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Acupuncture & Functional Medicine Effectively Treats Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis or "stomach paralysis" is a neuromuscular dysfunction of the stomach which causes sluggish or delayed emptying of solid food (and sometimes liquid nutrients) from the stomach. People suffering with gastroparesis have decreased gastric motility and disturbed gastric rhythm, leading to chronic and often debilitating digestive issues. Gastroparesis mainly affects young to middle-aged women and diabetics, but can also affect younger children and men. Quality of life is greatly affected in patients with gastroparesis, with 1 in 10 becoming disabled by the condition. Because of the delay in gastric emptying, these patients are generally unable to tolerate eating much food and have difficulty keeping food down, leading to malnourishment and unwanted weight loss.

Symptoms of gastroparesis:

  • loss of appetite

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • acid reflux

  • heartburn

  • abdominal distension

  • abdominal discomfort

  • flatulence after meals

  • feeling full easily

  • feeling full long after eating

  • unintended weight loss

The causes of gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is divided into three main categories: 1) diabetic gastroparesis (caused by hyperglycemia), 2) idopathic gastroparesis (no known cause), and 3) post-surgical gastroparesis (caused by vagus nerve damage). In patients with poorly controlled diabetes, high blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage, which can slow muscle contraction of the stomach, causing gastroparesis. Gastroparesis can also affect those with autoimmune diseases (i.e. scleroderma), hypothyroidism, or nervous system disorders (i.e. Parkinson's or multiple sclerosis). Other causes of gastroparesis that are often labeled "idiopathic" include: viral infections, bacterial infections (i.e. h. pylori), and parasites. These lingering gut infections can disrupt gastric motility over time.

In western medicine, there is no real treatment for gastroparesis, only temporary relief that may come with gastrointestinal motility drugs; however, the side-effects are often intolerable and relapse occurs after stopping the medication. Additionally, many patients with gastroparesis often go undiagnosed. Fortunately, there are natural ways to treat gastroparesis effectively and without side-effects.

Acupuncture for Gastroparesis

Acupuncture works by waking up the nerves that innervate the digestive organs, it improves gastric motility, and enhances the function of the digestive system. In addition, acupuncture stimulates the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you to rest and digest. "Acupuncture is an effective method for the treatment of gastroparesis. The combination of Zhongwan (CV 12) with Zusanli (ST 36) showed the most promising effect on relief of the symptoms in patients with gastroparesis." Studies have also proven that acupuncture at Neiguan (P6) is more effective than antiemetic medications for the treatment of nausea and vomiting. The calming effects of acupuncture also help to enhance emotional wellbeing, which can further benefit digestion.

Functional medicine for Gastroparesis

With functional medicine, a comprehensive blood panel can reveal hidden root causes of gastroparesis such as viral, bacterial and parasitic infections or low stomach acid. Natural supplements and herbal medicines are given to improve digestion, increase stomach acid, accelerate gastric motility, improve digestion, balance blood sugar, and kill pathogens, infections and parasites. Diet and lifestyle modifications are recommended to improve digestive function as well.

At New Direction Natural Medicine, we use a highly effective combination of acupuncture and functional medicine to get patients the relief they have been searching for. If you or someone you know is suffering with chronic digestive issues such as gastroparesis, there is help and hope with natural medicine.

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