In the United States, it is estimated over 1.5 million individuals have gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying. Approximately 100,000 patients have severe symptoms. Gastroparesis is characterized by food moving abnormally slow through the stomach, which can result in chronic, severe vomiting, fullness, abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, and early satiety. Since eating can be very uncomfortable, patients may purposely reduce their food intake to find relief from symptoms, which could result in malnutrition.
Other possible complications include severe dehydration, worsening of diabetes, and food becoming hard masses, resulting in vomiting, nausea, and stomach obstruction. This condition is incurable, but there are treatment options to help alleviate the symptoms to help patients live more comfortably.
Changes To Diet
One of the first and most important treatments for this condition is changes to diet. In many cases, the right dietary changes are enough to help keep the patient's symptoms under control. General recommendations include eating more often, but making meals smaller, avoiding carbonated drinks, considering liquid foods when solid foods are especially irritating, and reducing dietary fat and fiber intake. Vegetables and fruits should be cooked very well or ran through a juicer when possible. This allows patients to get critical nutrients but reduces fiber, so these foods are easier to digest.
Every day, drink one to one and a half liters of water to reduce the risk of dehydration. After eating, gentle exercise is often beneficial to encourage digestion, and it is also important patients do not lie down for approximately two hours after they finish eating. Lastly, doctors might recommend a high-quality multivitamin to reduce malnutrition risk. Doctors often recommend patients work with a nutritionist or dietitian for the dietary changes.