How to Treat Gastroparesis Naturally

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by Dr. Craig A. Maxwell

 

Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a Greek word meaning “a weakness of movement.” This disorder slows or stops the movement of food from the stomach to the small intestine. Symptoms of gastroparesis include a feeling of fullness after eating a very small meal, sometimes just one or two bites, vomiting undigested food, nausea, stomach pain, burping, and abdominal bloating.

 

The most common conventional treatments for delayed gastric emptying are prokinetic agents (gastrointestinal motility enhancers). Perhaps the best known one is Reglan (metoclopramide). The antibiotic erythromycin is also used as a prokinetic. These are just two examples of several available medications.

 

Excessive antibiotic use often causes more health problems than it treats. Since antibiotics do not discriminate against good or bad bacteria, they wipe out everything, including the good bacteria you need to digest and absorb your food. Possible side effects of erythromycin include antibiotic-resistance, neurological impairment, liver problems, skin rashes, hives, vertigo, pancreatitis, and even hallucinations.

 

Reglan had a “black box” warning attached to it in 2009 because of its tendency to cause debilitating movement disorders such as tardive dyskinesia. Despite the fact that Reglan should only be used for 8 week maximum to treat gastroparesis, many patients remain on it for months or even years at a time.

 

You can treat gastroparesis naturally without the risk of these potentially-dangerous side effects.

 

Medical Conditions That Cause Gastroparesis

 

Diabetes is the most common medical condition associated with the development of gastroparesis. Over time, high blood glucose levels damage the vagus nerve, which is responsible for sending signals to and from the brain and gut. Once this nerve become paralyzed, gastroparesis can result.

 

Diseases of the nervous system such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis can cause gastroparesis. Delayed gastric emptying can also develop as a side effect from chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Thyroid disease has also been shown to be a contributing factor.

 

According to a study published by the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology[1.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9246707], 27% of the patients with gastroparesis also tested positive for H. Pylori infection

 

Many other things can cause gastroparesis, including:

 

  • Antacids
  • Anticholinergics
  • Atropine
  • Beta Agonists
  • Calcitonin
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Dexfenfluramine
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Ethanol
  • Glucagon
  • Interleukin-1
  • L-Dopa
  • Lithium
  • Octreotide
  • Ondansetron
  • Narcotics
  • Nicotine
  • Potassium Salts
  • Progesterone
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Sucralfate
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants

 

Many medical practitioners diagnose the cause of gastroparesis as idiopathic meaning, “no known cause.”

 

How to Treat Gastroparesis Naturally

 

  • Take Insulin After Meals

 

In the case of diabetic gastroparesis, patients are often instructed to take insulin after meals, instead of before to avoid the excess flood of glucose into the system that often precedes intestinal paralysis.

 

  • Get Tested for Thyroid Disease

 

Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone output) is the most common, yet under-diagnosed autoimmune disease in the world. One of the most unfortunate aspects of this is that standardized thyroid testing often misses this disease. The most accurate thyroid test and the only one I have trusted for years is the Complete Thyroid Panel + Thyroid Antibodies from Direct Labs.

 

This test carefully measures your Free T3, Free T4, TSH and tests for any antibodies which may have developed as a result of an autoimmune response. This panel of tests will not only tell you whether you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, but Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as well. Just take the test order slip to any LabCorp location to get your blood drawn and LabCorp will send it away for you.

 

You’ll get your results back in 5 business days.

 

  • Give Acupuncture a Try

 

Acupuncture uses hollow-pointed needles in lines on the body called meridians. Based on their placement, these needles are believed to restore healthy immunity and neurological function while removing blocks in your life-force energy called ‘chi’.

 

If you’ve never used natural modalities before, the idea of acupuncture might not appeal to you at first. However, scientific studies have shown that this ancient Eastern practice is quite effective in treating gastroparesis naturally.

 

For example, a study on a 61-year-old woman with a 2-year history of gastroperesis published by Dr. San Hong Hwang of Southern California University of Health Sciences, Whittier, CA[2.  http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acu.2008.0605]. revealed that after 5 acupuncture and herbal treatments, the digestive motility of the patient was restored 100%. 

