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Gastroparesis- A Gut-wrenching Condition: April 27, 2014

It’s a gut-wrenching condition for almost 2-million Americans. Gastroparesis is a disorder of the digestive system that occurs when the stomach doesn’t empty properly.

Dr. Michael Bays is a gastroenterologist on medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

“The bottom end of the of the stomach has a small valve that opens up when it has liquid to move out. It has to grind the food. So if you put something like a carrot in there that hasn’t been chewed well, that’s going to sit in the stomach a long time until the stomach can grind it down to a liquid,” Dr. Bays says.

Nerve damage from illness or injury is the most frequent cause of gastroparesis. It is linked to both diabetes and eating disorders. With a constantly full stomach, patients can have mild to major symptoms.

“It’s not a comfortable thing – abdominal pain mostly, nausea, vomiting. Those are all symptoms you get with it.”

There is no cure for this condition- it comes down to a matter of management. Patients find what works best for them, from nerve stimulation to drug therapy and modifying meals. Diet is usually the starting point.

“Small amounts, more frequently, 5-6-7 meals a day things that are easy to digest,” says Dr. Bays. “As unhealthy as it sounds, no fresh fruits and vegetables. If you want those kinds of things you put them in a juicer.”

Working with doctors to diagnose and treat the condition, can help people enjoy a full life.