Gastroparesis is a digestive disease that can lead to various complications if left untreated. In order to avoid these, it’s best to look for the best treatment. Your doctor might recommend you some medication, but you can also try some natural remedies, as well as plan your diet in order to help both digestion and the emptying of the stomach. Find out more about natural remedies for gastroparesis!
Gastroparesis, also known by the name delayed gastric emptying, is a disease of the muscles of the stomach or the nerves responsible for controlling the muscles; it occurs when the muscles stop working as they should, which leads to a paresis (partial paralysis) of the stomach. Because of this, the food is not ground properly and it remains in the stomach for a longer period of time than it usually should.
This disease may be caused by various acute illnesses (diabetes mellitus especially, as well as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, neurological diseases, and connective tissue diseases) or by unusual eating patterns. It can also occur as a consequence of particular types of cancer treatment or drugs which are known to affect the digestive process. Other causes, less common but still possible, can be damage caused to the vagus nerve (the nerve that controls the stomach’s muscles), imbalances of minerals in the blood, thyroid disease, or heavy smoking.
Sometimes, people are faced with idiopathic gastroparesis – that is, gastroparesis that has no known cause. In this case, it is believed that the stomach disease might be caused by an autoimmune response triggered by an acute viral infection. Also, it appears that this disease occurs more in women than in men, either because women have a slower stomach emptying time than men, or because of hormonal causes.
The most common symptoms of gastroparesis are diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting after meals, especially of undigested food. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and bloating, palpitations, heartburn, unusual blood glucose levels, spasms of the stomach wall, early satiety, lack of appetite, and weight loss.
If left untreated, gastroparesis can lead to various complications: severe fatigue and weight loss, fluctuation in blood glucose levels, intestinal obstruction, and bacterial infection.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Gastroparesis is often diagnosed by using a nuclear medicine test known as gastric emptying study; this test helps check how long it takes for the emptying of food from the stomach. The patient is given solid food, liquid food, or both; the food contains small amounts of radioactive material Then a scanner is placed and kept over the stomach, in order to check the amount of radioactivity found in the stomach. If the patient has gastroparesis, it will take longer than usual for the stomach to empty the food into the intestine.
Other methods of diagnosis are into-duodenal motility study, electrogastrograms, upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, a CT scan of the abdomen, and upper gastrointestinal X-rays. Some of these methods are also used to exclude cancer, as well as other diseases which can prevent the normal process of emptying the stomach.
The treatment recommended for people who have gastroparesis includes several elements: a new diet, medications (that help relieve nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain), and devices or procedures that can help empty the stomach.
The diet for patients with gastroparesis involves soft foods or even only liquids, in some cases. Foods that are rich in fat and dietary fibers are not recommended. Also, patients should eat smaller and more frequent meals – 6 small meals are better than 3 big meals.
Natural Remedies for Gastroparesis
First, both acupuncture and electroacupuncture are recommended, as both can help relieve symptoms of gastroparesis. Four weeks of regular treatment can improve one’s general condition, as it reduces nausea, vomiting, and bloating.
Various herbs can help treat symptoms of gastroparesis. Popular choices include ginger, peppermint, lavender, and melissa/lemon balm. Ginger is a favorite, as it is known to accelerate the emptying of the stomach. Lavender reduces pain and has a calming effect on the stomach, lemon balm improves your appetite and your digestion, and peppermint relieves nausea. It is recommended to prepare an infusion of the herbs, as this is the most natural way to make use of their benefits. You can also look for herbal supplements, though make sure you’re taking the right dose.
You can also relieve gastroparesis symptoms with Swedish bitter. This herbal concoction can help improve the whole digestive process, including the emptying of the stomach. It is recommended to take one tablespoon before each meal.
Apple cider vinegar is also recommended before meals. You can either take a teaspoon or dilute a small amount of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water. This will help relieve pain and bloating, as well as improve your digestion. You can also try coconut oil: dilute a tablespoon into half a cup of warm water and drink it before every meal.
Aloe vera juice can also be used to treat gastroparesis. It can be mixed with your drink (smoothies, fruit or vegetable juices, or even water) and consumed before meals. It helps relieve bloating and improve the whole digestive process. However, remember that it’s recommended not to consume more than 200ml/day.
Diet for Gastroparesis
If you’ve been diagnosed with gastroparesis, this means you have to make some serious changes to your diet. These changes aim to make it easier for your stomach to digest food and therefore help your stomach gradually empty it faster than it used to.
First, based on how severe your condition is, your doctor will decide whether you can eat soft foods or if you need to go on a liquid foods diet for a while. It’s better to eat six smaller meals a day than have three larger meals; this means you have to restrict meal volumes while increasing meal frequency. Also, the food should be chewed well and it’s best to drink a lot of liquids during the meal (unless liquid emptying is also slow). Don’t forget that it’s best to eat more early in the day (especially solid foods) and that you shouldn’t lie down 4 hours after the meal; go for a walk or do small physical exercises.
If you’ve got gastroparesis, you should avoid fat and dietary fibers. This means you should go for a very low-carbohydrate diet with very little or even no fat. Therefore, you should not eat bacon, salami, cheese, whole grains, cooked celery, cabbage, corn, beans, cauliflower, and raw vegetables.
Other foods that you should avoid are dairy products, hot and spicy foods, oily foods, and fruits and vegetables that contain substances that cannot be digested (for instance, oranges, bananas, and broccoli). Also, you shouldn’t consume caffeine, alcohol, nuts, and raw mint. Smoking is another no; stop it, as it can worsen gastroparesis symptoms.
It’s best to eat pureed food: meat, fruits, vegetables, cereals; anything should be pureed as this way, it is easier for the stomach to digest them. Strain before eating, in order to take out any parts of solid food. You can also cook and eat peeled tomatoes potatoes, mushrooms, and squash.
In order to make sure you’re getting the necessary amount of proteins, you can choose skinless chicken and turkey meat (grounded or pureed, of course). You’re also allowed to eat tuna, scallops, egg whites, and low-fat cheese and yogurt. Other recommended foods include white rice, white bread, and white pasta.
It’s important to drink a lot of liquids. Water is a must! Fruit juices and vegetable juices are also recommended, as well as protein shakes and fortified milk. And don’t forget that you can also consume clear soups and broths.
As the remedies and the foods included in the diet are all-natural, you shouldn’t worry about any side effects. However, make sure that what you’re eating or taking won’t interfere with any type of medication you’re taking. Also, check for allergies or watch out for common symptoms of allergic reactions (skin rashes, difficulty in breathing, swelling of the lips and tongue).