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What Is Gastroparesis?

What Is the Treatment for Gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a chronic (long-lasting) condition. This means that treatment usually doesn't cure the disease. But there are steps you can take to manage and control the condition.

Some patients may benefit from medications, including:

  • Reglan (metoclopramide): You take this drug before eating and it causes the stomach muscles to contract and move food along. Reglan also decreases the incidence of vomiting and nausea. Side effects include diarrhea, drowsiness, anxiety, and, rarely, a serious neurological disorder.
  • Erythromycin: This is an antibiotic that also causes stomach contractions and helps move food out. Side effects include diarrhea and development of resistant bacteria from prolonged exposure to the antibiotic.
  • Antiemetics: These are drugs that help control nausea.

People who have diabetes should try to control their blood sugar levels to minimize the problems of gastroparesis.

Dietary Modifications for Gastroparesis

One of the best ways to help control the symptoms of gastroparesis is to modify your daily eating habits. For instance, instead of three meals a day, eat six small meals. In this way, there is less food in the stomach; you won't feel as full, and it will be easier for the food to leave your stomach. Another important factor is the consistency of food; liquids and low residue foods are encouraged (for example, applesauce should replace whole apples with intact skins).

You should also avoid foods that are high in fat (which can slow down digestion) and fiber (which is difficult to digest).

Other Treatment Options for Gastroparesis

In a severe case of gastroparesis, a feeding tube, or jejunostomy tube, may be used. The tube is inserted through the abdomen and into the small intestine during surgery. To feed yourself, put nutrients into the tube, which go directly into the small intestine; this way, they bypass the stomach and get into the bloodstream more quickly. 

Using an instrument through a small incision, botulinum toxin (such as Botox) can be injected into the pylorus, the valve that leads from the stomach to the small intestine. This can relax the valve, keeping it open for a longer period of time to allow the stomach to empty.  

Another treatment option is intravenous or parenteral nutrition. This is a feeding method in which nutrients go directly into the bloodstream through a catheter placed into a vein in your chest. Parenteral nutrition is intended to be a temporary measure for a severe case of gastroparesis.

Electrical stimulation for Gastroparesis

Electrical gastric stimulation for gastroparesis uses electrodes that are attached to the stomach wall and, when stimulated, trigger stomach contractions. Further studies are needed to help determine who will benefit most from this procedure. Currently, only a few centers across the country perform electrical gastric stimulation.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 14, 2012

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