Diabetic Gastroparesis Information and Symptoms

Gastroparesis is one of the possible complications of type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Know the signs and what you can do to ease the symptoms of this condition.

Gastroparesis is a condition in which the muscles in your stomach, which normally work together to propel food down through the digestive tract, function improperly or not at all. The lack of movement of food from the stomach into the intestines may cause a number of problems, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Poor appetite
  • Burping, heartburn or reflux
  • Early satiety (feeling full despite not eating as much as your body needs)
  • Bloating (which may be caused by excess food remaining in the stomach or by the disruption of stomach bacteria due to fermentation of lingering food)
  • Bezoars, or food that remains in the stomach too long and becomes hardened
  • Malnutrition due to inadequate delivery of nutrients to the body
  • Problems with blood sugar regulation
  • Unintended weight loss

What’s the connection between diabetes and gastroparesis? Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to nerve damage, specifically, damage to the vagus nerve, which orchestrates the complex movements and signals of the digestive tract. The result: Food can remain in the stomach too long, rather than moving into the intestine to be digested.

Although there is no cure for gastroparesis, there are things you can do to help manage the condition. First and foremost, work to get your blood sugar under control and reduce the risk for diabetes complications. Treatment consisting of dietary changes and medication to minimize nausea or stimulate the stomach muscles may help. In addition, the following changes to how you eat may be helpful in controlling your symptoms:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals, which may help you avoid feeling nauseated or overfull.
  • Choose lower fiber forms of vegetables and fruits, as fiber tends to slow digestion and may contribute to bezoars. Also, avoid raw vegetables and raw or dried fruits; choose well-cooked or pureed options instead.
  • Put lower fat foods on the menu because fat also slows digestion. Also, avoid fried and greasy foods and opt for lower-fat dairy and protein choices. If you can tolerate it, you can try adding small amounts of higher-fat foods to your diet over time.
  • Consider a liquid diet, consisting of soups, pureed foods, vegetable juices and high-protein smoothies. This may be the best option for people who find liquids are more easily tolerated.
  • Drink water throughout meals, if you can. It may help to move food through the digestive tract.
  • Avoid lying down after eating and even consider a light walk after meals to aid in digestion.

Check out these 10 tips for managing diabetes.