Gastroparesis is when the stomach is unable to effectively clear its contents. When this happens, the food you eat ends up sitting in the stomach for longer than normal. When you eat, food enters the stomach and is moved within the stomach due to the muscles in the stomach wall contracting. These muscles are under the control of the stomach’s nerves as well as a set of special cells that act as the pacemaker of the stomach known as the interstitial cells of Cajal. They send signals to the stomach muscles to move. Other things that impact how your stomach moves are the nerves coming from your brain and spinal cord into the stomach such as your vagus nerve. If the stomach does not contract it cannot push food through into the intestines.
Why do people get Gastroparesis?This can happen because either the nerves, stomach muscles, or those special cells are injured and don’t work properly. This can happen for a number of reasons such as after an illness (5%) or surgery (12.5%), due to certain medications (18%), secondary to diabetes (4%) or can even randomly occur (most common cause is idiopathic ~70%).
How long can Gastroparesis last?
This depends on what caused your stomach to slow down in the first place. Post infectious gastroparesis, which is a fancy way of saying it happened after an illness, can occur days to months after the infection and typically self resolves after 6 – 18 months. Your stomach gets affected by the illness and therefore slows down and needs time to recover. Other causes typically resolve after we figure out what caused it and treat it. If it happens randomly, we don’t always have a known timeline, but most of the cases do resolve!
Who is at risk for Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis tends to be more common in girls than in boys for reasons that are unclear. Kids with diabetes are only at risk if their diabetes is not under good control. Your risk of developing diabetic gastroparesis increases with age and duration of illness and if they have uncontrolled diabetes with consistently high blood sugars.
How do you treat Gastroparesis?
If you are diagnosed with gastroparesis do not worry there are multiple treatment options. You will have to go through some tests first to be properly diagnosed and to try and discover the cause. After that, you and your doctor can discuss which treatment options are best for you. These can include dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, or medications which should do the trick. If anything should continue or feel off, please contact your medical provider right away but we regularly see our gastroparesis patients make a full recovery!
Your Pediatric Team at PB Digestive
Sari M. Kay, MD is a board-certified Pediatric Gastroenterologist. She has a specialties and expertise in treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, eosinophilic esophagitis, constipation, infant reflux, and functional GI disorders.
Laura E. Irastorza, MD is a board-certified Pediatric Gastroenterologist. She has expertise in treating patients with eosinophilic esophagitis, constipation, reflux, and functional GI disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome.