Gastroparesis: What Is Its Connection (If Any) to IBS?
Last updated: July 2020
I recently made an appointment to see a gastroenterologist for the first time in several years. I am doing this because in recent months I have been experiencing an uptick in my GERD symptoms, especially reflux and heartburn.
In 2011 and into 2012, my GERD symptoms became so bad, I had my second endoscopy. I was relieved I didn't have ulcers or something worse, but I did have gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). When my symptoms persisted despite taking medication, I submitted to even more testing, that monitored when and how my stomach emptied and the PH levels in my stomach.
Again, I was fortunate in that other than some mild strange dips and peaks in my stomach acid levels, nothing too unusual was found as a result of these tests (though not finding anything was frustrating in its own way because I wanted to know what was causing my problem so I could find the appropriate solution).
Could it be gastroparesis?
In particular, the doctors suspected at that time that I had gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is also known as "delayed gastric emptying." That means it takes longer than it should for the food that someone eats to exit the stomach and travel further down the GI tract. Gastroparesis can be mild or severe. I know fellow patients with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (a connective tissue disorder I have as well) who have gastroparesis who can no longer eat solid food and require a feeding tube. However, others have milder cases or can overcome gastroparesis with treatments and/or surgery.
Research about gastroparesis and IBS
Well, one study found that those with IBS were more likely to have gastroparesis than those without, though the overlap was not as strong as someone who has chronic pancreatitis and some other illnesses or syndromes. However, the real connection between IBS and gastroparesis seems to be if an individual has both IBS and dyspepsia (which is similar to, or in some cases, the same as, GERD).
Specifically, the study states: "... that between 23 percent and 87 percent of patients with IBS have functional dyspepsia and between 13 percent and 87 percent of patients with dyspepsia have IBS...These findings suggest that gastroparesis symptoms are common in IBS patients but in most cases, they appear in patients with IBS AND dyspepsia."1
Talking to my doctor
So, while IBS alone is not necessarily contraindicated for gastroparesis, it is when paired with dyspepsia, which it often can be. As I approach my upcoming appointment, I hope to discuss this and other concerns and make sure my stomach's motility is in working order.
Have you ever tested for gastroparesis? If you have it, what treatments have you tried and have they worked? Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below!
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?