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Esophageal and Intestinal Motility Disorders
in Denver

What are Esophageal and Intestinal Motility Disorders?

Esophageal and intestinal motility disorders are swallowing or digestive problems that result when the nerves or muscles of the digestive tract or gut do not work properly.

There are many different types of esophageal and intestinal motility disorders that can affect different portions of the digestive tract. Some examples of these disorders include, but are not limited to:


Achalasia is a disorder that makes passing food and liquid into the stomach difficult due to nerve damage in the esophagus. Symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation or weight loss.


Dysphagia describes difficulty swallowing foods or liquids. Individuals with this condition may cough or choke while eating or drinking, regurgitate their food, have persistent drooling or have a feeling like food is stuck in their throat or chest.

Diffuse Esophageal Spasm (DES)

This is an esophageal motility disorder that causes the esophagus to contract in an uncoordinated manner. Because of this, food or drink that is swallowed is not properly pushed down into the stomach. Symptoms include squeezing pain in the chest, difficulty swallowing foods or a feeling like food is stuck in the throat.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

This is a digestive disease in which stomach acid or bile irritates the lining of the tube that connects the mouth and stomach. Symptoms consist of heartburn, nausea, regurgitation or difficulty swallowing.


Constipation describes bowel movements that are difficult, painful or happen less than normal. Individuals with constipation may experience passing less than three stools a week, straining while passing stool or feeling as though they cannot fully empty their stool.


Gastroparesis is a condition that affects the muscles of the stomach and prevents the stomach from properly emptying, affecting digestion. Symptoms may include upset stomach, vomiting, weight loss, abdominal bloating and heartburn.

Hirschsprung’s Disease

This condition is also known as congenital megacolon, and is a condition of the large intestines that makes passing stool difficult. Symptoms may include bloating, constipation, vomiting and flatulence.

How are Esophageal and Intestinal Motility Disorders Diagnosed?

There is not one main cause that leads to the development of esophageal and intestinal motility disorders. Many different factors may play a role, including weak esophageal muscles, neurological disorders, neuromuscular disorders, strictures or spasms. If you are experiencing symptoms associated with an esophageal or intestinal motility disorder, your doctor will perform a physical examination, as well as speak with you regarding your medical history. Further testing may also be recommended, including esophageal manometry, X-rays, upper endoscopy and more.

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Treatment Options for Esophageal and Intestinal Motility Disorders

Treatment will depend on the type and cause of the esophageal or intestinal motility disorder. Your doctor will take into consideration your symptoms, medical history and test results to provide the best possible treatment for your case. Options may include:


Prescription medications to control muscle spasms may be helpful in some cases.

Nutritional Changes

Making small changes to eating habits can help to manage some motility disorders. A motility diet may include well-cooked veggies and fruits, soft pasta, ground or pureed meats, low-fat dairy or liquid-based foods.

Balloon Dilation

During this procedure, a balloon is inserted by endoscopy into the esophageal sphincter and inflated to enlarge the opening. However, this procedure may need to be repeated if the esophageal sphincter does not stay open.

Heller Myotomy

During a heller myotomy, the muscle at the lower end of the esophageal sphincter is cut to allow food to pass more easily into the stomach.

Botox® Injections

Botox® can be injected into the GI sphincters to provide relief from spasms and reduce symptoms. 

Your South Denver GI Team

At South Denver GI, our team of physicians and advanced practice providers have the expertise to provide you with outstanding care. If you would like to learn more about Esophageal and Intestinal Motility Disorders or need to schedule an appointment at our office, contact us today!

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