A Guide to Gastroparesis and Clinical Trials


Gastroparesis is a long-term condition where the stomach cannot empty itself as it would normally. This occurs because food passes through the stomach at a slower rate than it should.

Although a complete epidemiology of gastroparesis in the United States is unavailable, a diabetic gastroparesis research study found that 267 of every 100,000 people in the U.S. have gastroparesis. The condition is especially prevalent in the Southeast parts of the United States.

About Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a condition characterized by the stomach’s delayed emptying of solid food. It causes discomfort when the vagus nerve and other nerves are damaged or not working properly.

Your vagus nerves control how food moves through your digestive tract. When this nerve stops functioning or gets damaged, the food in your digestive tract moves too slowly or stops moving altogether.

What Causes Gastroparesis?

In many cases of gastroparesis, there’s no apparent cause. It’s common for an additional condition to act as a catalyst for gastroparesis. 

Most cases of gastroparesis are caused by: 

  • Poorly controlled Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes (diabetic gastroparesis).
  • A complication of some kinds of surgery, such as weight loss (bariatric surgery). 
  • Opioid painkillers (like morphine) and some antidepressants.

Risk Factors for Gastroparesis 

Patients are more likely to develop gastroparesis if they: 

  • Have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Take medications that slow the rate of emptying the stomach (like narcotic painkillers). 
  • Suffer from certain autoimmune conditions, such as scleroderma

Gastroparesis is not technically a hereditary condition, meaning it’s not passed down from parents to their children. Nevertheless, many hereditary conditions, like Type 1 Diabetes, can lead to gastroparesis if your blood sugar levels are not maintained. 

About Diabetic Gastroparesis 

Diabetes is caused when your blood sugar (glucose) level becomes too high. If your body cannot produce enough of the hormone called insulin, which controls your blood sugar levels, it can have far-reaching effects throughout the body. 

People with diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) typically need to take insulin multiple times daily to control their blood sugar levels. If people with diabetes don’t take insulin daily, high blood sugar levels can damage their nerves. 

This is why people with diabetes are especially at risk of gastroparesis. If they don’t keep their blood sugar at a healthy level, the high amount of sugar in their bodies can damage the nerves that lead to their stomach, resulting in gastroparesis. 

One diabetic gastroparesis research study conducted in 2019 found that up to 50% of patients with moderately controlled Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes have some form of delayed gastric emptying. 

Symptoms of Gastroparesis 

There are all kinds of signs associated with gastroparesis. These symptoms can be mild or severe and tend to happen randomly throughout the day. 

Symptoms may include: 

  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort. 
  • Nausea and vomiting. 
  • Heartburn
  • Unintended weight loss. 

A particular diabetic gastroparesis research study demonstrated that different people would likely have varying symptoms. This could include one or many of the symptoms mentioned earlier.

Match With Diabetic Gastroparesis Research Studies

Do the symptoms of gastroparesis sound familiar? Have you or your loved one been diagnosed with the condition? You may qualify for a trial nearby. Tandem Clinical Research will match you with:

  • Cutting-edge gastroparesis treatments
  • The latest clinical studies

How Is Gastroparesis Diagnosed?

If you consult a medical professional concerning your symptoms, they will likely analyze your symptoms and medical history. They may arrange for you to take a blood test. 

You might also be referred to a hospital for the following tests:

  • A wireless capsule test – you will swallow a small electronic device that sends data about how fast it’s moving through your digestive tract. 
  • Endoscopy – a thin, flexible tube is passed down your throat and into your stomach, examining the stomach lining and ruling out other possible causes of discomfort. 

Barium X-ray – This involves swallowing a liquid containing the chemical Barium, which can be seen on an X-ray that highlights how the fluid is passing through your digestive system.

Preventing Diabetic Gastroparesis

Diabetic gastroparesis is preventable. If you have diabetes, either Type 1 or Type 2, then there are several steps you can take to lower your risks.  

Research studies have shown that maintaining healthy glucose levels, exercising, and eating clean can help stave off diabetic gastroparesis.  Because diabetic gastroparesis is caused by not maintaining your blood sugar levels appropriately, preventing diabetic gastroparesis and good diabetes management go hand-in-hand.

Maintaining healthy glucose levels is essential to preventing diabetic gastroparesis. It prevents your blood sugar levels from getting too high, damaging your nerves and stomach. 

Check with your doctor or diabetic nurse to see a good blood sugar level for your particular blood sugar measuring device. 

Eating low-carb foods such as fruit, vegetables, and protein (beans, nuts, meat, and fish) also helps maintain blood sugar levels. If you want to eat carbs, try and have healthier carbs such as brown rice or pasta.

Physical activity helps control blood sugar levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease and nerve damage. Whether working out in the gym or at home, walking, running outside, or playing sports, count and ensure your blood sugar levels stay low. 

This is especially true when combined with a healthier diet. In a 2021 study from Harvard, people with diabetes who walked at least two hours per week were less likely to die of heart disease than their sedentary peers. Those who exercised for three to four hours a week cut their risk of developing heart disease even more.

