What Causes 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 already talked about what gastroparesis is and how it disrupts the motility of the GI tract.  I’m going to continue providing the “Chelsey Take” on the basics of gastroparesis because, let’s be honest, it’s a different twist from what you’ve found online thus far!


Many people (myself included) are told that their gastroparesis is idiopathic.  This means that there is no clear reason that it developed.  It seems that a large number of those with idiopathic gastroparesis, myself included, had some type of viral illness right before it happened.  But that is the closest anyone has gotten to an explanation.  This form of gastroparesis is not any more difficult to treat or control than gastroparesis from other causes.


The most common identified cause of gastroparesis is diabetes.  When someone with diabetes develops gastroparesis, it happens over a long period of time and is actually a complication of sugar imbalances in the body.  The severity of the condition may be different for those with diabetic gastroparesis.  However, having diabetes and gastroparesis together results in a number of additional considerations, including the need to factor in diabetic dietary constraints and insulin control.

Vagus Nerve Damage

Damage to the vagus nerve is another cause of gastroparesis.  The vagus nerve is responsible for stimulating the muscle contractions in the stomach that allow for mechanical digestion (we talked about this before – peristalsis).  When this nerve is damaged, it can impair or eliminate these contractions.  Incidentally, the sugar imbalances that lead to diabetic gastroparesis do so through damage to the vagus nerve.  It is also possible for the nerve to become damaged by direct injury through some type of abdominal surgery.

Complex Disorders

Another, albeit uncommon, possibility is for gastroparesis to be the result of another chronic condition that has already been diagnosed (other than diabetes).  Some people with disorders that affect multiple parts of the body are simply more prone to the development of gastroparesis.  This may be through a generalized nerve or muscle malfunction, or through another mechanism entirely.

Ehrlos-Danlos Syndrome and Mitochondrial Disorders are two rare disorders that can sometimes produce gastroparesis.

Does it Matter?

Short Answer: yes!  As you can see, there are many different reasons that people might develop gastroparesis.  Each reason can produce a slightly different form of the condition, and can impact the severity of a person’s symptoms.  For those that have other conditions in addition to gastroparesis, this can alter how these symptoms are able to be managed.



Interested in more information on Gastroparesis?

Next: The Symptoms of Gastroparesis

Or refer back to the Gastroparesis Info Hub.


Trivia and Terminology:

Idiopathic is Greek for “one’s own suffering” and means that there is no known cause

Gastroparesis is Greek for “partial paralysis of the stomach”


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