August is Digestive Tract Paralysis Awareness Month – Make Your Gut Health a Top Priority!

Your body is an intricate system with organs that provide essential functions. One such organ is your stomach, which helps you digest food and access the nutrients you need. Your gut health matters and staying informed can help you maintain your health. This month is Digestive Tract Paralysis Awareness month and we’ve compiled several important facts that can help you recognise symptoms commonly found in patients suffering from this digestive disease. 

What is Digestive Tract Paralysis?

Digestive Tract Paralysis, or gastroparesis, is a chronic digestive disease that affects your stomach’s motility – the normal muscular contractions that enable your stomach to empty itself by moving food from the stomach to the small intestines. Serious problems can occur when your stomach stops moving food or takes too long to move food to the small intestines. Food that stays too long in the stomach can harden into masses called bezoars, causing vomiting, pain and discomfort. 

In most instances, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), gastroparesis is idiopathic, which means the cause is unknown or it occurs spontaneously. However, one in four people with gastroparesis experience this disease due to complications associated with diabetes. Since diabetes can increase your risk of developing Digestive Tract Paralysis, it’s important to consider ways to manage your diabetes to help maintain overall health.

Other causes of digestive tract paralysis:

  • Reaction to some medications such as opioids, pain relievers, antidepressants, allergy or high blood pressure medications.
  • Complications related to surgical procedures. These complications can occur during abdominal surgery if during the process a patient sustains injury to their vagus nerve, which is the part of the stomach that helps stomach muscles contract.
  • Complications resulting from illnesses that affect the whole body, the nervous system, or connective tissue. These may include illnesses such as systemic lupus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, and scleroderma.

Symptoms of Digestive Tract Paralysis

As with many digestive diseases, gastroparesis disrupts or interferes with normal digestion. Symptoms can include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Acid reflux
  • Severe dehydration due to persistent vomiting
  • Changes in blood glucose (blood sugar) levels 
  • Feeling of fullness after eating only small amounts of food
  • Weight loss and malnutrition
  • Lack of appetite

Since these symptoms can occur for a multitude of ailments, patients may sometimes feel confused or feel uncertain as to whether or not their illness warrants a doctor’s visit. Know that unlike minor abdominal distress,  gastroparesis is a chronic condition. This means symptoms typically last for a longer period of time. 

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “chronic diseases are defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both.”

When should I seek medical help?

Abdominal discomfort or symptoms that last longer than three months and include weight loss, iron deficiency (low levels of iron based on blood tests) or symptoms that start after age 50, it’s time to see your primary care doctor or a gastroenterologist.

At Premier, we have a team of specialists within our Gastroenterology Division who are trained in providing care and support for individuals suffering from gastrointestinal diseases, including illnesses affecting the stomach and intestines. Our physicians are on the forefront of gastrointestinal therapeutics. 

Tell the doctor if over the counter medications are not giving you relief and be sure to mention if you also have a family history of gastrointestinal diseases. If you are worried that you might have something serious, staying away from the doctor will only make it worse. Be brave. Take the first step and make an appointment, you’ll feel better and the gastroenterology group at Premier Medical Group is here to help.

Your digestive health matters as it can greatly impact other aspects of your life. Your gut helps you digest the foods you eat and absorbs the nutrients your body needs to remain healthy and strong. By reading this article and keeping yourself informed, you are taking an important step to improve your gut health. You can also schedule an appointment and seek treatment options from our team of gastroenterologists if you are concerned about your health and experiencing symptoms similar to those mentioned in this article. Our team at Premier Medical is more than happy to support you on your journey towards improved health and wellness.