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Gastroparesis is a GI condition that prevents the stomach from emptying properly, often negatively affecting digestion. Symptoms include nausea as well as a sensation of fullness after little food has been consumed. Your gastroenterologist may recommend medication or changes to your diet to alleviate symptoms. This condition may be caused by damage to the nerve that controls the muscles of the stomach.




While the cause is not always known, gastroparesis is often the result of damage to the vagus nerve. This nerve manages many digestive processes, including telling the stomach muscles to contract and move food to the small intestine. A damaged vagus nerve does not send the appropriate signals, so the food remains in the stomach longer than it should. Diabetes or surgeries to the small intestine or stomach may cause damage to the vagus nerve.


These factors may increase your risk of gastroparesis:

  • Diabetes
  • Abdominal or esophageal surgery
  • Medications that slow stomach emptying, such as narcotic pain meds
  • Infection, often viral
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid condition)
  • Scleroderma (connective tissue disease)
  • Nervous system diseases, like Parkinson's disease 


The following symptoms may lead to a gastroparesis diagnosis:

  • Abdominal bloating or pain
  • The feeling of fullness after eating little food
  • Acid reflux
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting (often undigested food eaten a few hours earlier)
  • Fluctuating blood sugar levels
  • Lack of appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss 
  • Malnutrition


Schedule an appointment with a Charleston GI gastroenterologist if you are experiencing the following gastroparesis symptoms:

  • Severe abdominal cramping/pain
  • Sudden, sharp stomach pain that persists
  • Vomiting that lasts more than an hour
  • Extreme weakness or fainting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever
  • Blood glucose levels that are outside of the normal range
  • Red blood in your vomit
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds


To diagnose gastroparesis, your GI specialists may rely on lab tests, imaging tests, or tests to measure the rate of stomach emptying. Your gastroenterologist may also perform an upper endoscopy.


To provide relief, your Charleston GI physician may recommend diet changes to prevent triggers and address nutritional deficiencies. Prescription medication may also be used to encourage more rapid movement of food through your digestive tract. Medication typically helps relieve symptoms like vomiting and nausea.



Is gastroparesis very serious?

While gastroparesis is non-life-threatening, its complications can be very serious – like dehydration and malnutrition. In some cases, a bezoar (undigested food that hardens into a solid mass) can completely block food from entering the stomach.

Will I need surgery for gastroparesis?

Patients who still experience severe symptoms despite medication and diet changes may benefit from surgery.

Gastric electrical stimulation, a treatment that sends mild electric shocks to the stomach muscles, is one option. Gastric bypass is another option in which a small pouch is made from the top portion of the stomach, and then the small intestine is attached.

Can I change my diet to fix my gastroparesis?

Dietary modifications can be very effective for managing symptoms. Changes to your eating habits, like eating smaller, more frequent meals, can help. Food texture and consistency are important to consider too. For instance, easily digestible applesauce may be recommended over whole apples. It is also best to avoid foods that are high in fiber and fat.

Are bananas good for gastroparesis?

Yes, bananas are considered a “safe food” for patients experiencing unpleasant gastroparesis symptoms.

What foods should I avoid?

Your GI specialists will likely recommend avoiding the following:

  • Raw or fibrous fruits and vegetables (oranges, broccoli, etc.)
  • High-fat foods
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Alcohol

What is the best treatment?

Because no two patients are alike, your gastroenterologist will recommend the best treatment after learning more about your symptoms and performing diagnostic tests. Keep in mind that dietary changes are most often recommended before other treatments.

How can I prevent gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis cannot be prevented because there is no known cause. That said, diabetic people can prevent or delay vagus nerve damage (a potential cause) by keeping their blood sugar levels within a healthy range. 

Is gastroparesis a common condition? 

No, gastroparesis is rare, only affecting about 10 men and 40 women out of every 100,000 people. 

Who is at risk for gastroparesis?

Patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes have the highest risk of developing gastroparesis.

Is it more common in men or women?

Gastroparesis, while still very rare, occurs more commonly in women.

What are some common complications for those with gastroparesis?

Those suffering from gastroparesis may face these complications:

  • Severe dehydration
  • Malnutrition
  • Bezoars (undigested food that hardens into a solid mass)
  • Unpredictable blood sugar changes
  • Diminished quality of life

Is there a cure for gastroparesis?

While there is no known cure for gastroparesis, many patients find symptom relief through implementing dietary modifications or taking medication.


To learn more about treatment for GI tract issues in Charleston, SC, get in touch today! Charleston Gastroenterology is committed to a higher standard of caring – and we provide a range of medical treatments to help you feel your best.

If you are experiencing painful GI symptoms, schedule your appointment today! No referral needed.