 

Another study, this one published by the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine[3.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15510787], acupuncture resulted in a 94.2% total effective rate in the relief of symptoms in patients with diabetic gastroparesis. 

 

Make Dietary Changes

 

  • Gluten Free – The most common diet suggested for the treatment of gastroparesis is low-fat, low-fiber, and low carbohydrate. I go one step further in also advising a gluten free diet. Even mild gluten intolerance can result in the development of thyroid imbalance, which could worsen gastroparesis.

 

  • Fermented Foods – I also recommend a diet rich in lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, black garlic, and kefir.

 

  • Bone Broth – Bone broth is very nutritious and healing for your gut, as it contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, glucosamine, chondroitin, and glycine to ease digestion and soothe inflammation.

 

Here is a good, simple recipe for chicken bone broth I found on this website:

 

Easy Slow-Cooker Bone Broth Recipe

bone_broth_treat_gastroparesis_naturally

 

Place 1-2 lbs of chicken bones in pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 T of organic, raw apple cider vinegar and let sit for 30 min to an hour. This pulls the nutrients and minerals off the bones for a more nutrient dense soup.

 

Simmer on low for 12-24 hours – 20 hours produces great results.

Remove the bones. Next, fill sink with ice and water then poor through a cheese cloth lined strainer into a separate pot sitting in the ice bath. Stir until cool and place in fridge.

 

Once completely cooled down the fat will solidify on top which can be scooped out and discarded. At this point divide into containers, saving enough for the next few days, and freeze what’s left.

 

Tip: Freeze in ice cube trays. In a standard size tray each cube is 1/8 cup.

 

Juicing is another healthy option to get the nutrients your body needs. As organic fruits and vegetables move through your juicer, the bulk of the fiber content is removed, making it easier for those with gastroparesis to digest.

 

If you have diabetes, take care to avoid adding too many starchy vegetables and sweet fruits. Try preparing your juice with tomatoes, green pepper, celery, ginger root, garlic, asparagus, cucumber, and/or romaine lettuce.

 

Start slowly and experiment until you get a combination that works best for you and your own individual needs.

 

  • Take the Right Supplements

 

Chelated Magnesium – Neurological dysfunction (including vagus nerve paralysis) is often caused in part by magnesium deficiency. This is why I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Chelated Magnesium for my patients with with both chronic digestive and neurological dysfunction. I believe chelated magnesium is the best type of magnesium supplement for those with digestive issues as it is easily absorbed.

 

High-Quality Probiotics – Probiotics are the live, active cultures found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Since you may have been given antibiotics to treat your condition, it is vitally important you “re-seed” your gut to avoid further complications. For this, I recommend Diamond Nutritional’s Probiotic Formula. It contains a full complement of healing, high-quality cultures designed to help you break down and absorb nutrients from food.

 

Digestive Enzymes – Digestive enzymes are critical in the digestion and absorption of the essential nutrients from food. Diamond Nutritional’s Digestive Enzyme Formula contains pancreatin, an enzyme derived from porcine pancrease and also amylase, protease, and lipase to ensure you receive the most nutrition you can from any bit of food you take in.

 

Vitamin D3 – According to a study published by Hormone and Metabolic Research[4.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22956309], those with idiopathic gastroparesis experienced improved stomach emptying the higher their levels of vitamin D3. Without adequate levels of vitamin D3, immune, digestive, and neurological health suffer. This is why I recommend taking a high-quality vitamin D3 supplement daily to return levels to optimum. 

 

  • Do Deep Breathing Exercises

 

Deep, slow belly breathing can help stimulate your vagus nerve and help it to heal itself. Inhale through your nose, allowing your stomach and abdomen to expand. Exhale through your mouth, letting your exhalation last longer than your inhalation. Do this periodically throughout the day to induce feelings of calm while improving your digestion.

 

  • Try “OM” Chanting

 

“OM” meditative chanting stimulates a vibratory sensation that is transmitted through the auricular branch of the vagus nerve, stimulating its function. A study performed by the International Journal of Yoga in 2011[5.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099099/], noted that OM changing it more stimulatory to the vagus nerve than other traditional forms of chant. 

