Gastroparesis, which is sometimes also known as delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder that slows down the movement of food ingested from the stomach to the small intestine. One-third of diabetics suffer from diabetic gastroparesis wherein uncontrolled sugar levels are the main cause behind the disease. It’s caused by damage or injury to the vagus nerve, which controls muscle contractions in the stomach causing food to break down and move through the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. The result – sluggish, delayed, impaired, or restricted movement of food from the stomach to small intestines.
Diabetic gastroparesis is more common in patients with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. High blood glucose causes chemical changes in nerves and damages the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the nerves. Like with all kinds of diabetic neuropathy, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the vagus nerve that controls the contraction of stomach muscles.
The bad news – gastroparesis can worsen diabetes as it gets harder to manage blood glucose levels. When there is a delay in the emptying of the stomach, blood glucose levels tend to spike up.
Gastroparesis symptoms in most patients show either a pattern of cycling with flare-ups, or daily occurrences persisting for years. The most common symptoms of gastroparesis are:
Symptoms may range from mild or severe, depending on the extent of damage to the vagus nerve. Symptoms can worsen after eating oily and greasy foods, consuming large quantities of fiber-rich foods like raw fruits and vegetables, or drinking carbonated beverages.
Before we can discuss diabetic gastroparesis treatment, let’s take a look at a few tests used to diagnose diabetic gastroparesis. Most commonly used gastric emptying tests try to identify blockage or structural problems in the GI tract, while some could identify a nutritional disorder or underlying disease.
An endoscope is fed down the esophagus and into the stomach and duodenum. The tiny camera mounted on the endoscope helps identify blockage or mass of undigested food.
The patient is given a barium solution to drink, which makes signs of gastroparesis show up more clearly using X-ray. Gastroparesis is likely if the x ray shows food in the stomach after fasting.
Ultrasound is used to study the GI tract so your doctor can rule out gallbladder disease and pancreatitis as the cause for your digestive distress.
Patient is asked to eat a bland meal containing a small amount of radioactive material. An external camera is then used to scan the abdomen to see where the radioactive material is located every hour for four hours to measure the rate of gastric emptying. If more than 10 percent of the meal is still in the stomach at 4 hours, the diagnosis of gastroparesis is confirmed.
This is a small electronic device in capsule form which is swallowed. As it moves through the entire digestive tract, it sends and records information to a receiver worn by the patient. Thus, it gives a detailed record of the rate at which food travels through each part of the digestive tract.
The patient is given a special test meal containing a special type of carbon. Then, breath samples taken over a period of several hours help measure the rate of gastric emptying.
Hypothyroidism is often an ignored cause of poor stomach motility, so ask your doctor for a test to measure the right things – FT, FT4 and take action if needed to improve under-active thyroid function. Your doctor may also order laboratory tests to check blood counts and to measure chemical and electrolyte levels.
Stomach or Small Intestine Biopsy: A small sample of tissue is taken from the stomach or small intestine to confirm the diagnosis of gastroparesis.
There is no cure for gastroparesis, which is why diabetic gastroparesis treatment focuses on how to better manage this condition and its symptoms. Making strategic changes to eating habits can sometimes help control the severity of gastroparesis symptoms. Here are a few simple tips that go a long way towards improving gastroparesis symptoms.
Controlling your blood sugar is the key for treating diabetic gastroparesis. Discuss a better insulin therapy routine with your doctor and make sure to check your sugar levels more often. The idea is to manage your blood glucose levels as well as possible.
You must be thinking — why haven’t we listed out a bunch of allopathy medicines as the best diabetic gastroparesis treatment? Most doctors rely on conventional prescription medications to treat gastroparesis. Commonly, a combination of Metoclopramide (Reglan) and Erythromycin is prescribed. However, allopathic meds only provide symptomatic relief.
While allopathic medicines can provide relief from symptoms, the real cause behind diabetic gastroparesis is often damage to vagus nerve caused by high blood sugar. This is why; we highly recommend early intervention to protect the vagus nerve. In case a patient is diagnosed with gastroparesis, there are several holistic diabetic gastroparesis treatment ideas that can offer relief, without the unwarranted side-effects that often accompany allopathic medication. There are many ways to naturally stimulate the vagus nerve. Stimulating the vagus nerve increases the release of histamine in stomach cells, which helps with the release of stomach acid. Try:
While diabetic gastroparesis treatment may vary from patient to patient, depending on the degree or severity of symptoms, adding a few supplements to your diet will show definite improvements. Given that diabetic gastroparesis is an affliction that affects digestion, your doctor may advise you to change your diet to help reduce symptoms. Be aware that a diet which comes with limitations and restrictions, thanks to gastroparesis, may lead to crucial vitamins and minerals deficiencies. Avoiding certain food groups can lead to lack of nutrients, while at the same time inefficient digestion results in the nutrient loss.
Also, conventional treatment of diabetic gastroparesis involves the use of antibiotics, which can aggravate further health problems as these cannot differentiate between good and bad bacteria, wiping out gut-healthy bacteria that are crucial for digestion and absorption of food. Some of the side effects of erythromycin include antibiotic-resistance, neurological impairment, liver problems, skin rashes, hives, vertigo, pancreatitis, and even hallucinations.
If you have gastroparesis, your food is being absorbed more slowly and at unpredictable times. To better manage blood glucose, you may need to try the following:
Add gut-healing foods to your diabetic gastroparesis diet. Bone Broth is very nutritious and healing for your gut, as it contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, glucosamine, chondroitin, and glycine to ease digestion and soothe inflammation. We also recommend a diet rich in Lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, black garlic, and kefir.
Start slowly and experiment until you get a combination that works best for you and your own individual needs. These natural treatments can improve your digestion and return you your healthier self.