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      GI Disorder Spotlight: Gastroparesis

      Gastroparesis is a common yet often undiagnosed condition that involves delayed emptying of the stomach. It can be challenging to treat and frustrating for patients with ongoing symptoms.

      When the stomach is working properly, it contracts and churns, helping to grind up the food we eat. It then squeezes the digested food into the small intestine, where it is digested further and absorbed.

      The average stomach empties completely after about 90 to 120 minutes. With gastroparesis, the stomach doesn’t contract properly, delaying emptying of the stomach and making digestion more difficult for people. Because the digestive system has more nerves connecting it than most other parts of the body, gastroparesis can often occur in people with diabetes who also have long-standing nerve damage, or neuropathy. Its cause can also be idiopathic, meaning the reason for its occurrence is unknown. It can be seen in patients who have had a viral illness or food poisoning. But even after symptoms have improved, slow emptying of the stomach can persist.

      People with gastroparesis report feeling full after only a few bites of food, as well as bloating, excessive belching and nausea. At times, they may feel a nagging ache in the upper abdomen, though the ache is not sharp or crampy like with an ulcer or gallbladder attack. Nausea may be followed by vomiting, frequent heartburn and a sulfur-like smell from undigested food sitting in the stomach.

      Treatment for gastroparesis frequently starts with addressing an underlying disorder, such as diabetes. That may include working to control a person’s blood sugar or monitoring the thyroid. Certain foods that are high in fat and high-fiber foods that delay stomach emptying may need to be avoided.

      There are also medications and other treatments that help improve the symptoms of gastroparesis. The physicians at Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (RGA) frequently review new research regarding digestive disorders such as gastroparesis to pursue the best approaches to care for our patients. If any of these symptoms seem familiar, call us at 815-397-7340 to schedule an appointment.

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