Gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, is a condition in which the stomach takes too long to empty its contents. It affects people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
A form of neuropathy (nerve damage), gastroparesis can result if blood glucose levels remain high over a long period of time. These high levels of blood glucose can damage the vagus nerve, which controls the movement of food through the digestive tract (from the stomach to the small intestine).
Signs and symptoms of gastroparesis
Depending on the individual, symptoms of gastroparesis may be mild to severe. The most common symptoms include:
• Feeling full after eating just a few bites
• Abdominal bloating
• Heartburn or acid reflux
• Changes in blood sugar levels
• Poor appetite
• Weight loss and malnutrition
Diabetes-related gastroparesis requires better management of blood glucose levels. Additionally, changes to diet and some medications can also help relieve this condition.
Dietary changes to relieve gastroparesis
Talk with your doctor to determine if any of the following dietary changes can help control your gastroparesis:
• Eat small meals and soft foods (well cooked).
• Choose low-fat foods for the most part. If you can tolerate them, add small servings of fatty foods.
• Avoid fibrous fruits and vegetables, such as oranges and broccoli. These foods can cause bezoars (food that hardens into a solid mass that can become trapped in the gastrointestinal system).
• Drink water with each meal.
• Try gentle exercise after a meal, such as walking.
Insulin for blood glucose control
Gastroparesis indicates that your body is absorbing food more slowly and at unpredictable times. One option that can help you better manage blood glucose is to take your insulin more often. You can also take insulin after you eat instead of before a meal. Also, try checking your blood glucose levels frequently after you eat. Be sure to administer insulin if necessary.
To control nausea and vomiting, try antiemetic medications, such as prochlorperazine (Compro), diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Unisom) and lorazepam (Ativan).
In addition, some medications can help stimulate stomach muscles. These include metoclopramide (Reglan) and erythromycin.
Complications of gastroparesis
Persistent nausea and vomiting can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and, potentially, to malnutrition. People with diabetes can experience serious complications from poor blood sugar control.
If you think you might be suffering from gastroparesis, talk with your doctor about your treatment options and how to better control your blood sugar.