September 4


Warning: These Antidepressants May Be Causing Your Gastroparesis

By Joshua Turner

September 4, 2023

Antidepressants are commonly prescribed for treating depression and anxiety disorders. While they can effectively manage these conditions, they can also lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

One of the lesser-known side effects of these drugs is gastroparesis, which affects the stomach’s ability to empty food properly.

It is a chronic condition that can cause various symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, bloating, and abdominal pain. Multiple factors, including diabetes, viral infections, and neurological disorders, can cause it. Recent studies have shown that antidepressants may also contribute to the development of the condition.

This article will explore the relationship between antidepressants and gastroparesis and the treatment options and lifestyle changes that can help manage this condition.

Key Takeaways

  • Antidepressants can cause gastroparesis, a condition that affects the stomach’s ability to empty food properly.
  • It can cause various symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, bloating, and abdominal pain.
  • Treatment options include medication, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications.

Understanding Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the stomach’s ability to empty its contents properly. Symptoms include feeling full after eating small amounts of food, abdominal bloating, nausea, and vomiting.

Delayed gastric emptying is the primary cause. The vagus nerve controls the muscles in the stomach that help move food through the digestive tract. When the vagus nerve is damaged or doesn’t function correctly, it can trigger the condition.

Various causes include mechanical obstruction, diabetes, and idiopathic gastroparesis. Mechanical obstruction occurs when something physically blocks the digestive tract, while diabetes can damage the nerves that control the stomach muscles. Idiopathic gastroparesis is when the cause of the condition is unknown.

Diagnosis includes a physical exam, medical history, and tests such as gastric emptying studies. Treatment options include medication, dietary changes, and in severe cases, surgery.

Common Symptoms of Gastroparesis

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Nausea: Feeling sick to your stomach is a common symptom. You may feel like you need to vomit, but you may not be able to.
  • Vomiting: In some cases, you may actually vomit when you have the condition. This can be incredibly distressing if it happens frequently.
  • Abdominal pain: You may experience pain or discomfort in your abdomen, especially after eating, ranging from mild to severe.
  • Bloating: It can cause your stomach to feel full and bloated, even if you haven’t eaten much.
  • Heartburn: You may experience a burning sensation in your chest or throat, especially after eating. This is caused by stomach acid backing up into your esophagus.
  • Dry mouth: Some people may experience a dry mouth or throat, which can be uncomfortable.
  • Constipation: It can slow down food movement through your digestive system, leading to constipation.
  • Acid reflux: This occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, causing a burning sensation in your chest or throat.
  • Belching: You may experience excessive belching or burping, which can be embarrassing.
  • Loss of appetite: The condition can make you feel full quickly, even if you haven’t eaten much. This can lead to a loss of appetite and unintended weight loss.

Role of Antidepressants in Gastroparesis

Antidepressants are commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorders but can also have gastrointestinal side effects. The most common type associated with gastroparesis is tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as nortriptyline and amitriptyline. They work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, which can slow down gastrointestinal motility.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as citalopram, sertraline, and escitalopram have also been linked to gastroparesis. They work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, which can also affect the gastrointestinal tract. However, the risk of developing the condition with SSRIs is much lower than with TCAs.

Other medications can also cause it, including opioids and proton pump inhibitors. Patients taking them should be monitored for gastrointestinal side effects and their tolerability.

Gastroparesis and Related Conditions

Gastroparesis is often associated with diabetes and can be caused by damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the muscles in the stomach.

Other conditions that can cause it include scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, and kidney disease. Infections and dehydration can also contribute to the development of it. Symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

Upper endoscopy and blood glucose levels can help diagnose it. Treatment options include changes in diet, medications such as domperidone and metoclopramide, and surgery in severe cases.

Calcium channel blockers and marijuana use can also contribute to it. Mirtazapine and schizophrenia medications can also cause gastroparesis-like symptoms.

Managing the condition and related conditions is necessary to prevent complications such as malnutrition, bezoar formation, and poor appetite.

Treatment Options and Lifestyle Changes

Treating gastroparesis caused by meds for mental health conditions involves a combination of medications, dietary changes, and lifestyle modifications. Treatment options may vary depending on the severity and underlying causes.

One of the primary goals is to alleviate symptoms such as severe pain, bloating, and constipation. Medications such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone may be prescribed to manage pain. However, these can further slow down gastric emptying and worsen symptoms.

Dietary changes such as eating smaller, more frequent meals and avoiding high-fat foods can help improve gastric emptying and reduce symptoms. Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is also critical for managing it. Patients may benefit from working with a registered dietitian to develop a personalized diet plan.

In addition to medication and dietary changes, lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise and stress reduction techniques may also be helpful. Patients may benefit from working with a physical therapist or counselor to develop an exercise and stress management plan.

Treatment involves a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the condition’s physical and emotional aspects.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some medications that can cause gastroparesis?

These include antidepressants, opioids, and some medications used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease.

What are the best ways to relieve bloating caused by gastroparesis?

There are several ways to relieve bloating, including eating smaller, more frequent meals, avoiding high-fat and high-fiber foods, and taking medications that promote gastric emptying. It is also vital to stay hydrated and avoid carbonated drinks.

Are there any new treatments for gastroparesis?

Several new treatments include gastric electrical stimulation and botulinum toxin injections. These can help improve gastric emptying and reduce symptoms.

Which antidepressants should be avoided if you have gastroparesis?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) should be avoided. These can slow down gastric emptying and worsen symptoms.

What are some over-the-counter medicines that can help with gastroparesis?

Over-the-counter medicines that can help include antacids, prokinetic agents, and antiemetics.

Can certain allergy medications cause gastroparesis?

Some allergy medications, such as antihistamines and decongestants, can slow down gastric emptying.

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