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Paralysis of the stomach. More details in Acupuncture - Pieter Rijke's Gastroparesis. (Photo Contributed)
Paralysis of the stomach. More details in Acupuncture - Pieter Rijke's Gastroparesis. (Photo Contributed)


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One of the less known, but still common enough, disorders of the gastro intestinal system is called gastroparesis, which literally means, paralysis of the stomach.

Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder in which the stomach takes too long to empty its contents. Normally, the stomach contracts to move food down into the small intestine for digestion. The vagus nerve controls the movement of food from the stomach through the digestive tract. Gastroparesis occurs when the vagus nerve is damaged and the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not work normally. Food then moves slowly or stops moving through the digestive tract.

Diabetes is often the main cause for this disorder. The high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels that serve the nerves and one of the nerves is the vagus nerve, responsible for movement of food through the digestive tract. When this nerve does not work well, food movement stops or slows down, causing other symptoms. There are other causes for gastroparesis, like surgery in the stomach, virus infections, anorexia, bulimia, acid reflux, medications etc., but often the cause is unknown.

The most important symptoms of gastroparesis are nausea, heartburn, early feeling of fullness, high blood sugar level, upper abdominal pain and lack of appetite. Gastroparesis can cause bacterial overgrowth and solid food masses in the stomach. It can also make diabetes worse, because the blood sugar level is harder to control.

Treatment of gastroparesis is difficult and it turns often into a chronic condition. Medications are used to promote movement in the stomach and to decrease nausea and vomiting. Other approaches are changing the frequency of eating from three large meals into more smaller meals. The purpose is to not overfill the stomach.

In severe cases there are several surgical procedures available to bypass the stomach. Gastroparesis is a serious condition and severe cases will be hard to treat.

Acupuncture can be helpful to normalize the function of the stomach: it reduces pain and stimulates the normal mobility of the stomach right away. Because diabetes and acid reflux can cause gastroparesis, it is important to fight these conditions as well. Acupuncture is a good way to treat acid reflux and will slowdown the progression of diabetes.

Acupuncture is a good alternative and additive in the treatment of this disease and can be used at the same time as the western approach.

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About the Author

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine. His training in acupuncture took place in Nelson, B.C. where he graduated from the four-year practitioner program in Traditional Chinese Medicine. He later practiced in Ottawa, Ontario treating a variety of health conditions and working together with practitioners of other disciplines. James is very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Kelowna and area residents offering quality acupuncture at affordable prices. He practices at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre in downtown Kelowna.

He can be reached at 861-8863 or at www.okanaganacupuncture.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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