Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


3-minute read

What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a condition in which food stays in the stomach for longer than normal.

Usually, the muscles around the stomach contract and grind food into small pieces, then mix those small pieces with acids and enzymes so the food can start to be digested. Then the muscles contract and push food out of the stomach into the duodenum.

If you have gastroparesis, the muscles around the stomach don’t work properly. Food isn’t broken down in the stomach as much as normal, and it stays there for longer.

What causes gastroparesis?

The causes of gastroparesis are not all that clear. It seems that in some people, the nerve to the muscles around the stomach, called the vagus nerve, isn’t working properly. For some people, the muscles themselves don’t work as well as they should.

You are more at risk of developing gastroparesis if you have diabetes. It is one of the complications of nerve damage caused by poorly controlled blood glucose levels.

Other causes include:

In some cases, there is no obvious reason for gastroparesis.

What are the symptoms of gastroparesis?

If you have gastroparesis, you probably feel that you just don’t digest your food properly, making you feel bloated and nauseous after a meal. Some people also:

If you think you might have gastroparesis, see your doctor.

How is gastroparesis diagnosed?

To diagnose gastroparesis, your doctor will talk to you, examine you and arrange some blood tests.

You may also be referred for other investigations, such as a ‘gastric emptying study’, an ultrasound, or endoscopy.

How is gastroparesis managed?

Although gastroparesis cannot be cured, the symptoms can be relieved. You can ease symptoms by:

  • eating fewer, smaller meals
  • eating easy-to-digest foods
  • taking medicines to improve the muscles around the stomach contraction and control nausea

If things don’t improve with changes to diet the and medicine, you can have a pacemaker inserted in the stomach to stimulate the muscles in the stomach. This is called gastric electrical stimulation. Talk to your doctor.

If you have diabetes, irregular emptying of the stomach can make it difficult to control blood glucose levels. It is important to get advice from your doctor.

Very severe cases may be treated by injecting botox into the valve between the stomach and small intestine, inserting a feeding tube, or surgery.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

What you need to know about gastroparesis

What you need to know about gastroparesis 10 September 2014 Gastroparesis, or paralysis of the stomach, is a digestive condition where there is a delay in the emptying of solids and liquids from the stomach

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Preventing motion sickness in children - Australian Prescriber

The following general points should be considered when managing children who are prone to motion sickness: As motion sickness induces gastric stasis, it slows drug absorption, so preventing symptoms from occurring is more effective than trying to treat them after symptom onset

Read more on NPS MedicineWise website

Managing high-fat, high-carbohydrate meals | Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute

Many people find their blood glucose levels are high after eating high-fat meals containing carbohydrate.

Read more on Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo