Traditional Chinese medicine for diabetic gastroparesis

In a nutshell

This study examined the effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of diabetic gastroparesis.

Some background

Gastroparesis is a condition in which stomach motility is reduced, resulting in delayed gastric (stomach) emptying. Symptoms of gastroparesis include nausea, vomiting, bloating and early satiety (feeling full). The Gastroparesis Cardinal Symptom Index (GSCI) is used to measure the severity of symptoms. The GSCI ranges from 0 (no symptoms) to 5 (severe symptoms).

Gastroparesis is common in patients with diabetes. Diabetic gastroparesis (DGP) can result in weight loss, poor control of blood glucose (sugar) levels and poor nutritional status. Some patients may not respond to drugs used to treat gastroparesis, and surgery is expensive and can have severe side effects. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may be used to treat the symptoms of gastroparesis.

A physician may prescribe a particular TCM depending on the collection of symptoms. For example, Xiao-Banxa-Tang can be prescribed to patients who experience nausea and vomiting, while Zhizhu wan is given to patients who are bloated. Therefore, a combination of symptoms may be helpful in deciding which TCM is effective in treating DGP.

Methods & findings

This study aimed to determine the effectiveness of prescribing TCM for DGP based on a collection of symptoms.

This study involved 45 patients with DPG who did not respond to common drugs. Participants were prescribed a TCM depending on the symptoms that they experienced. The improvement in gastroparesis symptoms and improvement in blood glucose levels were recorded 1, 2, 4, 8 and 12 weeks after beginning treatment.

The average nausea and vomiting GSCI score was 4.21 prior to treatment. This score decreased to 3.02 after 1 week and to 0.69 after 12 weeks. 25 out of 45 participants did not experience vomiting at the end of the study. The average time for vomiting to be eliminated was 37.9 days. Early satiety and bloating GSCI scores were also improved.

Fasting plasma glucose levels (a measure of the blood glucose levels in an individual who has not eaten anything for 8 hours) decreased by 4.18 mmol/L after 1 week. After 1 week, however, changes in fasting plasma glucose levels were not significant.

The bottom line

This study concluded that prescribing TCM for a particular symptom is effective in treating DGP.

The fine print

The sample size of 45 patients was small. In addition, the HBA1c (measure of blood glucose levels over 3 months) was not used to measure improvements in blood glucose control, and fasting plasma glucose was not measured in every patient at every follow-up.

What’s next?

Consult with your physician regarding the risks and benefits TCM for symptoms of gastroparesis.