 

The best way to perform the ‘OM’ chant is to hold the vowel part of the ‘OM’ (O) for 5 seconds then continue into the consonant (M) and hold it for 10 seconds. This chant should be performed for 10 minutes once per day for best results.

Even if you’ve had gastroparesis for several years, this doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of the same. These natural treatments can improve your digestion and return you to a healthier state.

Need More Personalized Help? 

Contact Dr. Maxwell for a Private Natural Health Consultation Today

38 COMMENTS

    • Thank you for your comment, Amy. I hope it proves helpful for you. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you back on your journey to wellness.

  1. your article was helpfull and inspiring i have been a diabetic type 2 ,insulin dependant,hypothyroid for 15 yrs and now im afraid i have severe problems with burping especially i notice this is not mentioned as a symptom of gastraparesis why?

    • Hello Ms. Herrera,
      Thank you for your kind words.
      You are correct about the burping.
      I am glad you pointed it out, and have added it to the article.
      Warmest Regards,
      Dr. Maxwell

  2. Hello Dr. Craig Maxwell. I would like to know if I can combine the probiotics and digestive enzymes together. If so. Should I take them separately? I bought 2 different containers. I didnt buy the probiotics that come with enzymes . I bought them separately. Thanks.

    • Hello,
      Diamond Nutritional’s Probiotics and Diamond Nutritional’s Digestive Enzymes may be taken together.
      Warmest Regards,
      Dr. Maxwell

    • Hi Bill,
      Thank you for your question.
      Abdominal bloating can have an effect on breathing by pressing on the diaphragm muscles.
      Dr. Maxwell

  3. Hi i have been sick for over two months now.. i am constantly nauseous and havent kept any solid food down since February. Does this sickness come with migraines? What antibiotics are recommended?

  4. Hello Dr. Maxwell,
    My Husband has been suffering with abdominal pain for almost 2 years now. He has had several tests done (CAT scan, EGD, Colonoscopy, ultra sound) and all come back normal. His Doctors tell him that he has gastritis, and have given him omeprazole. This does not seem to be working and we have seen 3 different Doctors. The newest one tells him it is spasms. I just happen to come across this article as I was trying once more to diagnose him myself. I really think this is the answer, but if he is on omeprazole will it make this condition worse? He goes a few days without pain or a bowel movement and then all of a suden after a meal he is in sever pain and says he feels a knot in his stomach. Please any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • Hi Ashley,
      Thank you for contacting me. Has your husband been checked for H.Pylori? It is very common, and
      causes many problems. If he has H.Pylori, PPI medication can make the symptoms worse by drying up virtually
      all of the stomach acid without treating the infection. The special combination of ingredients in Diamond Nutritionals’ Stomach Support Formula
      eliminates Helicobacter Pylori while soothing the stomach. It has helped many of my patients over the years.
      Blessings,
      Dr. M

  5. Comment:six months ago i had an endoscopy and was declared h pyrolli +. then i was given a regime of antibiotics for 10 days. since then i feel pain in stomach, abdomen especially on right side and sometimes in rectum, feeling of fullness, burps, bloating and burning like sensation in stomach and intestines. Doctors say its in my mind while others say dysmotility or ibs. Please help if you can. I am getting weaker n sick day by day and have lost weight.

    • Hello Shakeel,
      Thank you for contacting me. You have been through quite a lot!
      Please go to the opening page at http://www.AskDrMaxwell.com. There you will find our
      question and answer box. Kindly provide more information about yourself.
      I will be glad to make every effort to help you.
      Dr. Maxwell

  6. Hi I have type 1 diabetes with all the neuropathy side, ie. Pain neuropathy,autonomic neuropathy etc also I have had gastro paresis for 6 years undiagnosed for 2 years. I’m on ordansatron aswell as other anti sicknesses, and I struggle every day living with this condition. I suffer with all of the symptoms daily which causes doing day to day thing very hard. I’m only 29 years and had diabetes since I was 18mth old. I ended up with gastro paresis by being on the wrong insulin which my gp never thought to change even though I was having continuous high blood sugars. I have tried the juicing diet but it seems to make me worse but some foods I can tolerate some days Il be sick like usual but by the afternoon Il be okay so I usually only manage to eat late afternoon. But other days I’m so bad from the minute I wake up and I cant even tolerate a sip of water. My consultants are struggling on what next to do on how to help me and be comfortable but avent came up with anything yet. Also I suffer with alot of pain which is agony and I cant find anything to ease that either. Is there anything you could do? Or give me so advice? I would be very grateful. Thanks claire

