Motility disorders of the gastrointestinal tract

Written by: Dr Aamir Sajjad
Published: | Updated: 07/12/2023
Edited by: Aoife Maguire

We speak to leading consultant gastroenterologist Dr Aamir Sajjad, who explains how motility disorders of the gastrointestinal tract like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) can affect your digestive system.


What are the most common gastrointestinal motility disorders?

The three most frequent gastrointestinal motility disorders are gastroesophageal reflux, functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The treatment is based on drugs and reducing the intake of fats.



Gastrointestinal motility refers to the movements of the digestive system. This is one of the main functions of the digestive tract (or gastrointestinal tract), i.e. the propulsion or transit of food or digested food products from ingestion through the mouth until its removal from the body, through defecation.


Alterations in gastrointestinal motility can produce multiple symptoms in different parts of the digestive system, such as difficulty in swallowing food, prolonged retention of food in the stomach, diarrhoea or constipation, and even bowel incontinence.


What are the different types of gastrointestinal motility disorders?

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): characterised by the return of the stomach contents to the oesophagus. This is caused when the lower oesophageal sphincter, the valve that sits between the oesophagus and the stomach and which also affects motility or movement in the oesophagus develops a problem closing.
  • Functional dyspepsia: usually these patients suffer from problems in the emptying of the stomach and the ability of this organ to accommodate food after a meal.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): can manifest as diarrhoea or chronic constipation. Other symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, gas and bloating.


How are gastrointestinal motility disorders treated?

The cornerstone of the treatment of motility disorders of the gastrointestinal tract are the drugs known as prokinetics. These have the function of accelerating or decelerating the movement of food material in different segments of the digestive tract.


These medications can be used in oesophageal reflux disease, dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, doctors often recommend that patients change their diet and take care what they eat, usually with a reduction in the consumption of fatty acids.


What are some other conditions that can cause gastrointestinal motility disorders?

There are some diseases and medications that cause susceptibility to gastrointestinal motility disorders in some patients.


Those susceptible to gastrointestinal motility disorders are patients suffering from diseases that secondarily affect the digestive tract, a typical example being diabetes. Long-term diabetes affects neurological (brain) activity, which regulates gastrointestinal tract motility, and consequently, diabetics more frequently suffer from gastrointestinal motility disorders. Less frequently, there are rheumatic disorders such as progressive systemic sclerosis and lupus erythematosus that also produce alterations in gastrointestinal motility.


Diseases of the central nervous system can alter gastrointestinal motility and more frequently, some drugs used in clinical practice, such as antidepressants and anticholinergics may also cause alterations.



If you would like to book a consultation with Dr Aamir Sajjad, simply visit his Top Doctors profile oday. 

By Dr Aamir Sajjad

Dr Aamir Sajjad is an esteemed consultant gastroenterologist who treats patients in Kettering. With over 25 years of experience and accreditations in upper GI endoscopy, colonoscopy, and bowel cancer screening, Dr Sajjad is an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal conditions. His areas of special interest include irritable bowel syndrome, clinical nutrition, and small bowel disease

Dr Sajjad graduated from the prestigious Dow Medical College in Pakistan with a bachelor of medicine and surgery in 1986. After graduating, he undertook specialist gastroenterology training in Australia and the UK. He became a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1992 and earned his accreditation in Upper GI Endoscopy and Colonoscopy Training in 1999. He gained further experience in large gastroenterology units in teaching hospitals such as the Royal Brisbane Hospital and University Hospital Coventry & Warwickshire.

From 2001 to 2011, he worked as an associate specialist in gastroenterology at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW), before becoming a consultant physician and gastroenterologist at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton. Since 2013, Dr Sajjad has held a role as a consultant gastroenterologist at the Kettering General Hospital. He specialises in luminal gastroenterology and is also the clinic's lead for nutrition and is a member of the hospital’s upper and lower GI cancer multidisciplinary team. Privately, he sees patients at the Woodland Hospital, Kettering

In addition to his clinical work, Dr Sajjad's research interest included inflammatory bowel disease. From 2008 to 2011, he was the lead investigator in a European multi-centre study on the long-term safety of patients treated with Infliximab & immunomodulators. Dr Sajjad is a Fellow of the following renowned associations; the Royal College of Physicians of London, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the European Board of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 

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