Gastroparesis in Children a Cause for Underweight

by Naveen Agarwal

in Science of Food

In response to last week’s article How Worried Should You Be About Your Underweight Child, Cara shared her struggle with her son’s slow growth and weight gain due to gastroparesis. In her comment, she explained that it means delayed gastric emptying which keeps her son’s stomach full so he never feels hungry. This obviously leads to malnutrition and poor weight gain.

I did some research on this topic because I did not know anything about it. In this article I want to share a few facts and links to several good resources with you:

  1. Gastroparesis results from damage to the vagus nerve which controls the movement of food from stomach to the intestines.
  2. Typically, this condition is seen in people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. However, there are many cases where the exact cause is not known. Cara’s son, unfortunately, happens to be in this situation where the cause cannot be determined even after extensive medical tests.
  3. Gastroparesis can also be caused by surgery in the stomach area, viral infections, several medications, bulimia, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), nervous system diseases and metabolic  disorders.
  4. It can be acute or chronic. Symptoms include heartburn, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, pain in the abdomen, irregular blood glucose levels, lack of appetite, feeling of fullness and reflux. Lately, there is a recognition that the diagnosis of gastroparesis be reserved for patients where it is prolonged and grossly delayed. Symptoms in many cases are modest and temporary.
  5. New techniques for evaluation of symptoms are now available, including the SmartPill GI Monitoring System. Medications are also available – talk to your doctor if you are concerned about these symptoms.
  6. Other treatment options include dietary changes in terms of amount, frequency and type of food. Avoiding high fat and high fiber foods may help. Talk to your doctor or dietitian before making any changes.
  7. In extreme, and very unfortunate, situations a feeding tube may need to be used. The feeding tube bypasses the stomach to deliver nutrients and medications directly to the small intestine. In some other cases, liquid nutrients may need to be directly injected into blood bypassing the digestive system entirely.

Here are a few good links for further reading:

Gastroparesis - a 6-page primer from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Living with diabetes and gastroparesis – American Diabetes Association
gastroparesis-prevalence – article from Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology (warning: very technical!)
Overview and treatment options at the Mayo Clinic
Resource page on Cara’s blog

Please feel free to share your own experience if you or someone else in your family and friends is facing this unfortunate situation.

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  • http://www.thepickyapple.com/blog/ Cara

    Wow! Thanks so much for blogging about this and mentioning us! I had never heard of gastroparesis prior to my son's diagnosis, and there still isn't much information available to the public, especially about gastroparesis in children. Here's one more great resource I've discovered: http://livingwithgastroparesis.com/

    My son's current treatment regimen includes an NG tube for night feeds and 2 different medications (erythromycin and the non-FDA approved domperidone). We've had more than a few bumps in the road with the NG tube (getting pulled out, reactions to tape on his face, clogged tube, needing to switch formula), but when we're actually able to use it, it seems to be helping him gain weight. Why an NG tube and not the other kind of tube you mentioned that bypasses the stomach? Well, our doctor wanted to try this less invasive method first to see if it would even help. His plan is to keep my son Finn on the NG tube for 3 months or more, get his weight up a bit, and hopefully “prime the pump”, getting his stomach used to higher quantities of food. Then we will remove the tube, and in theory my son will eat a little more during the day. Honestly, I'm not convinced that it will work, but as long as he's gaining weight for now, I'm not complaining too much!

    Thanks again for this post about gastroparesis. I know this will be very helpful to any other parents going through this!

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ADWNPV5SJP6VXTNJSTC7QEPLQY Kristine Serna

    I never heard of this disease, great that I have browse this blog and red all its content.Preparing a healthy eating for kids would surely create a big impact in avoiding this said health illness.

  • Anonymous

    Hello Twintoddlersdad! This is an issue when it comes to our
    children’s weight problems. As parents we have to look after our children and
    seek medical attention when weight loss is concerned. You have a brilliant idea
    and just keep it coming. You really inspire us.

  • Rosicaz0522

    thanks for your helpful information my son just got diagnosed with a mild case of Gastroparesis  he got a   gastric emptying  study  and follow that a upper  endoscopy , the  biopsy came back negative doctor started him yesterday on erythomicine 3 times a day 3.13 ml 15 to 30 minutes before meals , he also have  a chronic constipation do to failure to thrive , he put him on miralax But I ask the doctor That I found the natural calm Magnesium a natural product whch I am giing him for constipation and relaxing  and he said is ok , also multienzymes, and probiotics  doctor gave us the ok I don’t like to give my child to much antibiotics   the doctor said is mild but it doesn’t look mild at all  he also gets ginger tea for the relief of  his  nauseas, wrisk bands , trying to get him better with something natural  the doctor said that this gastroparesis will go away  with the medicine and he won’t have to take it for so long  I wish I could get some alternative natural medicine to get him better  in instead

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