What are the Symptoms of Gastroparesis?

Jan 18, 2017 by

You can have me read this article to you instead of reading it yourself…

Or you can read it the old-fashioned way below…

We’ve already gone over my take on what gastroparesis is and what can cause it to occur.  Now we’re going to jump into discussing what the symptoms are.  I think you might find that this is where my description diverges the most from what you have found on other sites.

Gastroparesis Symptoms

Gastroparesis is a strange condition in that every person not only has a slightly different set of symptoms, but each person may also experience the symptoms at different times.  We already discussed that the extent and location of the motility issues are partly responsible for this variation in symptoms, but there are a number of other factors that can have an impact on symptom presentation.

As you might expect when food doesn’t move properly through the GI tract, one of the primary symptoms of gastroparesis is a feeling of fullness.  This symptom causes another common ‘complication’ for those with gastroparesis – a loss of the sense of hunger.  Food can hang around for quite some time, which can tack on some additional symptoms.  These might include acid reflux, regurgitation, nausea, vomiting, bloating, pain, and more.

As the reduced motility in the upper GI tract causes changes in the way that the food is processed, other issues can arise lower down in the GI tract.  These issues may include sugar imbalances, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, and gas.

Food Movement

I want to quickly explain the difference between two things that sound similar but are actually quite different – regurgitation and vomiting.  Many doctors throw these words out as though everyone knows their meaning, but I remember being at a loss when I first heard these terms used together.

Regurgitation is the involuntary reflux of food back up through the esophagus and sometimes into the mouth.  It does not rely on any type of nausea stimulus and does not even involve a heaving motion.  The food just finds its way back up whether you like it or not!

Another important thing to point out is that the food that comes up may actually be undigested and very similar to the form it was in when it went down.  It is only after it has been in the stomach for an extended period of time that it becomes acidic and harsh on the throat and mouth.

Vomiting is the type of reflux that we are more used to experiencing and hearing about outside of gastroparesis.  This usually involves a lot of nausea and always involves a painful and exhausting heaving motion in which the muscles actively push food back up through the esophagus and into the mouth.

While the food that is brought up through vomiting may also be primarily undigested and non-acidic due to only being in the stomach for a short period of time, vomiting is more likely than regurgitation to produce a substance that is digested and acidic, which is harsh on the throat and mouth.

A person with gastroparesis can experience regurgitation, vomiting, or both.  In addition, people with regurgitation can experience nausea that does not often lead to vomiting.  But if a doctor is trying to get a clear picture of your symptoms, you can now provide an accurate answer regarding how severely and how often each of those things happens for you (if at all).

When Symptoms Appear

The times at which a symptom appears can also be very different from person to person.  Some people with gastroparesis will experience chronic symptoms that are always present and may worsen at certain times.  Others will only experience symptoms periodically.  Some people refer to these as symptom ‘flares’ and they can typically be associated with stress, diet, or illness.

The fluctuation in symptom presence and severity can lead to an unexpected complication for some people – anxiety.  In fact, many GI conditions have been associated with an increased rate of anxiety and depression, and there are many reasons for this correlation.  This goes beyond the scope of what we are discussing here, but I do discuss it in much more detail in my book.

Interested in more information on Gastroparesis?

Next: How is Gastroparesis Diagnosed?

Or refer back to the Gastroparesis Info Hub.


Trivia and Terminology:

Personally, I experience regurgitation consistently throughout the day – my food moves freely up and down.  It’s amazing what we can adjust to over the years…

Gastroparesis is Greek for “partial paralysis of the stomach”

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