How Is Gastroparesis Treated?

How Is Gastroparesis Treated?

August is gastroparesis month. What is gastroparesis?

The term gastroparesis refers to nonmotile stomach. It’s one of the most severe and concerning gastrointestinal (GI) motility problems as it prevents the natural mechanical movement of the stomach muscles. When functioning normally, forceful muscular contractions help food migrate through the gastrointestinal tract. When gastroparesis is present, however, the stomach’s ability to digest food slows considerably or comes to a halt. This can block the proper emptying of the stomach and may lead to other medical issues. The seasoned gastrointestinal (GI) physicians at Arizona Digestive Health in Phoenix, AZ commonly provide treatment for gastroparesis.

What are the signs and symptoms of gastroparesis?

Nearly one out of every 25 people in the United States, including children, develops gastroparesis. The GI condition is more common among females. It’s also more widespread in patients who have been living with diabetes for a long time. Common signs of gastroparesis include:

  • Chronic pain in the abdomen
  • Inconsistent blood sugar levels
  • Frequent nausea
  • Feeling full even with eating very little
  • Vomiting of undigested food
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Poor appetite and unintended loss of weight
  • Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (the backup of stomach contents into the esophagus)

Numerous individuals living with gastroparesis may not experience any recognizable symptoms. At times, it occurs briefly and subsides naturally or improves with medical attention. Certain cases may be unresponsive to care.

What factors cause gastroparesis?

Unfortunately, the main source of this GI concern is not always obvious. However, physicians have pinpointed a number of causes that can contribute to gastroparesis, including the following:

  • Damage to the vagus nerve. Diabetic conditions, viral infection, and surgery to the small intestine or stomach can harm the vagus nerve. Essential for managing the intestinal system, the vagus nerve causes the muscles in the gut to contract to move food into the small intestine. An impaired vagus nerve is unable to send proper signals to the muscles in the stomach. In these cases, food can remain in the stomach for a longer period of time as opposed to migrating into the small intestine for proper digestion.
  • Amyloidosis: Amyloidosis is a condition that develops when deposits of protein fibers accumulate in organs or tissues throughout the body.
  • Scleroderma: This condition affecting the muscles, skin, organs, and blood vessels.
  • Medications: Narcotics, high blood pressure medications, certain antidepressants, and allergy medications can result in sluggish gastric emptying and induce gastroparesis-like symptoms. These forms of medications tend to worsen the effects of gastroparesis.

Other complications that may occur from gastroparesis are:

  1. Extreme dehydration. Frequent vomiting could result in a state of dehydration.
  2. Poor nutrition. Appetite loss and repeated vomiting can induce insufficient caloric intake and thwart the ability to digest adequate nutrients.
  3. Undigested food. Food that remains in the stomach can form a hard mass referred to as a bezoar. A bezoar may cause nausea and vomiting and can be fatal if it blocks food from passing into the small intestine.
  4. Unpredictable blood sugar changes. While gastroparesis isn’t a cause of diabetes, frequent variations in the rate and the volume of food migrating into the small bowel could lead to inconsistent blood sugar levels. Such variations in blood sugar have a negative effect on diabetic conditions which, in turn, might cause further issues with gastroparesis.
  5. Reduced quality of life. The health effects of gastroparesis can make it complicated to perform daily tasks and activities.

Diagnosing gastroparesis

Gastrointestinal physicians specialize in treating gastric disorders, such as gastroparesis. In addition to learning about a patient’s symptoms and medical history, a gastroenterologist will complete a physical evaluation and most likely order certain blood screenings, including those performed to assess blood sugar levels. Additional processes utilized to identify gastroparesis could include:

  • Four-hour solid gastric emptying study: This test determines the time it takes food to makes its way through the stomach. Individuals receive a meal that includes a special radioactive isotope. An image of the stomach is performed one minute after the meal is consumed. Additional scans are then captured at the one, two, and four-hour marks post-consumption to examine how the food passes through the stomach and bowels.
  • SmartPill™ motility testing system: With this test, patients swallow a miniature, digestible capsule that houses an electronic device. Once the capsule is ingested and migrates down the digestive system, it delivers gastric information to a receiver kept on the patient. SmartPill mobility testing records and monitors how fast food passes through the GI system.

Treating gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a long-standing health illness. Treatment usually doesn’t resolve gastroparesis, but it can help to control and manage its symptoms. People living with diabetes need to continually assess and control their blood glucose values to minimize issues with gastroparesis. In some cases, patients with gastroparesis might benefit from medications, like:

  • Erythromycin: This is an antibiotic that causes gastric contractions and assists in propelling food through the gastric tract. Side effects include loose bowels and the risk of developing antibiotic-resistant bacteria if taking the medication for a long time.
  • Reglan: This type of medication also stimulates stomach muscle contractions to help propel food into the small intestine. It can help relieve stomach upset and vomiting. Secondary effects might include loose bowels and, on rare occasions, a serious nerve disorder.
  • Antiemetics: These medications help minimize queasiness.

