Intestinal dysmotility – causes, symptoms and treatments at

Friday, February 16, 2018 by

Autoimmune gastrointestinal dysmotility, or simply intestinal dysmotility, is a general term used to describe diseases of the muscles of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines) characterized by abnormal intestinal contractions such as spasms and intestinal paralysis. It may be idiopathic (of unknown cause) or associated with cancer elsewhere in the body, most commonly small cell lung cancer.

The disease may involve any part of the GI tract and is due to abnormalities in the intestinal muscles or the nerves controlling the muscles. The dysmotility problem can be mild, moderate or severe.

Intestinal dysmotility is the most common cause of indigestion. It can be caused by an irritable stomach, which can get worse with stress or emotional upset.

The following are considered intestinal motility disorders:

  • Intestinal pseudo-obstruction (Ogilvie syndrome)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Constipation

List of known symptoms and risk factors of intestinal dysmotility

Intestinal dysmotility is very common. It may cause discomfort, but is almost never life-threatening. The symptoms can include:

  • Heartburn
  • Discomfort in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Feeling full quickly
  • Feeling bloated
  • Sensation of pressure/lump in the throat (Globus)
  • Chest discomfort

Body systems harmed by intestinal dysmotility

All forms of intestinal dysmotility affect the GI tract (esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines) and the digestive system in general.

Food items or nutrients that may prevent intestinal dysmotility

Fiber-dense fruits (raspberries and strawberries, peaches, apricots bananas, apples, pears) and vegetables (cabbage, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, radishes, celery, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains) help the digestive system recover from inflammation and help improve intestinal motility.

In addition, drinking plenty of water will help break down food faster and improve overall digestion.

Treatments, management plans for intestinal dysmotility

Treatment and management options for intestinal dysmotility generally aim to the relieve specific symptoms, determining any underlying cancer if necessary, and/or immunotherapy.

You can help manage and prevent your symptoms by following these tips:

  • Always sit down to eat.
  • Eat slowly and chew food properly.
  • Do not miss meals. Aim to eat every four to six hours while awake.
  • Take a gentle stroll for a minimum of 10 minutes after meals.
  • Avoid going to sleep on a full stomach. Stop eating two to three hours before bedtime.
  • Choose moderate portion sizes to avoid overloading your stomach.
  • Avoid drinking with meals but have a small glass of water 30 to 45 minutes after eating.
  • Try not to consume large meals or pints of drink at a time (especially alcohol).
  • Avoid nuts, seeds, and crispy toast if they have been known to irritate your stomach.
  • Avoid smoking – nicotine relaxes the muscle at the bottom of the gullet and allows the stomach contents to flow back into the gullet.
  • Avoid over-the-counter medicines that contain aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Limit your consumption of citrus fruits, vinegar, onions, chili, chocolate, energy drinks and fizzy drinks.
  • Choose decaffeinated tea and coffee. Better yet, try different types of herbal tea.

It is also highly encouraged to stop alcohol consumption for a trial period of at least three months. If alcohol is restarted, maintain your intake to less than two units per day for men and less than one unit per day for women.

Emotional stress can make digestive symptoms more troublesome. Reduce your stress levels with some yoga, meditation, or other relaxation exercises, have adequate sleep and rest and find a hobby you enjoy.

Where to learn more


Intestinal dysmotility is a general term for the diseases of the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract characterized by abnormal intestinal contractions such as spasms and intestinal paralysis. It involves the esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines.

Intestinal dysmotility may be idiopathic or associated with cancer.

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