Tuesday, 2 October 2018 marks the first ever World Stomach Day, an international initiative to raise awareness and support for one of our most important organs.
Ahead of the day, we investigate what makes the stomach so vital to our wellbeing, as well as what challenges it is currently facing.
The stomach is a highly sophisticated organ with a unique physiology, biochemistry, immunology and microbiology. It is an integrated part of the digestive system and acts as a reservoir for food, protects the body against foreign elements entering the blood stream and protects against microbial colonisation.
Although the stomach holds such a central role in the digestive tract, it does also present a range of challenges. Peptic ulcer disease, gastroenteritis, functional dyspepsia and gastric (stomach) cancer are all diseases which may occur in the stomach. Furthermore, the physiology of our stomach is often disrupted by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, which is the world’s most common chronic bacterial infection. H. pylori infection has been classified as a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as it is the most significant factor leading to the development of gastric cancer. Gastric cancer mainly affects older generations and claims the lives of almost 60,000 EU citizens every year.
It is estimated that 50% of the world’s population is infected with H. Pylori, however most often it has none or very minor effects on those infected. Most people don’t know they are infected until symptoms of gastric irritation occurs.
H. pylori infection can be treated with antibiotics, and a study presented during UEG Week 2017 showed a 22% reduction in the risk of developing gastric cancer in people over 60 compared with the general population if H. pylori eradication had occurred.
World Stomach Day marks the thirteenth anniversary of Barry Marshall and Robin Warren’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine award in 2005. They were rewarded for their discovery which identified that inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) and ulceration of the stomach (peptic ulcer disease) is the result of H. pylori infection. Their discovery has largely impacted how gastric diseases are managed today.
The aim for World Stomach Day is to increase knowledge and support for the stomach, as well as spread awareness surrounding the challenges it faces. Gastric cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of digestive cancer and more research and funding is needed in order to better understand, prevent and treat the disease.
You can get involved by spreading awareness and joining in with the discussion under the hashtag #WorldStomachDay.
HSI and World Stomach Day
World Stomach Day is organised by the Healthy Stomach Initiative (HSI). HSI has been created by dedicated stomach experts and aim to support the early detection of gastric cancer and raise awareness of stomach-related conditions.