Strategies to Support Digestion With Diabetic Gastroparesis

Strategies to Support Digestion With Diabetic Gastroparesis

If you have diabetes, you likely know the importance of a healthy diet and careful blood sugar monitoring. But what if even simple meals leave you feeling uncomfortably full, nauseous, and struggling with blood sugar spikes? The chances are you might be experiencing diabetic gastroparesis, a condition that dramatically slows the digestion of your stomach.

The Gastroparesis Clinical Research Consortium (GpCRC) estimates that around 5 million people in the U.S. have diabetic gastroparesis. It typically results from long-term high blood sugar levels damaging the nerves in your digestive system. That, in turn, makes diabetes management incredibly difficult.  

While there’s no instant cure for gastroparesis, there are strategies that can significantly improve your digestion and overall well-being. This blog will give you those strategies, helping you regain control and start feeling better.

What Causes Diabetic Gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis, also known as stomach paralysis, is a condition that dramatically slows the stomach’s normal digestion process. This disruption causes uncomfortable symptoms and makes it especially difficult to manage blood sugar levels for people with diabetes.

The vagus nerve is crucial for communication between the brain and the digestive system. Chronic high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) from poorly controlled diabetes can damage the vagus nerve. This damage weakens the signals that tell your stomach to contract and move food into the small intestine, slowing down the processes of churning and emptying.

While long-standing hyperglycemia is the primary cause, certain medications can also contribute to gastroparesis. If you have diabetes and take medications like GLP-1 receptor agonists such as Ozempic and Wegovy, you might be at risk. These drugs contain semaglutide, which can slow digestion and lead to gastroparesis.

Many doctors are seeing an increasing number of gastroparesis cases due to the growing popularity of these drugs. This has led people to file the Ozempic lawsuit against drug manufacturers like Novo Nordisk (maker of Ozempic and Wegovy) for allegedly failing to adequately warn about potential side effects.

According to TruLaw, plaintiffs claim they suffered severe digestive issues, including the need for gallbladder removal, after taking these drugs. These lawsuits target Novo Nordisk for promoting the safety and effectiveness of their medications while enjoying market leadership.

5 Ways to Manage Diabetic Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis affects everyone differently, impacting approximately 10 men and 40 women per 100,000 people. Symptoms can vary significantly between individuals. Here are some proven strategies to help you manage diabetic gastroparesis:

1. Change How You Eat

A systematic review shows that specific dietary changes, particularly meals with smaller food particles and low-fat content, can significantly improve the physical and symptomatic aspects of gastroparesis in adults.

To manage gastroparesis, change how you eat. Instead of large meals, try eating 5-6 smaller meals in a day. This eases the workload on your stomach, potentially reducing bloating and nausea. It can also help you maintain better blood sugar control, which is especially important if you have diabetes.

Focus on low-fat, low-fiber foods because fat and fiber slow down digestion. Choose lean proteins like skinless poultry, fish, and lean meat. Go easy on rich sauces and opt for low-fat dairy products. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are still important, but you might need smaller portions or cooked/canned options instead of raw ones.

2. Talk to Your Doctor Before Taking Supplements

Supplements to improve stomach function and ease gastroparesis symptoms can seem tempting. However, prioritize your safety and talk to your doctor first.

Always consult your doctor before taking any supplements. This is crucial because some supplements might interact with other medications or worsen existing health conditions. Discuss potential aids like ginger (known for its anti-nausea properties) or certain probiotics designed for digestive health with your doctor.

Talk openly with your doctor about supplements. This is key to their safe use and to ensuring they fit with your overall treatment plan.

3. Small Habits, Big Impact

Sometimes, the most impactful changes aren’t about drastic overhauls but rather small habits you stick with consistently. After eating, make a habit of sitting upright. This simple act uses gravity to help food pass easily through your stomach. Contrary to that, when an individual lies down within 2 hours of eating a meal, it can reduce the effect of gravity and delay stomach emptying. Moreover, it also contributes to acid reflux.

A gentle walk after meals can stimulate the digestive process. It doesn’t need to be a marathon; even 10-15 minutes has benefits. This is a surprisingly powerful way to reduce the feeling of being overly full and may relieve nausea.

4. Blood Glucose Management

Gastroparesis makes blood sugar control much more challenging for people with diabetes because it causes delayed and unpredictable food absorption. Proactive blood sugar monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan can help you manage these challenges.

Increased frequency of blood glucose checks provides the most up-to-date information on how food affects sugar levels. Your doctor might suggest blood sugar testing if you have type 1 diabetes. While additional testing may feel less than ideal, making timely adjustments to stay within your target range is vital.

Checking your blood sugar more often gives you the most up-to-date information on how food affects your levels. If you have type 1 diabetes, your doctor might recommend testing 4-10 times a day. While more frequent testing might seem inconvenient, it’s crucial for making timely adjustments and staying within your target range.

Sometimes, your doctor might suggest taking fast-acting insulin after you eat instead of before. This helps match the insulin’s action to when your body absorbs carbohydrates, reducing the risk of unexpected blood sugar swings.

5. Explore Alternative Therapies

Diet and medication are the foundation of gastroparesis management. However, your doctor might recommend alternative therapies if these don’t provide enough relief.

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat various health issues, including digestive problems. While more research is needed, some studies suggest it might help ease gastroparesis symptoms.

For severe cases of gastroparesis that don’t improve with other treatments, your doctor might consider a gastric electrical stimulator. It’s like a pacemaker for your stomach, sending gentle electrical pulses to help reduce nausea and stimulate digestion.


What Is the Best Diet for Diabetic Gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis requires a diet focused on low-fat, low-fiber, and easily digestible foods. Opt for smaller, frequent meals throughout the day. Prioritize soft, cooked fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources, and liquid supplements if solids are complex.  

Is Milk Okay for Gastroparesis?

Dairy products like milk can be problematic for gastroparesis. Whole milk is difficult to digest due to its high fat content. If you have gastroparesis, opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy products, smaller milk portions, or plant-based alternatives like soy or rice milk.

What Triggers Diabetic Gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis is triggered by long-term, poorly controlled blood sugar levels. These high sugar levels damage the vagus nerve, which controls the stomach muscles. This damage leads to slowed or erratic stomach emptying, causing the symptoms of bloating, nausea, and vomiting that characterize gastroparesis.

What Is the Life Expectancy With Diabetic Gastroparesis?

Diabetic gastroparesis itself is not considered life-threatening, and there’s currently no cure for the condition. However, complications arising from gastroparesis can become severe. It’s essential for those with diabetic gastroparesis to carefully manage both their blood sugar levels and their gastroparesis symptoms to reduce the risks of complications and live an entire lifespan.

In the end, your doctor is your most important partner. They can adjust medications, suggest therapies, and monitor you for complications. While there’s no instant cure, feeling better is absolutely within reach. With the strategies we’ve covered and your doctor’s guidance, you can improve your digestion and quality of life. This takes time and effort, but you are capable.

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