Although insulin is the most crucial medication to manage diabetes, some other kinds of medication can also help manage your condition and help to prevent gastroparesis. 

Metformin is the most common medication for people with Type 2 Diabetes. It helps to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level, just like insulin. It comes as a tablet and is taken with or after meals, lowering the sugar produced by your liver. 

However, clinical research has shown that a common side effect of metformin is feeling sick or experiencing diarrhea. If this occurs, you can likely be prescribed slow-release metformin that helps reduce these side effects.

Treating Diabetic Gastroparesis

There are many ways to treat diabetic gastroparesis. Treatment usually depends on various factors, like the severity of the condition and whether previous treatments have been successful. 

This diabetic gastroparesis research study demonstrates that it is possible to help alleviate the condition through treatment. Here are a few of the most common methods:

Changing your eating habits can help manage gastroparesis, ensuring you get enough calories, nutrients, and liquids. For example, according to research trials, your doctor may recommend that you eat fewer high-fat foods as food that is high in fat takes longer to digest. 

They also recommend:

  • Eating often and eating less (six small meals during the day instead of three large ones). 
  • Avoiding fizzy drinks.
  • Drinking plenty of water and drinks made with natural sugars and electrolytes, such as naturally sweetened fruit juice, i.e., orange juice, or sports drinks. 
  • Eating foods that are low in fiber. 

Changing your eating habits will not only help you manage gastroparesis. It will also aid your overall diabetes management.

There are also medications available that can help treat gastroparesis. In a diabetic gastroparesis research study, these medications were found to strengthen the muscles in the wall of your stomach. 

However, it should always be remembered that although current medications help manage gastroparesis, they do not cure the condition. 

Specific medications include:

  • Metoclopramide (Reglan). Mayo Clinic research shows that this medication may include serious side effects like muscle spasms of the face, neck, and back, amongst others.
  • Erythromycin may lose its effectiveness over time and can cause side effects, such as diarrhea, feelings of exhaustion, and skin rashes. 

Domperidone may improve gastric emptying. However, it’s only available under a particular program administered by the USFDA. Clinical studies have shown there is a potential risk of severe heart problems.

Your doctor may prescribe tube feeding as an alternative solution to your gastroparesis. They could prescribe tube feeding to ensure you’re getting the correct number of calories and nutrients. 

A tube will enter your mouth or nose, going through your esophagus and stomach to your small intestine. This bypasses your stomach and delivers a special liquid food to your small intestine. 

A longer-term solution to oral and nasal tube feeding is Jejunostomy tube feeding. This usually occurs when you aren’t getting enough calories and nutrients from other treatments. It works much like nasal or oral tube feeding, where a tube is placed into a section of the small intestine called the Jejunum. 

This way, it bypasses your stomach and allows liquid food to be injected directly into your small intestine. The usefulness of this has been confirmed during a diabetic gastroparesis research study.

How to Care for Loved Ones With Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a complex condition that intrudes into people’s lives in varying ways. Because of this, those who suffer from gastroparesis will not have uniform needs but require personalized care.

If your friend or a family member has gastroparesis, you can support them by:

1. Learning About the Condition

From that worrying feeling before their diagnosis, all the way to planning, medication, and treatment. It’s a lot to remember all in one go. 

A great way to help care for someone with gastroparesis is to help share the load by becoming your own repository of knowledge. A lot of accurate and respectable information is available online to research. 

Your research can help foster trust and a sense of commitment, not to mention take the load off their shoulders and help them remember important details. 

2. Offer to Go to Doctor’s Appointments

Gastroparesis can be an isolating experience to go through. That’s especially true for someone who likes to be private about their medical issues or prefers to keep themselves to themselves. 

Depending on who it is, they might receive comfort from having someone by their side at a doctor’s appointment. It could even help to deepen your knowledge of the condition and allow you to provide better care for them. 

An alternative is simply spending time with that person. Letting them know you’re by their side, ready to help when needed, can make all the difference. 

3. Be Careful When It Comes to Advice

Every day we’re inundated with facts, figures, data, and information. Sometimes, we may feel like passing that on if we think it’s relevant – but do we really know?  

Some people might prefer not to receive unsolicited advice and recommendations – especially if the person offering advice hasn’t gone through that experience themselves with the same condition. 

Think first before giving advice, or at least make sure the person is open to receiving advice in the first place. Remember: a well-researched piece of advice from a reputable source is always better than second-hand hear-say. 

Match with Diabetic Gastroparesis Research Studies

Tandem Clinical Research helps connect patients with clinical trials that advance medical science. These range from biotech and pharmaceutical to medical device companies. 

If you live close to New York City, New Orleans, or Orlando, Florida, we can help you find diabetic gastroparesis trials in your locale. 

Right now, diabetic gastroparesis can be managed – but what if we could learn more about preventing and maybe even curing the condition? 

If you, a friend, a family member, or another loved one has diabetic gastroparesis, please consider joining a clinical trial. Our research can contribute to finding clinical breakthroughs that benefit the world and future patients.