Gastroparesis is an involuntary condition which affects the spontaneous movement of your lower gastrointestinal muscles (muscle activity). In normal conditions, gastric muscle contractions push food through your gastrointestinal tract. However, if you suffer from gastroparesis or even just occasional heartburn, then the motility of your lower gastrointestinal tract is impaired or does not function as it should, preventing the stomach from fully emptying itself.
Gastric emptying can be described as a continuous process by which the stomach empties all of its contents, from the stomach into the small intestine. The small intestine has a high content of mucous secreted and functions as the part of your body which absorbs nutrients from the foods you eat. Muscular contractions occur in the stomach when the food enters the intestine. The process of gastric emptying may take anywhere from one to five minutes depending on your specific condition.
Gastroparesis can result from a variety of different causes. One of the most common is known as Helicobacter pylori, which is a bacterium present in the stomach of most people. People with Helicobacter pylori can be diagnosed with Gastroparesis. Another cause of gastroparesis which is more uncommon is known as Helicobacter chelitis. This is a chronic disease that occurs when there is an inflammation of your lower gastrointestinal tract, specifically the lower part of the esophagus.
Some patients may also have problems with their stomach's muscles. These include a herniated or bulging stomach, or even pain or pressure in your chest or abdominal region.
There are two main types of gastroparesis – gastric reflux and peptic ulcers. When this occurs, the stomach is not able to empty correctly, causing the stomach contents to back up into the esophagus or the stomach, causing the pain or irritation of these parts.
Gastric Reflux is the result of acid reflux in the stomach; the contents of the stomach back up the esophagus to the mouth or to the throat. Peptic Ulcers are caused by an infection in the upper part of the stomach or the esophagus. If the esophagus is infected, it can become inflamed and the lining ruptures.
Symptoms of gastroparesis are varied but generally include pain in the chest, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food and vomiting
Sometimes the symptoms also include cramps, nausea and abdominal bloating.
Treatment options for gastroparesis vary depending on the cause of the condition. If the causes of gastroparesis are gastric reflux or Helicobacter pylori infection, medications that can be prescribed include anti-reflux medication and antacids. If the cause of gastroparesis is Helicobacter chelitis, then more severe treatment may be required including surgery.
Other treatments for gastroparesis include the use of natural remedies, diet changes and surgery. Natural remedies may include antacids and digestive enzymes. Diet changes may include adding more vegetables to your daily diet, reducing sodium in your diet, increasing exercise and decreasing alcohol intake.
Surgical treatment can include gastric surgery, or gastric bypass. A gastric bypass involves narrowing the stomach by using a band that is inserted in one of the small holes in the stomach. In this procedure, the small hole will be covered with a slim line plastic, allowing the stomach to expand slightly.
Surgical treatment can also involve Roux-en-Y gastric surgery. This surgery involves a small opening being made in the upper part of the stomach so that the stomach can expand.
Surgical treatment of gastroparesis can help many patients to get better faster and more effective. However, these are often very expensive procedures that require follow up visits and recovery time.
The longer the symptoms last, the harder it is to treat. To reduce the pain and inconvenience of symptoms, many people find it helpful to see a doctor.