Skip to Content

Diabetic Gastroparesis


Diabetic gastroparesis

is a type of nerve damage that slows digestion. High blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage nerves and tissues in your stomach. The damage prevents your stomach from emptying normally. Gastroparesis is also called delayed gastric emptying. Your symptoms may be worse if you drink alcohol or smoke.

Digestive Tract

Common signs and symptoms:

  • Constipation that may be replaced, at times, by diarrhea
  • High or low blood sugar levels that you cannot control
  • Nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite
  • Bloated or early full feeling while you eat
  • Sudden cramps, swelling, or pain in your abdomen
  • Heartburn

Seek care immediately if:

  • You are vomiting more severely or for a longer period than usual.
  • You urinate less than usual, and your mouth is dry.
  • You feel dizzy and weak, or you have fainted.
  • You have severe pain in your stomach or abdomen.

Call your doctor or diabetes care team if:

  • Your blood sugar level is higher or lower than healthcare providers have told you it should be.
  • You continue to have pain and bloating in your abdomen.
  • You continue to have nausea and vomiting, or you are not able to eat.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


Your healthcare provider may change one or more of your current medicines. Do not change your medicines without direction from your provider. Any of the following may also be used to treat gastroparesis:

  • Medicines:
    • Motility medicines help your stomach muscles move food and liquids out of your stomach faster. These medicines also may help you digest food better.
    • Nausea medicine helps calm your stomach and prevent vomiting.
    • An antibiotic may be given for a short time to help your stomach empty more quickly.
  • A feeding tube may be needed if your stomach cannot process food. You may need the feeding tube for a short time, until your stomach starts working properly. You may instead need a long-term feeding tube if your gastroparesis is severe. Ask for more information about feeding tubes.
  • Stomach stimulation may be helpful if your symptoms are severe and other treatments do not work. Surgery is needed to implant a device in your abdomen. The device sends mild signals to the nerves and muscles in your stomach to relieve nausea and vomiting.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Walk after you eat. This may help speed digestion.
    Walking for Exercise
  • Follow the meal plan that your healthcare or dietitian gave you. This meal plan can help decrease your symptoms. The following may also help you manage your symptoms:
    • Eat less fat and fiber. High-fat and high-fiber foods may be hard for your stomach to digest. You may need to avoid fruits and vegetables such as oranges and broccoli.

    • Eat 4 to 6 small meals a day. Smaller, more frequent meals are easier for your stomach to handle.
    • Drink more liquids with your meals. Your healthcare provider may recommend liquid meals, such as soup. Liquid is easier to digest than solid food.
    • Ask if you should prepare your food in a blender. Blended foods are easier to digest. Ask for directions on which foods to use and how to blend the food correctly.
    • Ask about vitamins you may need and how to add them to your meals.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine can damage blood vessels, slow your digestion, and make it more difficult to manage diabetes. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in place of cigarettes or to help you quit. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help quitting.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol may slow your digestion more.
  • Follow your diabetes treatment plan. You may need to check your blood sugar more often. High blood sugar levels slow digestion and can make your symptoms worse.

Follow up with your doctor or diabetes care team as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Diabetic Gastroparesis (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex Guides (External)

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.