Some people may be candidates for surgical procedures to treat gastroparesis, including:

  • Gastric bypass: With a gastric bypass, a little pouch is developed from the upper area of the stomach. Half of the small intestine is connected directly to the newly created small pouch. This surgery substantially limits the quantity of food the patient can consume. A gastric bypass might be more effective than either gastric electrical stimulation or medication therapy for patients who are both obese and diabetic.
  • Gastric electrical stimulation: A small device referred to as a gastric stimulator is placed into the abdominal region. This stimulator contains two leads connected to the stomach muscles that administer tiny electric shocks in an effort to help manage the need to regurgitate.

Alternative approaches to treat gastroparesis include:

  • IV Nutrition: During this parenteral, or intravenous, feeding process, nutrients directly enter the bloodstream through a catheter routed into a vein in the chest area. Like a jejunostomy tube, parenteral nutrition is a temporary option for treating advanced cases of gastroparesis.
  • POP: Peroral pyloromyotomy (POP) is a newer treatment during which a doctor inserts a flexible, thin scope in the throat and advances it to the stomach. The doctor then severs the pylorus, or the structure that empties the stomach, allowing stomach contents to migrate into the small intestine more normally.
  • Feeding/jejunostomy tube: In a severe case of gastroparesis, a jejunostomy tube or feeding tube might be appropriate. A special tube is surgically inserted through the abdomen into the small bowel. Liquid nutrients are administered through the tube, which then go straight into the small bowel and enter the bloodstream more quickly. The jejunostomy tube is typically a temporary treatment.

Can a special diet help with gastroparesis?

As per the American College of Gastroenterology, a healthy diet is a pillar of gastroparesis treatment and also serves as a natural approach to managing the condition. In addition, physicians can recommend medication and perform other medical services to improve symptoms of the GI condition. However, these medical therapies work most effectively when following a certain diet. This type of diet includes limiting the consumption of foods that are hard to digest, like high fiber and fatty foods. Doing so can help enhance digestion and reduce the risk of complications associated with gastroparesis.

Should you or a loved one experience gastroparesis signs or symptoms, or complications related to a diagnosis of gastroparesis, we encourage you to visit a Phoenix, AZ gastrointestinal physician near you as soon as possible. Please reach out to Arizona Digestive Health today to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified gastroenterologists.

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Does Fatty Liver Disease Cause Cirrhosis?

Does Fatty Liver Disease Cause Cirrhosis?

Summary: Without proper care, a fatty liver can lead to cirrhosis, a detrimental concern that may cause symptoms like skin yellowing, low energy, and pain.

A healthy digestive tract is important when it comes to how your body functions, and among the most vital organs of the gastrointestinal system is the liver. Located by the stomach, the liver is responsible for various essential functions, including breaking down fats, carbohydrates and proteins, making bile, preserving glycogen and minerals, eliminating drugs and hormones, and much more. However, when the liver is impacted by disease, it can carry out a harmful result on your total quality of life. A couple of these conditions are a fatty liver and cirrhosis. At Arizona Digestive Health, our exceedingly proficient group of physicians in Phoenix, AZ partners with patients to find out about their health needs and discern any illnesses.

What to know about fatty liver disease

Fatty liver disease is a problem characterized by the existence of fat cells within the liver. This disease has a couple of main classifications: nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). While AFLD is caused by heavy drinking, NAFLD can be prompted by obesity, type 2 diabetes, or high cholesterol, and it is the sole most widespread form of hepatic steatosis in the United States. It is tough to discern whether you are experiencing a fatty liver considering that the illness generally does not produce any noticeable effects; however, it can be diagnosed by our Arizona Digestive Health team through a blood panel, imaging tests, or possibly a biopsy of the liver.

Symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol

If you keep a routine that produces harm to the liver, it’s possible that you could develop cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver is characterized as the growth of tissue scarring on top of normal areas of tissue, which is replaced over time. Cirrhosis is not a disease that develops immediately, but it is usually an effect of a long period of injury to the liver, whether via heavy alcohol use or from another condition that remains unaddressed for many years. Comparable with hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease), the early phases of cirrhosis do not typically cause signs to show up. Nevertheless, symptoms of cirrhosis you might experience as scarring continues to accumulate include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Oedema
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Bloating
  • Jaundice
  • Darker than normal urine
  • Nausea
  • Lack of energy
  • Memory problems

These are just a handful of the effects that may develop as cirrhosis of the liver intensifies over time.

Key differences between cirrhosis and fatty liver disease

Whereas fatty liver disease and cirrhosis both affect the liver, there are several primary distinctions.

