Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2023

31st July 2023

Gastroparesis awareness month has come around again… but how many people have ever heard of the condition, or know what symptoms to look for?

What is gastroparesis?

Gastroparesis literally translates to “paralysis of the stomach”. It is a chronic (long lasting) disorder where the stomach does not empty the contents in a normal way. Nerves which usually help the stomach muscles to move food out of the stomach do not work effectively causing the stomach to empty too slowly.

What are the most common symptoms of gastroparesis?

Symptoms can range from mild to severe from person to person, but 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
  • Heartburn
  • Dehydration from being sick

Symptoms of gastroparesis usually occur in combination and not in isolation.

How can gastroparesis affect you?

Gastroparesis can feel very isolating in the sense that some people may feel anxious to leave their homes and may also not feel well enough to do so.

Long term symptoms can affect quality of life and mood. If you are feeling low in mood because of your symptoms, you should discuss this with your doctor.

 

Rachael’s Gastroparesis Story

In 2016, Rachael experienced a number of cardiac arrests which resulted in organ failure. After she left intensive care and returned to a normal ward, she was unable to keep food down. For 3 months, she was given a feeding tube in hospital then returned home with build-up milkshakes.

For the next 2 years following this, Rachael was constantly in and out of hospital due to weight loss and vomiting amongst other related symptoms. Rachael explains how:

“One doctor told me I was anorexic and asked if I was making myself sick on purpose. Over this two year period, the lack of answers I was receiving made me wonder whether I was somehow doing this to myself. Was it all in my head?” 

Rachael saw a different consultant and was finally diagnosed with gastroparesis which provided her with instant relief to have answers. She also explains how she has made friends and connected with others in the time since and, on the contrary, how some attitudes towards her condition have made her grow tired and uncomfortable.

It’s so important to talk about gastroparesis and gastroparesis awareness month is a perfect time to do this. However, along with many other digestive conditions, we need to talk about it all year round.

Too many people struggle alone and spend too long awaiting a diagnosis, let alone treatment.

“I work with really poorly children and see horrific things at work. Where I can, I try to find the positive and find the laughter. It helps” – Rachael.

Guts UK's research has the capacity to save lives. Your donations make it possible. Help the UK get to grips with guts by donating today.

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 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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