August is Gastroparesis Awareness Month, an opportunity to learn more about the causes and symptoms of this digestive motility disorder.
What is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a condition characterized by delayed stomach emptying. In a normally functioning stomach, gastric contractions move food material through the gastrointestinal tract. Patients with gastroparesis experience slow or erratic stomach contractions, which halts the digestive process. Common symptoms of gastroparesis include abdominal pain, bloating, reduced appetite and weight loss.
What Causes Gastroparesis?
One of the most common causes of gastroparesis is a damaged vagus nerve, the main nerve that communicates with the digestive tract. Injury to the vagus nerve interrupts impulses that control involuntary muscles in the stomach, gallbladder and intestines which stimulate secretions and contractions.
Gastroparesis can also be caused by uncontrolled diabetes, medications and other nerve disorders.
Common Misconceptions about Gastroparesis
Many people think that gastroparesis is an eating disorder because it is associated with malnutrition and weight loss, but this is untrue. Gastroparesis is a gastrointestinal disorder that causes a sensation of fullness because the stomach cannot empty properly.
Fatigue and nausea are common with gastroparesis because the body is not being properly nourished. Therefore, people who have gastroparesis are sometimes mischaracterized as being lazy or lacking in motivation. It is important to remember that although those who suffer from gastroparesis may want to perform the daily tasks that most people can accomplish, they may not be able to, since they lack nutritional availability.
How You Can Help
You can get involved in Gastroparesis Awareness Month by paying attention to your own digestive health. If you are experiencing symptoms of gastroparesis, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Undiagnosed gastroparesis can lead to serious health risks.
You can also talk to your friends and family about the condition to spread awareness about the disorder. Many people are unfamiliar with gastroparesis, so start a conversation and share your knowledge with someone else.
Finally, go to the International Foundation for Functional Digestive Disorder’s web page. You will find many resources on gastroparesis including management and prevention tips, personal testimonials and ways you can get involved in your local community.