Gastroparesis Awareness Month

Gastroparesis Awareness Month Ribbon

​August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, which is dedicated to improving understanding and management of this motility disease. Gastroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying, is a chronic condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. The muscles of the stomach, controlled by the vagus nerve, normally contract to move food through the gastrointestinal tract. But when the vagus nerve is damaged, stomach muscles are no longer able to function the way they should and food moves too slowly from the stomach – or stops moving altogether.

How common is gastroparesis?

Studies estimate that 500,000 to 5 million Americans may suffer gastroparesis. But other research from the National Institutes of Health suggests this may only be the tip of a gastroparesis “iceberg.” Researchers have concluded that many people have undiagnosed gastroparesis because patients experience a range of symptoms similar to those of other diseases, such as GERD and celiac disease.


The most common symptoms of gastroparesis are nausea, vomiting undigested food, feeling full after eating only a small amount of food, stomach pain, a lack of appetite, acid reflux and abdominal bloating. Symptoms may vary in intensity and frequency. They may also be aggravated by having rich foods, greasy foods, foods with a lot of fiber, and carbonated beverages.

What causes it?

The most commonly known cause of gastroparesis is diabetes, which can damage the vagus nerve. Intestinal surgery, nervous system diseases, and viral infections such as COVID-19 may also be to blame in some cases. But the cause of most cases is unknown, even with medical exams.


Gastroparesis is diagnosed through a physical exam, medical history, blood tests, tests to rule out blockage or structural problems in the GI tract, and gastric emptying tests. To rule out any structural problems or blockage, a health care provider may order screenings such as upper GI endoscopy, gastric emptying scan, ultrasound, Smartpill breath test, and other exams.


Treatment can help patients to manage the condition and live comfortable, active lives. Doctors say lifestyle changes such as these may be helpful:

  • Changing eating habits
  • Chewing food well
  • Eating small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones
  • Avoiding heavy foods and carbonated liquids
  • Avoiding lying down for 2 hours after a meal

In addition, there are also several prescription medications that could help to treat the symptoms of gastroparesis. As always, talk to a doctor if you’re having gastrointestinal symptoms. Schedule an appointment with any of our Capital Digestive Care providers can evaluate and treat gastroparesis.