Gastroparesis is a motility disorder that patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive problems are sometimes given as a diagnosis, as noted in the journal Digestive and Liver Disease. Like irritable bowel syndrome, it is a broad label with many different causes and overlaps a great deal with IBS.
The word gastroparesis often gives people the impression that their stomach is paralyzed and that there is nothing that they can do to solve their problem. In our experience this is often not the case, as we have seen many patients recover who had previously been diagnosed with gastroparesis. Improved gastric emptying time has also been described in the medical literature, in a paper by Dr. Ravelli, and by Dr. Benini in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology.
The diagnosis of gastroparesis simply means that there is a delay in how long it takes the stomach to empty. It is then typically assumed that this is due to damage to the vagus nerve, which helps control the emptying time of the stomach. In some cases this damage is actually seen or verified. But in many cases there is no damage, or is only an assumption of nerve damage based solely on the delayed emptying time of the stomach.
What should be remembered is that a delay in gastric emptying time is a symptom with several potential causes and is not necessarily due to damage to the vagus nerve. Constipation and diarrhea are also motility issues with multiple causes (see articles by Dr. Troncone and Dr. Daher).
The fact that one represents a delay in bowel transit time (constipation) and the other represents an expedited transit time (diarrhea) does not mean that there is permanent damage to the nervous system, or even any damage at all to the nervous system.
These symptoms of gastroparesis, diarrhea, and constipation simply mean that the digestive tract isn’t working properly. In the case of gastroparesis, unless you have a confirmed diagnosis of damage to the vagus nerve, it is very possible that something else is causing it and that you can resolve it.
However, there is still a strong possibility that there is another cause of their gastroparesis and that it can be resolved, even in the presence of diabetes. This is also true for people who suffer from GERD, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or other digestive problems.
Patients at the IBS Treatment Center often report that they have been previously diagnosed with gastroparesis, and those patients often get much better after discovering the true cause of their problem. In fact, studies in the medical literature have demonstrated the same thing. If you suffer from gastroparesis, don’t give up. There may be a solution for you!
Dr. Wangen is the founder and medical director of the IBS Treatment Center, the award winning author of two books, and a nationally recognized speaker on digestive disorders. He has been on ABC, NBC, and Fox as well as public radio, and was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors by Seattle Magazine.