Prevention First


In normal digestion, food is moved through the digestive tract by rhythmic contractions called peristalsis. When someone suffers from a digestive motility disorder, these contractions are abnormal.

Gastrointestinal (GI) motility is defined by the movements of the digestive system and the transit of the contents within it. When nerves or muscles in any portion of the digestive tract do not function with their normal strength and coordination, a person develops symptoms related to motility problems.


  • This disorder can be due to one of two causes:
    • A problem within the muscle itself.
    • A problem with the nerves or hormones that control the muscle's contractions.
  • Each part of the GI tract esophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine has a unique function to perform in digestion and each has a distinct type of motility and sensation. When motility or sensations are not appropriate for performing this function, symptoms occur.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Gastrointestinal motility disorders may be associated with the following conditions:
  • Diabetes
  • Gastro paresis — paralysis of the stomach.
  • Esophageal spasms — irregular contractions of the muscles in the esophagus.
  • Achalasia — an esophageal motility disorder.

Prevention and risk

  • As far as diet goes, avoid fast food, high-fat foods, since these can increase the risk of colon cancer and obesity. Instead, eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and consume plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Aim to get 25 to 30 grams of dietary fiber per day from foods or supplements because fiber promotes good motility.
  • If you have hard stools, fiber can soften them; if you have loose stools, fiber can bulk them up. How you eat can also affect your GI tract. Skipping breakfast, consuming a huge dinner and overeating in general are major no-no’s because they can cause abdominal distension and reflux.
  • A lot of chronic gastrointestinal complaints such as pain, pressure and reflux get worse when weight goes up. Try to maintain an ideal body weight.

  • Finding ways to ease stress is also important. For one thing, “stress can cause motility problems”. Many people when stressed, reach for aspirin or some other non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for tension-related aches. Overuse of NSAIDs is one of the two leading causes of ulcers.

Gastrointestinal motility disorders may be associated with the following conditions:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Diabetes
  • Gastroparesis — paralysis of the stomach.
  • Esophageal spasms — irregular contractions of the muscles in the esophagus .
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Doctors aren't sure what causes IBS, but many believe it's a muscle contraction or "motility" disturbance. In people who don't have IBS, the muscles contract and relax in regular rhythm. In people with IBS, the contractions are stronger—and they last longer. People with IBS are also more sensitive to these muscle contractions.
  • Coping with IBS means identifying the food, drinks, or stressful events that trigger alternating bouts of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. Sometimes, people with IBS get all three at the same time. A sense of bloating or fullness and mucus in the stool are other complaints.

Fluids, Proper Food And Exercise Are Prevention Tools

  • These are often difficult things to increase in someone who is terminally ill, but even a small increase in fluid intake can be beneficial. Increasing food intake may cause more discomfort and should not be forced, but gently encouraging frequent small meals may be helpful.
  • Increasing activity, even if it’s in the form of range of motion exercises by a health aid or physical therapist, can be very effective.

Preventing Constipation

  • Prevention of constipation will depend on the risk of becoming constipated. There are three parts to the natural treatment of bacterial overgrowth:
    • Diet - Low carbohydrate diet.
    • Eradicate unfriendly bacteria in the small intestine using herbs such as peppermint oil.
    • Replace - Bacterial overgrowth impairs friendly bacteria ("probiotics") and digestive enzymes.
  • Herbs
    The most studied natural treatment for bacterial overgrowth is enteric coated peppermint oil, which is peppermint oil that has an edible, hard shell around it so that the capsule doesn't open until it is in the small intestine. It kills bacteria in the small intestine.
  • Gastroparesis may occur in people with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
  • Gastroparesis is the result of damage to the vagus nerve, which controls the movement of food through the digestive system. Instead of the food moving through the digestive tract normally, it is retained in the stomach.
  • The vagus nerve becomes damaged after years of poor blood glucose control, resulting in gastroparesis. In turn, gastroparesis contributes to poor blood glucose control.

Prevention focuses on adequate fluid intake, proper diet and activity. These are prevention tools.

  • Night time heartburn
    Sleeping in a supine position, laying flat in bed allows stomach acid to flow more easily into the esophagus and stay there more longer periods of time than when a person is in an upright position. Even elevating the head and shoulders 6 to 8 inches will help keep stomach acid where it belongs, in the stomach.
  • We can't drink or swallow every time an acid reflux episode occurs when sleeping.
    When GERD sufferers are awake and there's an episode of acid reflux, they often will rinse their mouth or swallow some liquid. Even swallowing saliva helps. When asleep, once the refluxed acid is in the esophagus or throat, the sufferer isn't always aware of it and thus doesn't take steps to rinse the acid away.
  • There's an increased risk of choking on refluxed stomach contents.
    If refluxed acid is in the throat and mouth, a GERD sufferer can inhale this into their lungs. Once in the lungs, it can cause a GERD sufferer to cough and choke on this aspirated material. The acid can also cause the same damage to the lungs as it can cause when refluxed into the esophagus.