Tests and Treatment
Physical exams will be performed by a doctor if gastroparesis is suspected. Inform your doctor about any medications you are taking. A test that measures how fast the stomach empties is done to confirm the diagnosis. The following tests are performed by doctors to help diagnose gastroparesis and rule out conditions that may cause similar symptoms. Tests may include:
Gastric emptying study:
This is a vital test in diagnosing gastroparesis. It involves eating a light meal that has a small amount of radioactive material. The radioactive material is monitored by a scanner that identifies its movement. This enables the doctor to monitor the rate/speed of gastric emptying.
You’ll need to stop taking any medications that could slow gastric emptying. Ask your doctor if any of your medications might slow your digestion.
Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy:
This process is done to examine your upper digestive system — your esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum). A microscopic camera is placed on the tip of a long, malleable tube. This procedure can also diagnose other digestive conditions, such as peptic ulcer disease or pyloric stenosis, which all have similar symptoms to gastroparesis.
This procedure uses sound waves to develop images of masses within your body. Ultrasounds assist in diagnosing whether problems with your gallbladder or your kidneys could be the root of your symptoms.
Upper gastrointestinal series:
This is a series of X-rays in which you drink a white, chalky liquid (barium) that coats the digestive system to help abnormalities show up.
The first step in treating gastroparesis is treating the root cause or underlying condition. If it is diabetes your doctor will work with you to control it. A dietitian might suggest that you try to:
- Eat smaller meals more frequently
- Chew food thoroughly
- Eat well-cooked fruits and vegetables rather than raw fruits and vegetables
- Avoid fibrous fruits and vegetables, such as oranges and broccoli, which may cause bezoars
- Choose mostly low-fat foods, but if you can tolerate them, add small servings of fatty foods to your diet
- Try soups and pureed foods if liquids are easier for you to swallow
- Drink about 1 to 1.5 liters of water a day
- Exercise gently after you eat, such as going for a walk
- Avoid carbonated drinks, alcohol and smoking
- Try to avoid lying down for 2 hours after a meal
- Take a multivitamin daily
Medications for gastroparesis:
Medications to treat gastroparesis may include:
- Medications to stimulate the stomach muscles
- Medications to control nausea and vomiting
Surgical treatment for gastroparesis:
Unfortunately, in severe cases, some patients may be unable to handle any food or liquids. In these instances doctors may recommend a feeding tube (jejunostomy tube) be inserted in the small intestine.
Doctors may also recommend a gastric venting tube to help alleviate pressure from gastric build-up. Feeding tubes can be passed through your nose or mouth or directly into your small intestine through your skin. This procedure is usually temporary and is only used when gastroparesis is severe or when blood sugar levels can’t be managed any other way. Some individuals may require an IV (parenteral) feeding tube that goes directly into a vein in the chest.
Lifestyle and home remedies for gastroparesis:
If you’re a smoker, stop. Your gastroparesis symptoms are less likely to improve over time if you keep smoking. People with gastroparesis who are overweight are also less likely to get better over time.