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Gastroparesis is a gastric motility disorder in which the function of the stomach is impaired. The stomach is an important organ in our digestive system, which uses a series of muscular contractions to store meals after they have been eaten, grind up any solid food and pump this liquid into our small intestine at the right rate, so that the next steps in the digestive process can take place. In the case of gastroparesis, the muscular contractions of the stomach are defective, and as a result the contents of the stomach are emptied too slowly leading to symptoms.

While gastroparesis is a relatively uncommon disorder, it can be very debilitating for those who suffer from it. Gastroparesis can have a significant impact on quality of life including the physical, emotional, and financial aspects of life. Sufferers may find that the nausea, discomfort, and pain associated with gastroparesis interfere with their ability to work, socialise, and maintain normal eating patterns. In severe cases, the inability to properly digest food can result in hospitalisation for fluid and nutrition supplementation, or sometimes the need for extra nutritional supplementation by a tube.


Gastroparesis is considered to be a motility disorder because there is no evidence of physical obstruction of the stomach, meaning that the primary issue is in the movement of the stomach. Impaired movement of the musculature of the stomach can be related to many underlying health problems, including diabetes, infection, neurological disorders, side-effects of medication, and following gastric surgery. However, in a large percentage of cases, gastroparesis is idiopathic – there is no known cause. In addition to the abnormalities of movement, there are also abnormalities of sensory function, so that the stomach becomes oversensitive and the sensations arising from the stomach are perceived as different or abnormally intense.

There are a variety of treatment options available to help gastroparesis sufferers manage their symptoms, though there is currently no cure. Health professionals are likely to recommend dietary changes, medications to minimise symptoms, psychological support, or hospital-based interventions depending on the severity of the symptoms and their response to treatment.

 

 

How many people are affected?

There are very few statistics on the prevalence of gastroparesis. It has been estimated that up to 4% of the population may experience gastroparesis-like symptoms, but it is uncertain how many of these people have the actual condition, as the symptoms and abnormalities of gastroparesis can be similar to other chronic functional gastrointestinal diseases such as functional dyspepsia or chronic idiopathic nausea. The lack of clarity around the incidence of gastroparesis is partially due to variation in the recognition of the condition by health professionals, as well as variation in the interpretation of test results.

As gastroparesis may be caused by diabetes, estimates about how many people are affected by gastroparesis are sometimes made based on diabetes statistics. These statistics suggest that more than 1.5 million Americans suffer from severe gastroparesis, and one estimate suggests that approximately 120,000 Australians are affected by the disorder. Women are more commonly affected than men, with approximately 80% of gastroparesis sufferers being female. The reason for this difference is not fully understood.

On July 6th, 2017, GSSI received its federal 501c3 status. This non-profit has been a dream for 2 years. We pursued this dream because we recognized the needs gastroparesis patients across the United States have. While our mission is to take care of patients and families that visit the University of Louisville GI Motility Clinic, our mission reaches the entire country - according to the GI Motility Clinic, 60% of patients travel far enough away from Louisville, Kentucky that they need more than just medical support. GSSI aims to fill the gap in service by providing hotel rooms, food, and transportation for patients and their families. Given that the GI Motility Clinic sees an average of 100 patients weekly, there is a lot of work to be done.

Guests are only referred by the UofL GI Motility clinic.

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