Alternative and Complementary Treatment Options for Gastroparesis


What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis, also known as gastric stasis or delayed gastric emptying, is a condition in which the stomach takes longer than normal to empty its contents. Under normal circumstances, strong muscle contractions move food through the digestive tract. With gastroparesis, damaged nerves and muscles cause these contractions to slow and weaken. Large masses of food can form in the stomach, which can cause digestive symptoms and even prevent food from entering the small intestine.

Alternative and complementary treatments for gastroparesis

In addition to conventional medical treatments for gastroparesis, such as medications and medical procedures, some alternative and complementary treatments may also reduce gastroparesis symptoms and even improve gastric emptying. These treatments include acupuncture, massage, and the use of ginger.

  • Acupuncture and electroacupuncture
    Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice in which extremely thin needles are placed into the skin at specific locations on the body. Acupuncture needles placed in certain locations may stimulate the vagus nerve, which is involved in gastrointestinal function. Stimulation of this nerve may improve gastric emptying.
    Electroacupuncture entails the use of a small electrical current with acupuncture needles. Electroacupuncture has been shown to reduce symptoms and accelerate gastric emptying, especially in individuals with diabetic gastroparesis.
  • Massage
    Abdominal massage may increase the rate of gastric emptying and reduce some gastroparesis symptoms, such as loss of appetite, bloating, and pain. Abdominal massage is performed by a trained practitioner. First, smooth strokes are applied to the area to relax the abdominal muscles. Firmer pressure is then applied from the intestines to the descending colon. Finally, smooth strokes are used again.
  • Ginger
    Ginger has been used for centuries to treat gastrointestinal symptoms. Studies show that ginger promotes the contraction of the stomach and stimulates gastric emptying. Ginger can be consumed in its natural state, in capsule form, or in a tea.

Because these treatments are generally safe and inexpensive, they are feasible options for individuals with gastroparesis to use in conjunction with dietary changes and other treatments.

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