Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2022

5th August 2022

August is gastroparesis awareness month. Gastroparesis literally translates to paralysis of the stomach. Gastroparesis is a chronic (long lasting) disorder where the stomach does not empty the contents in a normal way. The nerves that help the stomach muscles to move food out of the stomach do not work effectively, so the stomach empties slowly.

What are the most common symptoms of gastroparesis?

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Vomiting (being sick)
  • Vomiting undigested food hours after eating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling full after a few mouthfuls of a normal sized meal (early satiety)
  • An inability to finish a meal
  • Bloating
  • Belching
  • Weight loss

It is possible that people can be dehydrated due to being sick and some people can even experience malnutrition. Heartburn can also occur, due to delayed stomach emptying. Symptoms can range from mild to serve, depending on the person.

How can gastroparesis affect you?

As symptoms include vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain and feeling full after a few mouthfuls, this can unfortunately lead to (sometimes dangerous) weight loss and at times, those with gastroparesis may need to be tube-fed.

Those with gastroparesis may often feel worried about leaving the comfort of their home, due to the anxiety surrounding being sick in public.

Jessica’s Gastroparesis Story

Jessica was on her honeymoon, until both herself and her husband fell ill with gastroenteritis. Wayne recovered after a few days, but Jessica was kept in hospital for 10 days and never really felt right after.

“Any food I ate, I would vomit back up and I was really bloated too. It kind of felt like my food was stuck in my throat. I knew something was wrong. I had hunger pains, but felt so full. I started feeling really weak, and pretty alone too.

Years later, I called an ambulance. It was a cry for help really, but when they saw me they felt I looked malnourished so they took me into hospital. There, I was finally diagnosed with gastroparesis, which means my stomach is paralysed.

Every day I suffer from at least one episode of severe vomiting, accompanied by hot flushes, acid reflux and severe stomach pain.” – Jessica.

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Dr McCann's Gastroparesis Research

Dr Conor McCann standing by his computer in his laboratoryGuts UK proudly funded Dr Conor McCann’s three-year research fellowship into achalasia and gastroparesis. Dr McCann investigated whether those damaged nerve cells can be replaced and by doing this, restore appropriate muscle contraction in the gullet or the stomach. If he is successful, we might be able to treat achalasia and diabetic gastroparesis in the future by injecting new nerve cells into the relevant part of the gut, to restore its function.

We recently caught up with Dr McCann to hear about the possible next steps for this research project:

“This project has provided some promising initial findings that stem cell-based treatments could be a future treatment for conditions like achalasia and gastroparesis. I’m incredibly grateful to Guts UK for their funding and support. The fellowship I was awarded by Guts UK not only gave me a platform to begin this important research, but it allowed me to really drive it forward. From this, I was able to apply for more grants to help us develop the lab further and acquire skilled personnel. Guts UK really helped to lift this research off the ground.”

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