your system. It’s important that adequate nutrition is maintained, but it’s entirely possible that gastroparesis can be completely managed by eating foods that stimulate good digestion and avoiding those which tend to bog it down. Dietary changes could involve eating smaller meals more often, eating cooked fruits and vegetables, eating low-fat foods, and getting regular exercise, especially after eating. Exercise can help stimulate the digestive process, and when coupled with drinking lots of water every day, this will have a wonderful effect on the digestive system.
Another method of treating gastroparesis is the one that most people turn to more than anything else, and that’s using specific types of medication. There are medications available which do stimulate the stomach muscles to jumpstart the digestive process and get things back on a normal basis. Some of the medications most often prescribed to deal with gastroparesis include erythromycin and metoclopramide. A newer and more experimental drug called domperidone is now also available and has demonstrated some level of effectiveness in treating gastroparesis. A patient troubled by nausea and vomiting might need to take diphenhydramine or ondansetron, and for extreme cases, prochlorperazine is also a very effective medication.
In situations where dietary change and medication don’t relieve your symptoms, it may be necessary to adopt a surgical solution to the problem. This, of course, would have to be discussed with your doctor, and in the meantime, it may be necessary to have a feeding tube placed in your small intestine. This will help relieve pressure from gastric contents internally and can reduce much of the discomfort felt by the patient. A gastric bypass kind of surgery is also possible, but this is reserved for extreme cases where some part of the stomach is just not functioning at all anymore and needs to be removed from the digestive system.