Do you belch a lot? This might be why.

Do you belch a lot? This might be why.

You’ve probably had intestinal woes at one time or another, but certain persistent symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, and may be a sign of gastroparesis.

What’s gastroparesis?

Also called stomach paralysis or delayed gastric emptying, gastroparesis is a condition where the movement of food through your stomach slows down or stops, and your stomach doesn’t empty like it should. Normally, the muscles in your stomach wall contract to break down and move food through to the small intestine within about four hours, but when these muscles aren’t working well, the food stays in the stomach longer.

The signs you might have gastroparesis may be mild or severe, and can include:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting after eating, or vomiting undigested food eaten a few hours earlier
  • Feeling full after just a few bites or long after eating
  • Excessive belching
  • Abdominal bloating or pain
  • Heartburn or acid reflux

“If you have symptoms, it’s important to talk with your doctor and get checked,” says Dr. Yuchen Wang, a gastroenterologist at Aurora Health Care. “Not only can it disrupt your day-to-day life and the joy of eating, gastroparesis can cause other serious health problems, such as dehydration and malnutrition, as well as affect your blood sugar levels.”

Although gastroparesis is not common, the symptoms are, with about 25% of adults having one or more. Doctors aren’t sure what causes the condition, but it occurs more often in women than men. It’s also more likely if you have diabetes, had a viral infection, or surgery on your esophagus, stomach or small intestine, which can affect the nerve that controls the stomach muscles. And if you have gastroparesis, certain medications can make the symptoms really crank up.

While gastroparesis can’t be cured, it can be managed. That begins with finding and treating the underlying cause, such as diabetes. Watching what you eat can also help ease the symptoms and ensure you get the proper nutrition – and improve your quality of life.

Dr. Wang shares these tips:
  • Instead of eating two or three larger meals, spread the food out over five or six smaller meals or snacks throughout the day.
  • Choose low-fiber, low-fat, low residual foods.
  • Cook your veggies and fruits very well until they’re soft, instead of eating them raw, to avoid insoluble fiber.
  • Thoroughly chew your food.
  • Stay away from carbonated beverages and alcohol.
  • Take a short walk after eating; avoid lying down after a meal.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Consider talking with a dietitian to find the nutritional foods you can more easily digest.

Looking for a primary care physician or specialist? Find one that’s right for you in Illinois or Wisconsin.   

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for info on what foods to avoid when one has symptoms of gastrolpariss.

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About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.