Digestive tract paralysis refers to an inefficient movement of several parts of the digestive tract which interferes with your regular digestion. In our digestive system, peristalsis or the rhythmic movement of smooth muscles keeps food moving throughout the tract. In people with digestive tract paralysis, the muscles of the digestive tract are unable to contract and expand efficiently, thereby slowing the movement of food. Digestive tract paralysis can manifest as one of two conditions – gastroparesis or partial paralysis of the stomach; and chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, a similar paralysis of the intestines as opposed to the stomach.
People suffering from gastroparesis exhibit symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of fullness. Sometimes, heartburn, night sweats, and lack of appetite are also seen. Secondary conditions such as malnutrition and dehydration may result from frequent vomiting over the long run.1
In those with chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction, symptoms of actual intestinal obstruction such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and loss of appetite are found, but without any real blockage in the intestine. However, all of these
Causes Of Digestive Tract Paralysis
Both gastroparesis and chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction have very diverse causes. They can be triggered by muscle function loss or a problem in the nervous system. Sometimes, these disorders can also be inherited from immediate family.3 People who have undergone chemotherapy4 or have other illnesses
In gastroparesis specifically, the vagus nerve, which is the main signaling nerve between the brain and the digestive system, is found to be damaged, due to trauma or even a past surgery of the pancreas.6 Diabetes, both type I and type II, is another cause of gastroparesis. The continuous exposure to high sugar levels is believed to damage the vagus nerve. However, while diabetes is associated with gastroparesis, the mechanism behind this isn’t yet understood in detail.7
Treating Digestive Tract Paralysis
Most treatments aim to alleviate the symptoms. Changes in eating patterns along with medication to treat
Medication usually depends on the specific symptoms – anti-vomiting medication is given to those with nausea, while those with diarrhea are prescribed anti-kinetic medication. Prokinetic drugs, on the other hand, can improve bowel movements and reduce nausea and bloating.9
Sometimes, in cases of severe malnutrition, the patient may need hospital-supervised intravenous nutrition for a while before they’re able to manage the condition on their own.10
Some novel approaches to treatment are also being tried out. In one controlled trial, using a pacemaker of sorts in the digestive tract was found to stimulate the gastric muscles to empty faster, thereby addressing the root of the problem. However, this method is not widely used yet due to the cumbersome nature of the equipment.11 Similar research for chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction has not been done so far.
Some natural approaches can work well in bringing relief to people with digestive tract paralysis. If you suffer from this condition on and off, you probably have a transient condition that is being triggered by stress. Both deep breathing and meditative chanting can help control stress. They are also known to
Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends acupuncture alongside herbal treatments to alleviate signs of digestive tract paralysis. In one case study, a treatment that combined acupuncture sessions twice a week with the Chinese herbal medicine Xiao Ban Xia Jia Fu Ling Tang was found to bring relief to a woman with gastroparesis – gastric emptying moved up from 25% at 2 hours to 84% at 2 hours within 5 sessions of treatment.16 In people with diabetic gastroparesis too, acupuncture had a total effective rate of 94.2% in reducing symptoms.17
Whatever treatment you choose, do see a certified
|↑1||Gastroparesis. NHS UK.|
|↑2||De Giorgio, R., G. Sarnelli, R. Corinaldesi, and V. Stanghellini. “Advances in our understanding of the pathology of chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction.” Gut 53, no. 11 (2004): 1549-1552.|
|↑3||Guze, Carol D., Paul E. Hyman, and Valerie J. Payne. “Family studies of infantile visceral myopathy: A congenital myopathic pseudo‐obstruction syndrome.” American journal of medical genetics 82, no. 2 (1999): 114-122.|
|↑4||Brand, Randall E., John K. DiBaise, Eamonn MM Quigley, Lisa S. Gobar, Kim S. Harmon, James C. Lynch, Philip J. Bierman, Michael R. Bishop, and Stefano R. Tarantolo. “Gastroparesis as a cause of nausea and vomiting after high-dose chemotherapy and haemopoietic stem-cell transplantation.” The Lancet 352, no. 9145 (1998): 1985.|
|↑5||Gupta, Yogesh K. “Gastroparesis with multiple sclerosis.” Jama 252, no. 1 (1984): 42-42.|
|↑6||Wente, Moritz N., Claudio Bassi, Christos Dervenis, Abe Fingerhut, Dirk J. Gouma, Jakob R. Izbicki, John P. Neoptolemos et al. “Delayed gastric emptying (DGE) after pancreatic surgery: a suggested definition by the International Study Group of Pancreatic Surgery (ISGPS).” Surgery 142, no. 5 (2007): 761-768.|
|↑7||Kassander, Paul. “Asymptomatic gastric retention in diabetics (gastroparesis diabeticorum).” Annals of Internal Medicine 48, no. 4 (1958): 797-812.|
|↑8||About Gastroparesis – Basic Dietary Guidelines, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.|
|↑9||About Gastroparesis – Medications, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.|
|↑10||Heneyke, S., V. V.
|↑11||McCallum, Richard W., Jian De Z. Chen, Zhiyue Lin, Bruce D. Schirmer, Ronald D. Williams, and Robert A. Ross. “Gastric pacing improves emptying and symptoms in patients with gastroparesis.” Gastroenterology 114, no. 3 (1998): 456-461.|
|↑12||Kalyani, Bangalore G., Ganesan Venkatasubramanian, Rashmi Arasappa, Naren P. Rao, Sunil V. Kalmady, Rishikesh V. Behere, Hariprasad Rao, Mandapati K. Vasudev, and Bangalore N. Gangadhar. “Neurohemodynamic correlates of’OM’chanting: A pilot functional magnetic resonance imaging study.” International journal of yoga 4, no. 1 (2011): 3.|
|↑13||Gonlachanvit, Sutep, Yen Hsueh Chen, William L. Hasler, Wei Ming Sun, and Chung Owyang. “Ginger reduces hyperglycemia-evoked gastric dysrhythmias in healthy humans: possible role of endogenous prostaglandins.” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 307, no. 3 (2003): 1098-1103.|
|↑14||Mukherjee, Pulok K., Sujay Rai, Sauvik Bhattacharyya, Pratip Kumar Debnath, Tuhin Kanti Biswas, Utpalendu Jana, Srikanta Pandit, Bishnu Pada Saha, and Pradip K. Paul. “Clinical Study of’Triphala’-A Well Known Phytomedicine from India.” Iranian Journal of Pharmacology & Therapeutics 5, no. 1 (2006): 51-54.|
|↑15||Tamhane, M. D., S. P. Thorat, N.
|↑16||Hwang, San Hong, Chiling Chuang, and Anupama Kizhakkeveettil. “Acupuncture treatment for gastroparesis.” Medical acupuncture 20, no. 2 (2008): 123-126.|
|↑17||Wang, L. “Clinical observation on acupuncture treatment in 35 cases of diabetic gastroparesis.” Journal of traditional Chinese medicine= Chung i tsa chih ying wen pan/sponsored by All-China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine 24, no. 3 (2004): 163-165.|