August is, among many things, Gastroparesis Awareness Month. Thanks to the effort of The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), Gastroparesis was awarded a place on the National Health Observance Calendar in 2016 for the month of August. Organizations from the IFFGD, the AGMD, the GI Society (Canada), International Pain Foundation, HESA, WEGO Health, to a plethora of social media support groups of all types come together and advocate during our coveted month. For those who battle the debilitating and incurable illness, we are ever thankful for the togetherness in advocacy and furthered awareness by other organizations this month as we aim to bring our Bill HR 1187 to the eyes of those who have never even heard of our disease.
What exactly IS Gastroparesis you might ask? I can say that I and our entire team lives with the effects of gastroparesis on varying levels. Although we advocate through philanthropy for all chronic illnesses, it has been this common thread that initially brought us all together. Gastroparesis means "paralysis of the stomach". It is a digestive motility disorder in which the muscles, controlled by the vagus nerve do not contract properly therefore leaving food in the stomach rather than moving it into the intestinal tract at the normal rate. Gastroparesis is patient specific. Symptoms and treatment options vary and at this time, there is no cure. Due to the fact that the stomach emptying process is delayed, patients with gastroparesis can experience a host of symptoms from early satiety, abdominal pain, distention, nausea, vomiting, acid reflux and / or GERD and can even lead to more serious effects such as malnourishment, extreme weight loss, chronic fatigue syndrome and may require hospitalization. The most common cause of gastroparesis is Diabetes; however, patients are often diagnosed with what is known as idiopathic gastroparesis, meaning there is no discovered reason or root for the development of the illness. Some patients develop gastroparesis as a result of surgical complications, varying medications and even eating disorders. Due to the varying stages of gastroparesis we see patients that are able to enjoy the pleasure of food while other patients succumb to a liquids diet. Others receive hydration and medication management via feeding tubes and total parenteral nutrition. While research centers are constantly observing patients and offering / participating in clinical trials, as stated above there is no known cure.
Won't you join us along with the millions of those across the globe who suffer with this debilitating illness and spread awareness for Gastroparesis? There are many ways to advocate. You may search the hashtag #CureGP / #Green4GP 2 #CureGP for an event this August. You may also search #Gastroparesis. Some wear green or yellow in support of those who suffer. You may participate in the GP Pie Face Challenge or donate to your non profit of choice. Advocacy for our illness doesn't start or stop in August. Awareness isn't for patient leaders or social media groups alone. There is a place for all. Thank you for doing anything that you can to be a part this month, the next and in whatever way that you are able to bring change to the lives of those around you! #TogetherweFIGHTTogetherweWIN