    • Hello Claire,
      I am sorry to hear about all you have been through. I have a natural treatment program for neuropathy/gastroparesis.
      Please contact me at 513-741-4404. I will be glad to schedule a telemedicine consultation with you.
      Warmest Regards,
      Dr. Maxwell

  7. My best friend doesn’t have diabetes but has gastroparesis. I have no idea how to help her. I made her doctor discontinue reglan because she was experiencing serious side effects. What can i do to help?

    • Hi Shyann,
      Thank you for contacting me. I have used the protocol outlined in this article with many patients over the years with good success.
      Please make note of the diet, special supplements, and avoidance of medications which are known to cause gastroparesis, or make is worse.
      Dr. Maxwell

  8. Hi I have a 18 yearold son who I think has gastroparesis. tried every massage acupuncture medicine did all kinds of tests nothing helps. Any special supplements you know of that might help. he was diagnosed a year ago with olivopontocerebellar degeneration had tumor removed at age 3. trying cannabis sativa oil will see if it does anything.

  9. Dr Maxwell, I have gastropresis not due to diabetes or thyroid but due to possible damage to vagus during laprosvopic inguinal hernia surgery.
    But D3 is also low. Please advise which high quality d3 supplement I shudder take and where is it available in Delhi,India. Also suggest any good accupuncture specialist in Delhi.

  10. I have gastroparesis and have all the thyroid symptoms but my TSH came back 1.26 so they say I don’t have thyroid problems?

    • Hello Ms. Massie,
      A TSH is often used to screen for hypothyroidism. In my experience, it should not be used alone as it misses too many patients with hypothyroidism.
      At the very least, I recommend TSH+T4+T3+Free T4+Free T3 to screen for hypothyroidism. I invite you to read my articles about hypothyroidism.
      Dr. M

  11. DR MAXWELL,
    I believe I have an inherited form of neuropathy, since I suffer from the same symptoms my father and grandfather had – electrical shock sensations up to my knees, painful, numb feet, pain and redness in my hands and arms. painful foot cramps that ramp up at night, . I have been to a neurologist and tested negative for neuropathy with an EMG. My understanding is that there is also another form of inherited neuropathy in which an EMG will be normal. Unfortunately, I also suffer from facet joint disease and have been prescribed flexiril. I now believe that my vagus nerve has been affected since I suffer from daily painful stomach pains and severe constipation. I have changed my diet and stopped taking the flexeril but have had no good results. To make matters worse, I am in severe back pain. My family doctor is not providing any assistance at this point and denies that flexerill can may constipation worse. Can you help me?

  12. Hello Dr Maxwell,

    I’ve been diagnosed with GERD since I was 21yrs old. I am 35 now and over the past couple of years it seems like this condition has drastically started to affect my vagus nerve. I recently had to be taken to the ER because of abdominal pain and heart palpitations. But, after being tested for practically everything, with no negative findings, my personal doctor suggested that due to my symptoms, it could be that I irritated my vagus nerve. I very recently had an upper scope done with only signs of a small hiatus hernia and the presence of GERD to show. I have lost about 10lbs and dread the palpitations at night, which do not let me sleep. My doctor put me on ambien but the side effects keep me from using it sometimes. I just started taking ginger after reading about its anti inflammatory effects on the body. I was also told by my Doctor to try co q 10, which I have but to no avail. I’m on omeprazole 20mg and I recently tried melatonin to aid with my sleep. It didn’t really help, I guess because my stress levels are so high. I have read a lot of other people’s posts talking about the power of acupuncture. And how it can stimulate the vagus nerve. Is there anything you can recommend to help with my situation.

    Thank you.

