What is Gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a condition marked by inadequate muscle function in the walls of the stomach. This creates a serious problem when it comes to proper digestion. According to my.clevelandclinic.org, gastroparesis is a disease in which the stomach cannot empty itself of food in a normal fashion. Under normal circumstances, the muscles that line the stomach propel food into the intestines and on through the digestive tract. In patients with gastorparesis, damage to the vagus nerve results in the malfunctioning of these muscles, which become weakened or fail to work at all. The result is that food sits in the stomach much longer than normal, which can cause a host of other complications.


Because gastroparesis prevents food from properly digesting, it can cause a number of common gastrointestinal problems. The most common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Malnutrition / Weight Loss
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Feeling Full After Just a Few Bites

These symptoms are usually the result of food sitting in your stomach for much longer than normal. Sometimes, the undigested food begins to ferment within the stomach. This can lead to accelerated bacterial growth within the digestive tract. At other times, it can build up and then pass suddenly into the intestines. This is particularly dangerous, as it can cause your blood sugar levels to spike suddenly. If the undigested food sits for long periods of time, it can harden into a mass known as a bezoar, which may cause obstructions within the GI tract. They are quite serious, especially if they block the passage of food into the intestines.


The muscles that move your food through the digestive tract are involuntary muscles, meaning they are not controlled by your conscious mind. Rather, they rely on signals from the vagus nerve to signal them into action. The most common causes of damage to the vagus nerve, and the development of gastroparesis, include:

  • diabetes
  • stomach surgery
  • small intestine surgery


Unfortunately, there is currently no way to reverse damage to the vagus nerve. Treating gastroparesis usually involves managing your symptoms, including blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Dietary changes are usually the first step, and may include:

  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Eating low-fiber forms of high-fiber foods
  • Increasing liquid intake
  • Walking after meals
  • Avoiding fibrous foods

These changes are aimed at aiding digestion and preventing the development of bezoars. Medications can be used to control other symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. There are also some medications available to stimulate the stomach muscles, although they are not recommended for everyone. Ultimately, Dr. Tabib will recommend the best course of action for your particular case.

In severe cases, surgery may be the best option. In most cases, this means performing a gastric bypass operation to allow food to pass through the stomach more easily. Experimental procedures are currently being tested to stimulate the vagus nerve. Botox injections can be used to stimulate the nerve to release food from the stomach, and some doctors have had luck with electrical implants that stimulate the stomach muscles.

To find the best course of treatment for your gastroparesis, contact us to schedule a consultation with Dr. Tabib, best Gastroenterologist in Los Angeles.

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Siamak Tabib, M.D., Inc.
8631 W 3rd St Suite 1015E,
Los Angeles, CA 90048

(310) 683-4911

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