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Can Acupuncture Help The Symptoms of Gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis can be a difficult condition to treat, but there’s some evidence that slow gastric motility can be improved by acupuncture. Is it a natural way to relieve the symptoms of this frustrating condition?

Gastroparesis is a condition that affects almost five million Americans – many of whom are diabetic. It’s a disease of the digestive tract characterized by slow gastric motility – meaning the stomach doesn’t empty food as rapidly as it should. This can lead to a variety of unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal distention, and weight loss. Unfortunately, treatment for gastroparesis typically involves medications such as Reglan which can have serious side effects – including an irreversible movement disorder. Is there a drug-free natural treatment for gastroparesis that works?

Acupuncture for Gastroparesis: Does It Improve Slow Gastric Motility?

Acupuncture has been successfully used to treat some digestive disorders, so it’s not surprising that it could offer benefits to people who suffer from slow gastric motility or gastroparesis. There has been little research looking at acupuncture for gastroparesis, although several studies are in the works.

Acupuncture for Gastroparesis: What Does the Research Show?

One small study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2004 looked at the effects of acupuncture on the symptoms of gastroparesis in thirty-five diabetics. One group received only acupuncture, a second group received a gastroparesis medication called domperidone, and a third group received no treatment.

The results were encouraging. The group who received acupuncture experienced more gastroparesis relief than either of the other two groups. Even though domperidone is one of the more effective medications for treating gastroparesis, in this small study, acupuncture outperformed it. Domperidone is used in other countries to treat gastropareis, but isn’t approved for use in this country yet.

Other Natural Treatments for Gastroparesis

People with slow gastric motility may get some symptom relief by eating smaller, more frequent meals and by choosing liquid and pureed foods that are more easily emptied by the stomach. Reducing fiber and fat in the diet can also provide some gastroparesis relief. For diabetics getting blood sugars under control helps in many cases.

The Bottom Line

Acupuncture shows promise as a natural treatment for gastroparesis – at least according to small studies. Larger studies are underway and should provide more definite answers. People who aren’t getting gastroparesis relief after modifying their diet should discuss this treatment option with their doctor since it’s safer than many of the current treatments for slow gastric motility. It could safely offer some relief for this frustrating condition.

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