The Influence of Medications on Gastroparesis and Digestive Function

The Influence of Medications on Gastroparesis and Digestive Function

Gastroparesis is a chronic digestive disorder characterized by delayed emptying of the stomach contents into the small intestine. While the exact cause of gastroparesis remains elusive in many cases, researchers have identified a variety of factors that can contribute to its development.

Among these factors, certain medications have emerged as potential disruptors of digestive function, shedding light on the intricate relationship between pharmaceuticals and gastrointestinal health.

Understanding Gastroparesis

Understanding the fundamentals of gastroparesis is essential before exploring its relationship with medications. Gastroparesis, often termed the “paralyzed stomach,” is marked by impaired muscle activity, called peristalsis, which moves food from the stomach to the small intestine. Consequently, the stomach struggles to process food or empty itself efficiently, causing delays in the entire digestive process.

Cleveland Clinic notes that a significant portion of gastroparesis cases, ranging from a quarter to half, are labeled as idiopathic. This term indicates that healthcare providers couldn’t determine the cause of the condition.

Despite being termed “idiopathic,” these cases could result from a variety of factors, even including known causes that couldn’t be definitively identified in individual patients. However, one prevalent identifiable cause of gastroparesis is diabetes, which accounts for approximately one-third of all diagnosed cases.

Medications and Gastroparesis

Several medications have been implicated in the development or exacerbation of gastroparesis. These medications affect the function of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in various ways, potentially disrupting the delicate balance of digestive processes. Here are some classes of drugs known to be associated with gastroparesis:


Opioid medications, frequently administered for pain relief, are associated with significant gastrointestinal complications due to their impact on GI motility. By binding to opioid receptors located in the gut, these drugs disrupt the natural peristaltic movements responsible for propelling food through the digestive tract.

Consequently, the rhythmic contractions necessary for efficient gastric emptying are diminished, resulting in a condition known as opioid-induced gastroparesis.

Blood Sugar Regulators

Certain medications used to regulate blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes have also been implicated in gastroparesis. GLP-1 agonists, such as Ozempic (semaglutide), have come under scrutiny due to reports of potential gastrointestinal side effects, including gastroparesis.

These drugs work by mimicking the action of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that stimulates insulin secretion and reduces appetite.

As reported by Drugwatch, in September last year, the FDA introduced a warning concerning Ozempic. The alert cautioned against potential risks of intestinal blockage, obstruction, and ileus, a condition characterized by impaired intestinal function.

This alert marked a notable addition to the drug’s safety information, raising concerns among patients who had not previously been advised of such risks. Consequently, individuals have directed their grievances toward drug manufacturers, alleging that gastrointestinal complications were not adequately disclosed as potential side effects.

As per TruLaw, the aftermath of this warning has seen a surge in personal injury lawsuits. As of May 2024, 87 cases have been filed, specifically targeting gastroparesis, ileus, and intestinal blockage or obstruction allegedly linked to Ozempic use.

The legal action, known as the Ozempic lawsuit, underscores the growing scrutiny surrounding the safety profile of GLP-1 agonists. It also highlights the importance of thorough risk assessment and transparent communication in pharmaceutical regulation.

Anticholinergic Medications

Anticholinergic drugs, blocking acetylcholine’s action, treat various conditions like overactive bladder, allergies, and Parkinson’s disease. According to Verywell Health, examples of such medications include atropine, scopolamine, oxybutynin, and benztropine.

However, Jesse Houghton, MD, Senior Medical Director of Gastroenterology at the Southern Ohio Medical Center, highlights a concerning aspect of these drugs. He states that they can counteract one of the stimuli responsible for stomach contractions- the vagus nerve. This contributes to gastroparesis symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers are commonly utilized to treat hypertension and specific cardiac conditions, aiming to alleviate pressure on the heart and blood vessels.

Medical News Today explains that these medications function by diminishing the influx of calcium into muscle cells within the heart and blood vessel walls. This action ultimately reduces vascular tension and cardiac workload.

Despite their beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, calcium channel blockers can inadvertently impact the gastrointestinal system by relaxing smooth muscle in the GI tract.

This relaxation of GI smooth muscle may disrupt the normal process of gastric emptying. It can potentially result in gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, discomfort, and delayed digestion.


What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis is a chronic digestive condition where the stomach empties slowly, causing difficulty in moving food into the small intestine for digestion.

What are the symptoms of gastroparesis?

Symptoms of gastroparesis may include nausea, vomiting, bloating, feeling full after eating a small amount of food, abdominal pain, and erratic blood sugar levels.

What is the Ozempic lawsuit about?

The Ozempic lawsuit involves legal action taken against the manufacturers of the medication Ozempic (semaglutide), a GLP-1 agonist used to treat diabetes. The lawsuits allege that Ozempic use is linked to serious gastrointestinal complications such as gastroparesis and intestinal blockage or obstruction.

In conclusion, gastroparesis poses significant challenges to affected individuals, impacting their quality of life and nutritional status. While the etiology of gastroparesis is multifactorial, medications play a prominent role in exacerbating digestive dysfunction in susceptible individuals.

Raising awareness of certain drugs’ adverse effects on GI motility helps optimize medication regimens and improve gastroparesis patient outcomes.

Furthermore, ongoing research into the mechanisms underlying medication-induced gastroparesis is essential for the development of targeted therapeutic strategies and personalized treatment approaches.


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I'm never too busy to share my passion. I've created this page to help people learn more about business, finance and real estate. Besides all the serious stuff, I'm also a man that values family and healthy relationships. I hope you find my content insightful.

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