Having Stomach Problems? Learn About Gastric Emptying


Gastric emptying can be defined as the time it takes food or liquids to travel from your stomach into your smallĀ  intestines. It is actually controlled by a specific muscle called the pyloric sphincter. This sphincter muscle contracts which controls the rate that food travels into your small intestines. Your stomach contains four main layers of muscle that controls the contractions of the stomach which leads to food being digested and pushed down into the small intestines. There are many diseases of the stomach that can interfere with healthy digestion. Some of these diseases are gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), peptic ulcer disease, stomach cancer and the two that involve gastric emptying are gastroparesis and dumping syndrome.

gastric emptyingIn order to diagnose any problems with gastric emptying there are numerous tests that can be taken. These tests most often involve eating food that is mixed with radioactive ingredients so that the food can be monitored throughout the digestive tract with x-ray technology. The patient is often told to fast for at least 4 hours before the test. The patient will eat the food that is mixed with radioactive material and wait about 30 minutes. Once digestion begins, the food can be monitored with an x-ray machine and the doctor can determine if you have any problems with gastric emptying.

Gastroparesis is characterized by slow gastric emptying. In other words, the time it takes for digested food to travel from your stomach to your small intestines is delayed. Slow gastric emptying results in food staying in your stomach too long which can lead to other consequences. There can be various causes of gastroparesis. Some of the main causes that are most common include diabetes, certain medications and unknown cause. Some symptoms of slow gastric emptying include nausea/vomiting, sudden weight loss and anorexia. If left untreated, certain consequences can include peptic ulcers and more difficulty in controlling diabetes.

Dumping syndrome is characterized by rapid gastric emptying. This is when food travels too fast from the stomach to the small intestines and may not be fully digested. Rapid gastric emptying is not very common and is mainly caused by gastric bypass surgery. Certain symptoms of rapid gastric emptying can include abdominal pain, flushing, palpitations, tachycardia, hypotension and syncope (passing out). Rapid gastric emptying is more dangerous than slow gastric emptying and should be taken more serious. If you feel you have any of these symptoms related to a post gastric bypass surgery then it is recommended to visit your doctor for more information.