  1. Hepatic steatosis is defined by the presence of fat cells within the liver while cirrhosis is the formation of scar tissue over normal tissue.
  2. Both types of hepatic steatosis (NAFLD and AFLD) can result in cirrhosis if not treated in a timely manner.
  3. The two illnesses take years to develop, but cirrhosis of the liver warrants a considerably more serious issue.
  4. Hepatic steatosis is much more prevalent.

If you have one of these issues, it’s important to obtain treatment as soon as possible. While both problems can be long term, having your illness addressed and your wellness maintained is important for your quality of life.

Learn about your liver health

Arizona Digestive Health is proud to feature a highly qualified group of trained gastroenterologists who have a comprehensive understanding of the gastrointestinal system and the vital organs that comprise it. We work hard to learn about your concerns to the most exhaustive extent and offer innovative medical technology to offer the most accurate analysis of your illness. Reach out to our staff in Phoenix, AZ today to schedule an exam and learn more about your liver health.

Factors that Lead to Fatty Liver Disease

Factors that Lead to Fatty Liver Disease


The liver carries out several critical functions, like producing bile, filtering blood, and processing glucose, and is the second-largest organ in the body. Ongoing damage to the liver can result in cirrhosis of the liver, which is where scar tissue takes over healthy areas of tissue. Several medical conditions and liver diseases have been known to lead to cirrhosis of the liver. One such condition, called fatty liver disease, is a health concern for approximately 25 percent of people nationwide and is on the rise.

Between 20 – 40% of people in the United States are living with a fatty liver condition. If ever you or a family member could be at an elevated risk for having fatty liver disease, the proper medical care could help set you on the path to treating this unhealthy buildup of fat. The gastroenterologists at Arizona Digestive Health are trained to diagnose and treat fatty liver disease. Reach out to a digestive health specialist at one of our practices throughout the Phoenix, AZ area to discover more about this common but preventable issue.

What are the primary types of fatty liver disease?

When fatty liver disease is present, it means that there is an accumulation of fat in the liver. Although a small amount of fat in your liver okay, a fat constitution in excess of 5% may end up causing inflammation and cirrhosis, which is known to the medical community as hepatic steatosis. The two primary types of fatty liver disease are called AFLD (alcoholic fatty liver disease) and NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).

Common causes of fat in the liver

Excessive alcohol consumption can often cause too much fat to accumulate in the liver. When this condition leads to fibrotic tissue or inflammation, it is typically called alcoholic steatohepatitis. Substance abuse services help to prevent misuse of alcohol and other drugs and to help people with substance use disorders get the treatment they need to live a life in recovery. For Phoenix, AZ patients who consume little to no alcohol, the common underlying health factors for NAFLD are comprised of:

  • Obesity
  • Adult-onset diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • High cholesterol

If a fatty liver condition advances to the point of causing inflammation and injury to the tissues in the liver, it is diagnosed as NASH or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis will likely overtake the hepatitis C virus as the primary reason for liver transplant procedures among U.S. citizens.

How can I identify the symptoms of hepatic steatosis?

A person who is affected by fatty liver disease is unlikely to present any noticeable symptoms or signs at first. If and when indications of the condition do show up, however, they could indicate that considerable damage to the liver has occurred. These symptoms could include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Swollen abdomen and ankles
  • Urine dark in color
  • Feeling extremely tired
  • Jaundice
  • Queasiness

If you or someone you love is noticing such symptoms, contact Arizona Digestive Health and have a gastrointestinal specialist assess the condition. Without professional care, a fatty liver condition may progress to cirrhosis and possibly result in other problems, including ascites (fluid accumulation in the belly), swollen veins in the esophagus, hepatic encephalopathy (a decline in brain function due to liver disease), liver cancer, and the need for liver transplant surgery.

Can fatty liver disease be treated?

Generally, the recommended ways to treat fatty liver disease often include lifestyle changes. Individuals who have AFLD should refrain from drinking alcohol, which can stop the advancement of a fatty liver condition. Avoiding the consumption of alcoholic drinks is also recommended if a person’s fatty liver condition is not related to alcohol use. If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, losing 10% of your entire body mass index (BMI) may considerably reduce the fat accumulation in your liver. Keeping up with heart-healthy exercises can often decrease the amount of fat in the liver as well. Adhering to a healthy diet may also help to better manage risk factors of fatty liver disease, including elevated cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, and lessen the overall fat content in the liver. For more details about liver treatment, use this link

Receive specialized care for a fatty liver condition in Phoenix, AZ

Excess fat in the liver might progress to damaging fibrotic tissue and liver failure without professional treatment. In the event that you or your loved one is at risk for hepatic steatosis, please reach out to Arizona Digestive Health in Phoenix, AZ to learn more about the methods used to address this medical issue. Arizona Digestive Health employs a qualified team of GI doctors that place the well-being and safety of their patients first.