    • Hello Joe,
      Thank you for contacting me. I am sorry to hear about your symptoms. Please email me through our Q&A forum at http://www.AskDrMaxwell.com.
      I have some recommendations which have helped many of my patients that you may find quite helpful as well.
      Dr. M

  13. I ate some middle eastern food on new years eve this year and had a horrible reaction. I have had funny reactions after eating at the same place- I feel as if my bp shoots through the roof and i’m close to having a stroke. The food there seems healthy and it’s almost addictive- I suspect copious amounts of msg or something like it. I have been sick every day since. At first it was heart palpitations for nearly 2 weeks and extreme thirst, right arm numbness, upper lip numbness, my lower GI pretty much stopped which is very unusual for me. Dizzyness, blurred vision and a dulled swallowing reflex at times and sacral spine pain. The first week of symptoms I also had a dulled reaction when I needed to urinate. Everything leads to my vagal nerve being out of whack but this has happened overnight and I know the food was a trigger. The first couple weeks it was hitting like an anxiety attack shortly after a meal or when I was hungry and after trips to the ER and urgent care I know my heart is not the culprit. I am having a cat scan on my brain this friday. I’ve always taken probiotics and am going to try some digestive enzymes to see if that helps. I started gluten free the day after the offending meal as that was one of my new years resolutions. I’m only 30 and have small children so I have been very depressed the last few weeks thinking it could be something else wrong or will be an ongoing issue. I don’t think I can live like this. I guess I wonder if anyone has ever been triggered by a single meal or exposure to something so upsetting to the GI tract that could cause a flare up of this manner.

  14. Dear Dr.Maxwell,

    I have been a type 1 Diabetic for 30 years.I am on an insulin pump for 8 years.I take 2 domperidom for mild gastroparesis.Do you know if ginger is beneficial in helping to treat gastrparesis?

    • Hi Dee,
      Ginger can be beneficial, but I believe there are better ways to treat gastroparesis.
      Please feel free to email me directly at drcraigmaxwell@roadrunner.com. My staff will be glad to assist you in scheduling a consultation.
      Dr. Maxwell

  15. Thank you for writing such an informative article…I will have to give some of these a try (some I have already tried)
    I have such severe gastroparesis that I have been hospitalised several times this yr, placed on TPN and now I have a jej feeding tube and am completely unable to tolerate anything orally, even liquids! I am a single mother to two children, and as I’m sure you can imagine…dinner time is torture for me. Although I am happy my feeding tube is providing me with everything I need, of course I’d love to be able to eat again…even just a bite would be nice.

    • Hello Rachel,
      Thank you for your kind words.
      I am sorry to hear about all you have been through.
      Please feel free to call my office to schedule a telemedicine consultation. This would include a complete
      review of your medical history, any test results, and consultations. Further testing would be ordered, if needed.
      My goal is to find the underlying cause(s). A natural, targeted treatment plan is then implemented.
      I have completed telemedicine consultations in many countries, including the UK, and would be glad to assist you.
      All my best,
      Dr. M

  16. Thank you for this information. I have idiopathic GP and am 47. Doctors do not want to put me on any meds. And truthfully the thought scares me because I have developed so many sudden unexplained food and medicine intolerances with scary reactions. I eat very clean now no processed foods, etc. and avoid all common food allergens. One of the things I never thought I would take again is a probiotic as I can get very weak, cold sweats and feel like I could pass out. As a result I try at a minimum to consume Almond yogurt, but find it irritates my gut. Dairy products give me mild dizziness with migraines and blurred vision. Prior to all of this a few years ago I could pretty much eat and drink anything including taking probiotics. At this point gastro medical testing shows GP and a stone in my gallbladder that doesn’t concern my doctor. Do any of the products you recommend contain any corn? If not I would like to try your regimen. Also do you have any recommendations with trying the probiotic at my risk of course ( such as trying the children’s formula first? I am wondering if that would be a milder option. )

    • Hello DC,
      Thank you for contacting me.
      I am sorry to hear about all you have been through.
      The recommended products are corn-free.
      Many of my adult patients with gastroparesis begin with the Childrens’ Probiotics as a milder option.
      If you would like, I would be glad to consult with you by phone or at our Integrative Medical Center.
      Warmest regards,
      Dr. Maxwell

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