Gastroparesis may occur with IBS, particularly in people with IBS and indigestion.

Gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, is a condition in which people have delayed emptying of the stomach into the small intestine.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a collection of symptoms affecting the abdomen and bowel movements.

Gastroparesis and IBS may have some overlapping symptoms, and in some cases, the conditions may occur at the same time.

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According to a 2018 study, IBS is closely linked to gastroparesis. The research suggests that people with IBS and indigestion may be more likely to experience gastroparesis.

People with IBS but not indigestion had normal gastric emptying. Gastroparesis was more common in people with IBS only when indigestion was also present.

The link between indigestion and gastroparesis is unclear, as researchers have not found abnormal gastric emptying in many people with functional indigestion.

The researchers note that around 23–87% of people with IBS have functional indigestion, which means the indigestion has no clear cause. Around 13–87% of people with indigestion have IBS.

The research concludes that symptoms of gastroparesis may be common in people with IBS, but in most cases, they occur in people with both IBS and indigestion.

Researchers are unclear about the link between gastroparesis and IBS exists. They require further research to understand if one condition contributes to the other.

According to the 2018 study, 6% of people with gastroparesis may also have IBS.

A 2022 study states that around 44.1% of people with gastroparesis-like symptoms (GPLS) may also have IBS, which includes the following subtypes:

  • IBS with constipation: 14.8% overlap with GPLS
  • IBS with diarrhea: 10.1% overlap with GPLS
  • IBS mixed type: 18.0% overlap with GPLS
  • IBS unspecified: 1.3% overlap with GPLS

The study found a high overlap rate with GPLS and disorders of gut-brain interaction, such as IBS.

Although researchers are unclear on the exact cause of gastroparesis and IBS, both conditions may share similar features and risk factors.

A 2022 study suggests that people with gastroparesis commonly have an overlap of IBS symptoms and are more likely to have slow transit constipation. Nausea is also a feature of both conditions.

Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety, and physical or sexual abuse in early life may contribute to IBS.

There are also high rates of mental health conditions in people with gastroparesis, and 62% of people with gastroparesis with no clear cause have a history of physical or sexual abuse.

The table below shows the symptoms of IBS and gastroparesis.

IBS symptomsGastroparesis symptoms
abdominal painupper abdominal pain
pain or changes in bowel movements, such as constipation, diarrhea, or bothpoor appetite, the feeling of fullness soon after eating, or feeling full long after finishing eating
the feeling of an unfinished bowel movementnausea or vomiting
whitish mucus in stoolsburping
in people who menstruate, symptoms may increase or worsen during a periodheartburn

Doctors may use similar methods to diagnose gastroparesis and IBS. The following sections outline how doctors diagnose the conditions.

Gastroparesis diagnosis

To diagnose gastroparesis, a doctor may request the following tests:

  • Full medical history: This will include discussing medications or supplements a person is taking and any previous surgeries.
  • Physical examination: The doctor will check the abdomen, and look for signs of malnutrition or dehydration. They will request measuring blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature.
  • Blood and urine tests: Blood and urine tests can show signs of other conditions or infections.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy: An endoscopy allows a doctor to examine the upper digestive tract for any issues.
  • Imaging tests: This may include an abdominal ultrasound to check for blockages in the stomach or intestines.
  • Gastric emptying scan: In this procedure, a person eats a substance containing radioactive material. The doctor then scans the abdomen to track how quickly it empties from the stomach.
  • Gastric emptying breath test: A person eats a substance that passes from the intestines into the breath. A doctor then checks the breath for the substance to see how quickly the stomach empties.
  • Wireless motility capsule: A person swallows a small electronic device, which passes through the digestive tract and shows how quickly the stomach empties.

IBS diagnosis

To diagnose IBS, doctors may request the following:

  • a medical history and assessment of symptoms
  • a physical examination to check the abdomen for bloating, unusual sounds, and any pain
  • blood tests to rule out other conditions
  • stool sample, to check for blood in the stool and signs of disease or infection
  • additional tests to rule out other conditions may include upper GI endoscopy and biopsy, colonoscopy, or hydrogen breath test

The following sections outline treatment options for gastroparesis and IBS.

Gastroparesis treatment

Treatment for gastroparesis may depend on the severity of symptoms and the underlying cause but may include:

  • altering eating habits, such as getting the correct amount of nutrients and fluids, to prevent dehydration and malnutrition
  • managing blood sugar levels, if diabetes is also present, which may include taking insulin as necessary
  • medications to help support the walls of the stomach and improve stomach emptying
  • medications to help manage pain, nausea, and vomiting
  • oral or nasal feeding tubes, which deliver food via a tube through the mouth or nose to the stomach and intestines, to ensure people are getting enough nutrients and calories
  • gastric electrical stimulation, which sends electrical pulses to the stomach to help reduce nausea and vomiting

In severe cases, people may require intravenous nutrition, which enters the bloodstream directly, or a venting gastrostomy, which involves creating an opening into the stomach to empty stomach contents.

Read about helpful eating patterns for gastroparesis.

IBS treatment

Treatment for IBS may include:

Read more about treatment options for IBS.

It is not possible to prevent gastroparesis with no known cause. Preventing or managing diabetes may help to prevent nerve damage which may cause gastroparesis.

Dietary and lifestyle changes may help prevent or manage IBS symptoms.

Gastroparesis and IBS may share similar symptoms, and the conditions can co-occur. Experts are unclear about the exact nature of the link between them.

Treatment for gastroparesis and IBS may include dietary and lifestyle changes, medications, and mental health therapies.